Post 3 – 1960’s – By Ren Gibson

“The 60’s was the last era of innovative design,” Markus Laumann, curator of the Sixties exhibition, said, “After that, there was only retro revival. Nowadays the 60’s serve as a source of inspiration. ” “The 1960’s were a decade of unprecedented change, where everything seemed possible and many things allowed. It was an exciting decade. The profound social, cultural and aesthetic upheavals fuelled the euphoria for space flights, new technologies, futuristic design and materials.”

There seems to be a tendency to keep going back to this era of optimism, cultural radicalism, free love, plastic, geometric shapes, pop design and psychedelia.

An almost universal consensus among historians is that ‘the 1960’s witnessed the most significant social movements of the 20th century’.

Founder of Rolling Stone Magazine, Jann Wenner said ….

“The culture wars that began in the sixties, about drugs, about military incursions into foreign countries, about sex and human rights, the environment and on and on, are still being fought. All the issues are correct, and they are rooted in the activism of the sixties. The values have not only survived – in many ways they are the mainstream values of our times.”


Pop Art tried to break down the barriers between high art and popular culture. Pop, art and culture, was “Popular, transient, disposable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, glamorous and Big Business” – as defined by the British artist Richard Hamilton. Pop was superficial and modern. “Andy Warhol invented the idea of the ‘superstar’ and helped create the cult of celebrity we have today”

Op Art, short for Optical art, “is a style of abstraction that relies on geometric shapes, lines, and colour juxtapositions to create optical illusions for the viewer”. Popular in the 1960s, Op Art featured patterns, grids, and effects like curving or diminishing objects. The Op Art movement was driven by artists who were interested in investigating various perceptual effects.

Psychedelic Art, generally refers to art that has been inspired by psychedelic experiences. The word ‘Psychedelic’ coined by the British psychologist Humphrey Osmond means “mind manifesting”. Though it mainly refers to the art of the 1960s counter-culture movement. Some people relate art that is a visual depiction of kaleidoscopic-like patterns to the Psychedelic Art movement. The movement was closely linked to the psychedelic music of the 1960s as well and was evident in both concert posters and record album covers.

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Spirals as well as concentric circles and a repetition of motifs or symbols could often be found in Psychedelic artwork. Collage is also important to the Psychedelic style. Surrealist subject matter was another major component of Psychedelic style as were certain exotic motifs like paisley. Concert posters, album covers, light shows, murals, comic books, underground newspapers and more reflected not only the kaleidoscopically swirling colour patterns of psychedelic experiences, but also revolutionary political, social and spiritual sentiments inspired by insights derived from these psychedelic states of consciousness.

Viewing the whole back catalogue of 1960s design, you begin to think, “What wasn’t designed back then?” So much of what makes up 1960’s design is still significant and so much of it is still popular and in production today. A great example of Pop Art, Op Art and Psychedelic Art inspiring modern day design can be seen in the works of graphic designer Lisa Frank and fashion designer Camilla.

I personally have been inspired in a myriad of ways by 1960’s design and believe it will be part of my design aesthetic into the future.

Ren 🙂



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