New Wave graphic design refers to the radical, unconventional graphic design style that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s as part of the New Wave cultural movement.
Breaking with the modernist principles and Swiss design tenets that preceded it, New Wave graphic design was brash, lively, and captivating.
Bold Colors and Shapes
The New Wave aesthetic was marked by bright, intense colors like neon pink, acid yellow, electric blue and turquoise.
These vibrant shades stood in stark contrast to the somber palettes favored by earlier modernist and corporate designers.
To complement the bold colors, New Wave graphics incorporated geometric shapes like triangles, circles, lightning bolts and zigzags, which added dynamism and movement.
Abstract patterns and motifs created optical vibrancy and textures.
New Wave designs were eye-catching, arresting, and full of visual energy.
Punk and Retro Influences
New Wave design took cues from the raw, anti-establishment punk aesthetic that was raging through music and culture in the late 1970s.
Like punk graphics, New Wave designs incorporated jarring typography, ransom note lettering, and ripped paper and collage effects.
At the same time, the style blended these chaotic punk sensibilities with a retro flair inspired by 1930s and 40s art deco lettering and styling.
So New Wave combined the DIY, subversive attitude of punk with a nostalgic vintage aesthetic.
Focus on Music and Youth Culture
Music was at the heart of the New Wave scene.
So it was only natural that graphic design reflected this fixation.
Posters, record sleeves, badges and other youth-oriented graphics were venues for New Wave visual expression.
Design studios such as Hipgnosis brought New Wave aesthetics to their arresting music package designs.
New Wave graphics were closely tied to urban youth culture and captured the excitement and irreverence of the period.
Prominent New Wave Designers
Several innovative designers spearheaded the New Wave graphic design approach.
Neville Brody adopted a fiercely anti-establishment mindset and pioneering typographic style in his designs for The Face magazine, Arena, and record sleeves.
Katherine McCoy also designed vibrant, punk-inspired record covers and posters.
The design group 8vo fully embodied the New Wave aesthetic in their print, identity and television graphics.
Other key figures included Javier Mariscal, Ed Fella and Peter Saville.
These designers broke free from existing rules and pushed graphic design into new territories of self-expression.
Impact on Graphic Design
New Wave design defied the ordered principles of modernism and Swiss design, paving the way for the emergence of postmodern graphic design in all its creative irreverence.
Traces of its rule-breaking, DIY attitude and visual exuberance are still evident in contemporary graphic design.
New Wave design forms a vibrant bridge between modernist functionality and the creative anarchy that followed.
Its legacy endures through its sheer spirit of originality and experimentation that shook up graphic design.
New Wave graphic design resonated with contemporary music and youth culture in its bold departure from established styles.
With its arresting visual energy and punk spirit, it made a dramatic impact on graphic design moving into the 1980s and beyond.