The 1960s was a highly experimental and groundbreaking decade for graphic design.
As social norms were challenged and upended, designers responded with new visual styles that broke traditions.
And conveyed the revolutionary spirit of the times.
The hippie counterculture movement was in full swing by the mid 1960s, and this was reflected in trippy, psychedelic graphic design.
Bright, saturated colors, flowing organic shapes, floral patterns, optical illusions, and pulsing visual textures became hallmarks of this style.
San Francisco was an epicenter of psychedelic design, seen on concert posters advertising local rock bands like the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane.
Dance venues like the Avalon Ballroom commissioned posters with surreal landscapes swirling with paisleys and mandalas.
Psychedelic art was also used in underground comics, alternative magazines, and on rock music posters promoting groups like:
- The Beatles
- Pink Floyd
- Jimi Hendrix
This vivid psychedelic aesthetic was a direct contrast to the order and simplicity of 1950s minimalism.
The style aligned with drug experiences and embraced maximalism and sensory overload.
Push Pin Style
The Push Pin Studio was founded in New York City in 1954.
And by the 1960s was leading a new breed of graphic design that synthesized pop art, surrealism, and 19th century woodtype.
- Milton Glaser
- Seymour Chwast
- Edward Sorel
Created posters, magazine illustrations, record covers, and advertisements with a brightly colored, eccentric, collage-driven style.
Their work had a hand-drawn and spontaneous look, incorporating styles from Victorian clip art to Art Nouveau to Dada.
Push Pin designers freely experimented, combining disparate visual elements in innovative ways.
They revived retro and antique graphic forms but with contemporary twists.|
They created a postmodern graphic language that managed to be both retro and innovative at the same time.
Push Pin Studio defined a new pluralistic and eclectic approach to design.
The International Typographic Style, or Swiss design, originated in Switzerland in the 1950s and continued to be highly influential through the 1960s.
Swiss design was defined by adherence to an orderly grid structure, sans-serif typography, minimalist aesthetics, and asymmetric layouts.
Swiss designers refined these principles to create clean, timeless, objective designs.
The style was applied to a wide range of graphic materials like posters, brochures, book covers, and corporate identity systems.
Swiss design embodied principles of modernist reductionism and rejected extraneous ornamentation.
While psychedelic and pop art styles broke free, Swiss design represented the persistence of modernist thinking.
Famed Swiss designers like:
- Josef Muller-Brockmann
- Armin Hoffman
- Wolfgang Weingart
Pioneered Swiss design as a methodical craft.
Its typographic focus and logical structure offered an alternative to more exuberant new styles of the decade.
By the 1960s, graphic designers began using posters for more than commercial advertising or promotional purposes.
Posters became vehicles for conceptual ideas, political messages, and artistic experimentation.
Designers like Seymour Chwast created posters with visual puns and anti-war themes that challenged viewers to think critically.
Poland's contemporary poster art movement used posters to convey social commentary and irony.
Conceptual posters might have poetic or existential text combined with ambiguous images requiring deeper reflection.
They became a new genre of fine art object appreciated for visual wit and metaphorical meaning.
Graphic design transitioned into a more artistic, intellectual form of visual communication.
The underground press flourished in the 1960s fueled by the radical counterculture movement.
Underground newspapers, magazines, comics, and flyers embraced a revolutionary DIY aesthetic.
These pieces were produced cheaply using methods like screen-printing, mimeograph printing, or photocopying.
Images often had a raw, handmade quality using bright inks, crayons, or colored pencils.
Text was loosely typed or scrawled by hand.
Designers rejected mainstream "slick" aesthetics in favor of a gritty, jumbled look that matched the anti-establishment spirit of the youth culture.
Flyers for protests and gatherings used this style to motivate political activism.
The irregular freeform designs stood as a visual symbol of the social upheaval and chaos of the decade.
1960s graphic design exploded with new eclectic, conceptual, and psychedelic styles.
Reflecting both artistic innovation.
And the culturally transgressive mood of the decade.
Rules were broken.
And traditions discarded as designers found visual ways to capture the era's revolutionary ethos.