September 21, 2012 | by Liam

Graphic Design History – Psychedelia

The word “psychedelic” means “mind manifesting”, and artistic efforts to portray the inner world of the psyche are considered to be “psychedelic”. The psychedelia movement started in the hippie subculture of the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco during the 1960?s. Psychedelia related to the psychedelic drugs that were popular with youths during this period and artists tried to capture the feeling  of “tripping” that the drugs gave.


Experimentation was conducted by a psychiatrist in Los Angeles to determine the effects of LSD on creativity. Oscar Janiger asked a group of 50 individuals to do a painting of their choice, they were then subsequently asked to do the same painting but under the influence of LSD. Almost all of the artists reported that LSD enhanced their creativity!


This period saw the arrival of fluorescent paints which were used to create dazzling colour effects. It was also typical of this era that fonts were distorted and manipulated and letterforms were often forced into images to create that shape.


The psychedelic style encompassed clashing, glaring and contrasting colours and loud textures using symmetrical composition, collage elements and rubber like distortions. This style of art was influential particularly on album covers. By the late 1960?s psychedelia became very commercialised and several companies associated themselves with the art form including CBS and NBC. Campbell’s soup ran a poster campaign that promised to “turn your wall souper-delic”. By the early 1970?s advertisers used psychedelic art to sell consumer goods such as cigarettes, hair products and cars. There was a resurgence of psychedelia during the rave movement of the 1990?s with the arrival of newly available digital technologies.


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