Tane Richardson – 50s and 60s –
Psychedelic Design. The origin of the psychedelic graphic style is often traced back to Wes Wilson’s striking poster designs for Californian concerts. However, psychedelia was mostly a by-product of California’s hippie movement. Cultivated in the deeper recesses of the mind, often with the help of hallucinogenic drugs, the psychedelic style at its height found its way into clothes, music covers and styles, graphic design, even penetrating corporate design when Alexander Calder covered one of Braniff International’s aeroplanes with coloured swirls. The calling cards appeared – beads, bells, velvet pants, afros, bright military uniforms and flowers became the distinguishing characteristics of this standout style. Its aim was simple: mind-expansion through visual representation.
Psychedelic graphics mostly comprised of a collage of Day-Glo coloured images such as flowers and rainbows unified with swirling shapes and luminous colours. As it spread throughout America and Europe, psychedelia took noticeable elements from past movements such as Pop and Op Art and Art Nouveau. Combinations of vibrant colours and exuberant typefaces were distorted and warped until the images appeared to live within their own fluid movement. Images were basically visual interpretations of acid trips and drug-induced freakouts, with curly images reminiscent of marijuana and incense smoke. At the core, pychedelic designs were not meant to be viewed, but experienced. However, the style ended as quickly as it started in 1968, as people were plain tired of it. Personally I think it never left, and I hold it in high stead as the epitome of imagination in art.