Psychedelia of the 1960s

How has historical graphic design inspired contemporary graphic design?

by: Leila Rahmani 3159860


The psychedelia of the 1960s left a profound impact on American graphic design. It was an art style influenced by the prevalence of hallucinatory drugs, especially LSD, with typical designs featuring abstract swirls of intense color with curvilinear calligraphy reminiscent of Art Nouveau. Psychedelia was a pervasive movement, the effects of which were not limited to the visual arts but also touched music and fashion. The vivaciousness of the decade was captured by designers such as Wes Wilson, whose posters featured supersaturated hues and hand-drawn typography that appeared to be in motion. The raw and unpolished aesthetic was made possible by the free love attitudes of the time, and therefore intentionally lacks legibility and design sentiment.


The energetic and captivating graphics designs by Wilson and his contemporaries inspired graphic designers of today to use similar visual elements. Patrycja Pawlik’s poster “Look Into Your Soul” incorporates psychedelia with a high degree of effectiveness. The poster has hand-drawn boldly saturated technicolor typography, providing the illusion that the text is moving or melting into itself. The sentiment of inner reflection and soul searching arguably also references hippie culture, a popular movement that still is in effect. The psychedelic art of the 1960s was an undeniably unique and pivotal aesthetic, evidenced by its continuing use in contemporary graphic design.


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