In the late 1960s and to a greater degree in the ‘70s, countries worldwide began to question the foundation of societal norms. Traditional institutions were challenged as authority as women and minorities demanded equality and cultural diversity. Accepted viewpoints on political, environmental, economic, and social norms were also challenged, and immigration, international travel, and global communications were routine. Many felt the changing world landscape was no longer relevant to the tenets of Modernism. Postmodernism was the term used to express this condition; however, in design, postmodernism is used to describe the work of those who broke from Modernism.

Yes, art repeats itself.

During the 1960s, young people were questioning America’s materialism and conservative cultural and political norms. They wanted to create an egalitarian society free from discrimination. The period was filled with a variety of movements and issues: feminist movement, Black movement, civil rights movement, sexual freedom, nonconformity, nuclear proliferation, and the public protest against the Vietnam War, to name a few.

Consequently, a postmodernism art movement was created from this period: the psychedelic movement. It is an art style influenced by the use of hallucinogenic drugs, especially LSD. The name “psychedelic” refers to drugs that were popular during the period. The movement had an effect in music (music festivals and concerts), popular culture, dress, language, art, literature and philosophy. Artists found a great opportunity to express social viewpoints through posters: poster mania.

The visual motifs of psychedelic art include illegible hand-drawn type, intense optical color vibration (inspired by the op-art movement), swirling forms, dramatic layout, the recycling of images (prevalent in pop art), and they are typically marked by the revival of historical elements and techniques. Additionally, the visual and conceptual similarities between postmodern psychedelic graphic design and Art Nouveau are mostly noticeable by the use of curvilinear calligraphy and shapes:

Analyzing the typography of these two images above, I believe the psychedelic poster was illegible because the artist wanted people to decipher or “feel” the message, rather than read it. The art nouveau poster, on the other hand, sacrificed legibility in order to achieve an innovation in typography never seen before, with a textural density and elemental signification.

I can affirm that everything gets recycled. Everything is influenced by something else. One art movement gives rise to another. It is no wonder then that Art Nouveau was brought back in the 60s. As an inspirational source, the psychedelic era based their hippie beliefs on the revival of spirituality, return to nature and the use of organic shapes and forms.

“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.”

Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone Magazine



Meggs, P. B. (2012). Megg’s History of Graphic Design (5th ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.