role did graphic designing play in the 1960s in popular culture?
The ability to transfer an idea, concept, theme, or notion from the abstract depths of one's mind onto the rich whiteness of a canvas is indeed, a unique one. It is a gift that one is born and blessed with. The capability to sketch, draw and paint has been a part of human civilization since the dawn of time. From the moments of the first primitive man who carved roughly on the coarse walls of the cave he probably called home to the diverse technological art forms that exist today, graphic design has been the very foundation upon which all this has been built. The term "graphic" owns its heritage to the Greek word of "Graphikos" and engages in the composition of symbols, signs, logos, line art, geometry, and other visuals. ( (A History of Graphic Design, 2011).
Graphic design had always been influenced by culture, political, social and legal forces. This paper explores the explosive era of the 1960s where flower power reigned and being an activist was in. The United States of America was entangled in a cobweb of political turmoil and chaos. With the advent of the Civil Rights Movement, recognition of feminism and Vietnam, the American citizen was waking up. Wars had been fought and were now in the finishing stages. Young men were returning home with a desire to truly live and experience new things. The post World War II Baby Boom had created seventy million teenagers for the 1960s. As mentioned previously, the war had been over for almost two decades and resources were being dedicated to building back industries that had to be put on the back burner due to the need for weaponry and such.
The age of youth had arrived; a time when the young had a say and an opinion. Fashion, music, entertainment, art and literature were led by these young, heartfelt individuals. The realm of media experienced a huge surge and growth through the talented and pioneering voices of the Beatles, Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix and the likes. The poster that promoted Jimi Hendrix at the Thunderbird Peace Festival incorporates a figurine that is completely lost in his music. The stars in the background invoke a patriotic and nationalistic sensation in the viewer as that is what the designer intended. This is in sync with the culture that existed in America as the average citizen was looking towards its government to end the war in Vietnam and to win the Space Race against the then USSR.
The famous "Yellow Submarine" poster for the 1968 movie by the same name, that is, the Yellow Submarine, was designed by German artist Heinz Edelmann. The Disney type typography blends perfectly well with the bold background. Its animated feel and texture challenged the American eye back then to look deeper into the image and extract what was there. This was a huge part of pop culture and had a strong, powerful influential role to play. The work was novel and fresh in nature and in tune with the psychedelic theme that was gaining popularity in the day.
The middle of the twentieth century foresaw the creation of designs that are still in use today. Saul Bass, a Bronx born graphic designer, was renowned for his work in film and logo design. . Over a forty year timeline, his career received critical acclaim. He created logos for leading companies such as AT&T, Continental Airlines, and Kleenex. Refer to Figure 3 to understand that his work is still used today. He worked with names such as Alfred Hitchcock and Otto Preminger. Preminger requested Saul Boss to design a movie poster for him, which would lead the overall marketing campaign for the film in question. It served as one of his first chances to design more than a simple, traditional title for a movie, but to craft something that would make the audience connect immediately with the movie. He was one of the pioneers in realizing the "creative potential" that the opening and closing credits of a movie can provide. He felt that "set the mood and the prime underlying core of the film's story, to express the story in some metaphorical way. I saw the title as a way of conditioning the audience, so that when the film actually began, viewers would already have an emotional resonance with it." Bass's famous "The Man with the Golden Arm" was celebrated throughout the world as an image of distinction, difference and diversity. The simplicity of the arm shifted focus on the subject matter, much like the art of its time. The movie starred a jazz musician who struggled to overcome his addiction to the powerful drug of heroine. Back then, it was a "taboo subject." He used the arm as an illustrative metaphor, twisted and disfigured, to represent the principal theme of the movie. This provided a means of measuring the frame against tension, image balance, and contrast for the picture. This poster became a benchmark for movie kings from then on to measure their design campaigns against. (Poulin, 2011)
Andy Warhol was another landmark graphic designer that revolutionized the way design communication existed. He employed eclectic art forms such as painting, photography, silk screening, sculpture, film, music and print making to demonstrate his abilities. His celebrated work of the "Campbell Soup Can" was known for supreme communication form through minimalistic visuals. As a designer, he appreciated the classical nature of the design of this can and captured it in a series of paintings. He took the curved lines and iconic visual representations of a tin of canned tomato soup and recast it in the light of pure art. It was first launched in the series of thirty two paintings at a showing in the Ferus Gallery. Each painting was indistinguishable, except for the inscribed flavor. Lining them on a diminutive, thin shelf within the bounds of the gallery linked it to the real life image of tomato cans on a shelf in a grocery store. He used the process of silk screening and this caused much debate in his time. For Warhol, this was a personal experience as he had had tomato soup for lunch every day for twenty years. So to see it celebrated the way it was made him feel part of a bigger picture. (Christie, 2010)
Warhol used silk screening to eternalize the image of the famous yet controversial actress Marilyn Monroe. This was done after her suicide in the year of 1962. He wanted to mass produce his art by using the commercial process. Fundamentally, what happens is that a picture is enlarged and transferred onto silk and then a bunch of colors are printed onto the screen utilizing a rubber squeegee.
Warhol used an image taken by Gene Koran and he painted the image in variant shades: blue, yellow, turquoise, and green. He then painted her face on top and in this way, diverse styles were created. The purpose here was to depict the enigmatic, mysterious side of Monroe which clearly existed due to the nature of her death. Not only was she a beautiful actress, but she had a dark place innately which Warhol sought to capture. (Traston, 2008)
The space race between the United States of America and Russia ignited a change in graphic design as well. It had its affects on architecture and interior design as metallic, unisex and plastic clothing gained popularity. The clothes and hat adorned by the model in Figure 7 illustrate how leading brands such as Pierre Cardin incorporated such changes in value systems in their own designs.
As one can see, the 1960s was an epoch of fun and vivacity for graphic design. Then, it still heralded the dryer elements…