Late 1960’s – revolutions were in the air, flowers in long, messy baby boomer hair. A new wave of music that was making statements, and being generally outrageous. So, the world needed a visual representation of the times that were a changing. Enter, psychedelic design. During the mid 60’s to mid 70’s, most predominantly in the United States, the art and pop culture scene was dominated by designs that were loud, colourful and almost out of this world (Bigman, 2014). Album artwork and music concert/festival posters were the most prevalent examples of psychedelic art and design.
This genre of design for me represents an era that was dynamic and extremely important in the history of arts, culture and politics. It speaks of the free spirit of graphic artists and the young population during that time and their connection with music and making changes in their society. What I enjoy most about graphic design in general is it’s ability and in fact, it’s need to speak to and from the people it is created for. I believe this is when the best work is created and the collections of art that I have seen from the psychedelic movement I believe is one of the best representations of this in recent history.
The characterising features of psychedelic design are extreme detail, bright colours, spiral patterns, optical illusions and ‘groovy’, almost illegible typography (Bigman, 2014). A lot of these features are inspired by Art Nouveau and Pop Art (Tafoya, n.d.).
A highly prolific designer during this period of time was Victor Moscoso who created around 60 posters in just 8 months. The main characteristics of his designs were very bright, vibrant complimentary colours (colours opposite on the colour wheel). These colours created a vibrating, ‘psychedelic’ effect (Tafoya, n.d.).
(Victor Moscoso, n.d.)
Another highly influential designer of the time was Wes Wilson who also designed many music festival posters. He is most well known for inventing a typeface that looked like it was moving.
(Wes Wilson, 1967)
An over arching element of psychedelic design is the dynamic ‘trippy’ illusions of movement and being lost in the art work, an aspect I love most. It was an art movement that encouraged viewers to get up close to understand what the words were actually saying and to be involved with the social movements of the 60s and 70s. Art critic Ken Johnson writes “The psychedelic movement helped people move beyond the act of viewing art into a deeper experience of it. Art is no longer something just to be admired. It’s something to consume and to feel.” It is an art form that has carried through to current times and, I believe, because of the nostalgia of a time that was so influential on the futures of all of us will never be out of style.
Alex Bigman, 2014. 99 Designs. https://99designs.com.au/blog/creative-inspiration/tripping-history-psychedelic-design/
Renee Clare Tafoya, n.d. https://visualartsdepartment.wordpress.com/psychedelic-60s/
Ken Johnson. Are You Experienced?: How Psychological Consciousness Transformed Modern Art, The German Times.