Hippie Design
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Hippie Design

The 1960s was the age of free love, flower power and psychedelia. This was a decade of tremendous social upheaval – sexual liberation, drug use and radical experimentation in art and design. The rebellious young generation began reacting against the values of their parents. In terms of youth culture, this was the most creative decade in history.

The 1960s was the age of free love, flower power and psychedelia. This was a decade of tremendous social upheaval – sexual liberation, drug use and radical experimentation in art and design. The rebellious young generation began reacting against the values of their parents. In terms of youth culture, this was the most creative decade in history. They say that if you can remember the 60s, you weren't there, but we can at least explore the fascinating array of styles to which it gave rise.

The year 1967 was a major turning point. Hippie culture and psychedelia date from this year, which was known as the ‘Summer of Love’. Most of the psychedelic albums by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane and others were released from 1967 onwards. The Beatles released their ground-breaking album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in this year.

The cover of Sgt. Pepper was designed by the British Pop artist Peter Blake. It was a life-size constructed collage featuring cardboard cut-outs of iconic figures. Blake asked the Beatles to make lists of people they'd like to have in the audience at this imaginary concert. The illustrator Aubrey Beardsley is there. They also used the Beatles’ waxworks from Madame Tussaud’s. The Beatles are dressed in military uniforms, but they’re in psychedelic colours. Blake designed a cardboard cut-out with a mustache, sergeant stripes and badges.

The hippie scene was centered on San Francisco, especially the district of Haight-Ashbury. They listened to acid rock, embraced the sexual revolution, and promoted peace and love. Hippies used hallucinogenic drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide, or LSD, to explore alternative states of consciousness. This (apparently) gives the user hallucinations and fluctuations in colour and sound. Psychedelic design tried to visualize these effects. The word psychedelic means ‘mind manifesting’. Concert posters and album covers used kaleidoscopic swirling patterns. Victor Moscoso was an American illustrator who designed psychedelic art and concert posters.  Rick Griffin was one of the leading designers of psychedelic posters. He was closely identified with the Grateful Dead, designing some of their best known posters and album covers.

Psychedelia responded to drug culture, but it also drew on the past. Art nouveau was a style characterised by the whiplash curve and stylised organic shapes. This style was plundered in the 60s and metamorphosed into psychedelia. This is a Bob Dylan poster by Milton Glaser. The hair has been rendered in Art Nouveau spirals and psychedelic colours. The portrait silhouette technique is borrowed from Marcel Duchamp.

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Comments (15)

Michael, I graduated from high school, got married and had children in the 1960's and loved mostly everything about that time, except the Vietnam War, thanks for the memories! Voted Up!

Sounds weird and crazy then......and fun really. Nice presentation.

Beautiful writing Michael, I still have the album Sgt. Pepper's, a poster of Grateful Dead concert and Jimi hendrix.

I remember these designs on my childhood. The Milton Glaser poster reminded me of a wall poster at Barclays bank and I'm wondering if it was by the same artist, Michael.

Very interesting read, buddy.

Don't forget about the East coast Hippies in Greenwich Village!

Great article. We just had a really fun hippie party over the summer with hippie music, clothing and decorations, and even some food we thought was "hippie" themed. ; )

Bethany, what did you imagine "Hippies" ate?

Ranked #1 in Art & Art History

Quite right, James. Sorry about the omission.

Your piece took me back a few and it was fun to remember that time and Woodstock..voted

Excellent article and images. On the American TV show Storage Wars, Dave Hester bid/won an abandoned locker which contained dozens of old 1960s psychedelic rock posters, including ones executed by Rick Griffin. They were worth a few thousand dollars. The Doors, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, et al., were represented.

A well-written article, Michael, but then everything you write is well-written. I enlisted in the military in the fall of 1960. I would be a liar if I said that I was a supported the hippie lifestyle, their beliefs, or their politics. My first wife, on the other hand, thought they were great and supported them, which is one of the main reasons she became my ex-wife.

A great account on this amazing period! Bravo Michael!

Roaring 60's, I wish I was alive during these years, thank you for this read Michael.

Thank you Michael. Voted up.

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