Siobhan Schmidt – Creative Synethesia – 1960s Psychedelic Art

Victor Moscoso, Miller Blues Band Poster. 1967
Victor Moscoso, Miller Blues Band Poster. 1967

In the 1960s, the psychedelic art, especially psychedelic poster art took off in counter culture movement groups. Its style was heavily influenced by the effects of hallucinatory drugs, featuring bold swooping shapes, curvilinear lines and type and vibrating colours. Psychedelic poster designers were in close communication with many musicians of this time and are responsible for the majority of their album covers and concert posters, which leads us to the sound of this era.

When listening to music from this time, it is easy to hear the correlation between many of the artists stylistic choices and the imagery of their posters. The extended guitar solos, complex riffs and experimentations with noise all evoke the same overwhelming hallucinatory feeling that the Psychedelic posters have as well.

A key feature of the Psychedelic posters is their vibrating colours. This was achieved by choosing two colours directly across from each other on the colour wheel and using them with an equal value and intensity in the design. The colours then bounce off of each other and make the image appear like it is vibrating. This vibrating effect is clearly heard in Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child”. Right from the first riff you can hear how the final chord vibrates into the beginning of the pattern. As the song continues and more elements are added, the effects of these vibrations are exaggerated, creating an overwhelming soundscape that draws the listener in and leaves them in a trance like state.

Listening to the song with closed eyes enhances these effects even more, allowing the brain to focus on the music and the sounds to control the other senses. With your eyes closed, you will be able to see waves of colour moving across your eyelids, following the sound waves of Hendrix’s guitar. Just like how if you were to stare at a psychedelic poster for a few minutes and then close your eyes, the colours of the image would still linger in your mind.

When listening to songs like “Voodoo Child” it is practically impossible to not envision the posters accompanying them, which just goes to show how much the images sound like the songs.

 

Design Inspiration – A journey in Identity

From as early as the 8th century, German scribes have been using a visually dense and bold style of script. This typeface is known as Blackletter or Gothic and has been incredibly influential not only to design throughout history, but also to the identities of things as small as a brand to as large as an entire country.

Gebetbuch (prayer book) of Maximillian I, 1514. Printed by Johann Schönsperger with pen and ink drawings by Albrecht Dürer
Gebetbuch (prayer book) of Maximillian I, 1514. Printed by Johann Schönsperger with pen and ink drawings by Albrecht Dürer

The earlier of the two designs I will be discussing is the Gebetbuch of Maximillain I. It is a prayer book that he commissioned to be printed in 1514 by Johann Schönsperger and illustrated by Albrecht Dürer. Maximillian was inspired by pre-existing Blackletter types but desired something more elegant and modern than what was already available to him. This lead to the invention of the Fraktur typeface which is a more condensed and spiked version of fonts such as Schwabacher and who’s namesake is derived from the broken nature of it’s lines. This style of Blackletter type became increasingly popular amongst German’s, especially after it’s use in the Protestant Reformation as a symbol of the Protestants. Eventually, it became the most used typeface in German print culture and a key aspect of the German identity.

However, as Adolf Hitler came to power in the 1930’s, he began to use the Fraktur type in his propaganda and essentially claimed it as the “Nazi type”. This lead to a rapid decline in the font’s use and an all around uneasiness towards what was once an integral part of everyday German life.

Now designer’s are using the typestyle freely again, but some brands who’s identities were tied to the font long before the rise of Nazi Germany never stopped. This brand is the New York Times.

New York Times Spread from September 23, 1862. Nameplate designed by Henry Jarvis Raymond.
New York Times Spread from September 23, 1862. Nameplate designed by Henry Jarvis Raymond.

The New York Times was founded in 1851 by Henry Jarvis Raymond. When he was choosing the font for the paper’s nameplate he was not originally thinking of building an identity of his own. He wanted to mimic The London Times as closely as possible so that this new newspaper would be recognizable and have the trust of potential costumers. The London Times was using a Blackletter type inspired by the same German scribes who inspired Maximillian I and Johann Schönsperger and the newspaper company was even inspired by their Gebetbuch and the Fraktur type.

Over the years, as different designers came on board to The New York Times team, small changes would be made to the nameplate to modernize it and make it more unique to the brand’s identity. When the Fraktur type was picked up by Hitler, the nameplate of The New York Times was different enough and so deeply engrained in the paper’s identity that they could not let go of it.

I believe this was a good decision made by the designer’s as it has lead to then having probably one of the most distinguishable nameplates in newspaper. It has also allowed them to stay close to their roots with the last minor change to the type made in 1967 by Edward Benguiat.

Who would’ve thought so many stories could all find their roots in an 8th century scriptorium?

Works Cited

Dunlap, David W. “1967 | A Modern Identity Takes Form in Ancient Lettering.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 June 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/06/15/insider/1967-a-modern-identity-takes-form-in-ancient-lettering.html.

Dürer, Albrecht and Schönsperger, Johann. “Gebetbuch (prayer book) of Maximillian I.” 1514.

Jarvis Raymond, Henry. “The New-York Times.” 23, September 1882.

“History of Fraktur writing and printing in Germany at the Walden Font Co.” The Walden Font Co., Walden Font Co., 2016, www.waldenfont.com/HistoryofFraktur.asp.