The 1960s was the decade that the world changed forever. Whether a result of the TV coverage of the US military intervention in Vietnam, the introduction of the contraceptive pill, the spotlight on race relations, the explosion of the fab four or the influence of widely available hallucinogenics, the 1960s saw a total reassessment of traditional values.
A defiant and progressive attitude thrived among the student, artistic and intellectual populations. Among the trends of 1960s counterculture, pop art is arguably one of the most significant. Pop art first emerged in the mid-1950s and represented a challenge to the traditions of fine art. It raised so-called ‘low culture’ to the heights of artistic merit by incorporating images from advertising, news, popular and celebrity culture.
With its bold chromatic aesthetic, spatial relationships and repetitive themes, pop art impacted on all creative industries including fashion, art, theatre, film and graphic design. Here we take a look at a handful of the most influential artists of the period, their work and their legacy on the realm of graphic design.
Roy Lichtenstein is one of the most important artists of the period, whose work made a huge impact on many of the graphic design trends we still see today. During the 1960s his work epitomised the ethos behind the pop art movement almost better than any other. He favoured old fashioned, comic strips as his subject matter, accompanied by tongue-in-cheek, hard-boiled statements that reflected the modern condition as he saw it.
Lichtenstein is also known for his parodies of the masterpieces of Cézanne, Mondrian and Picasso. Of these, perhaps the most famous is his reproduction of the well-known Vincent Van Gogh work, Bedroom at Arles.
Roy Lichtenstein’s work is among the most admired and influential of the period. And today you’ll still see designers revisiting his bold yellow, red and black colour palette, dotted images and comic strip style whenever they need to inject a dose of cool to their concept.
With his belief that “in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes”, Warhol was not only remarkably prophetic, he also summed up one of the key drivers behind pop art. A fascination with celebrity is evident across his work, which draws upon Hollywood, television, magazines and newspapers to mass produce images at a machine-like rate of production.
Warhol maintained a belief in the reproducibility of art, that a work of art need not be limited to a single execution. Perhaps we have Warhol to thank for the gravity and elevation we now give to notable advertising and branding campaigns. Think of recent creative work for Guinness, Apple or Honda; without Warhol would these campaigns ever have happened?