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.