Fires and Riots: California and Graphic Design 1936-1986

California’s turbulence during the 20th century, both politically and environmentally, was reflected in its graphic design, which came to have an indigenous feel that was both belligerently offbeat and pioneering.

Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires and Riots: California and Graphic Design 1936-1986
Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires and Riots: California and Graphic Design 1936-1986

A new book Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires and Riots: California and Graphic Design 1936-1986 finds that as a “mecca of consumerism” in a constant state of flux, California gave rise gave rise to an inspirational and unique form of graphic design which reflects the Californian culture.

Beginning in the Modernist age, Thames & Hudson’s book moves chronologically through the psychedelic 1960s and up to the mid ‘80s.

John Van Hamersveld and Ed Thrasher, 1971
John Van Hamersveld and Ed Thrasher, 1971

It features books and magazines designed by the likes of Merle Armitage, Alvin Lustig and Sheila Levrant DeBretteville.

There are posters for Disneyland and Herman Miller, Marget Larsen’s print ads for Joseph Manin, and title cards for hit TV shows like Lassie, as well as title sequences for films like Taxi Driver, all sorts of motion graphics, architectural super-graphics by Barbara Stauffacher Solomon and Alexander Girard, plus print and environmental designs by Gere Kavanaugh and Deborah Sussman.

Robert Tyler Lee and Georg Olden, Lassie and The Gale Storm Show Interstitial Cards, 1958.
Robert Tyler Lee and Georg Olden, Lassie and The Gale Storm Show Interstitial Cards, 1958.

It’s a hefty 400 page tome, which has been compiled, edited and designed by Louise Sandhaus who heads up the Graphic Design Program at California Institute of the Arts and runs her own studio LSD (Louise Sandhaus Design).

Robert Abel and Richard Taylor, 7UP “Bubbles” Commercial, 1975.

Source: 1971 Universal Television

Robert Abel and Richard Taylor, 7UP “Bubbles” Commercial, 1975.

Sandhaus, who is not a “design historian, critic, theoretician, or scholar” says the book “reflects, perhaps, a very ‘California’ way of presenting information.

John Van Hamersveld and Victor Moscoso. The Who (with Fleetwodd Mac) Shrine Auditorium Concert Poster, 1968

Source: Pinnacle Productions 1968

John Van Hamersveld and Victor Moscoso. The Who (with Fleetwodd Mac) Shrine Auditorium Concert Poster, 1968

To make sense of what has been included and excluded, Sandhaus says the reader should imagine a dinner party that serves only desserts.

Saul Bass, Apples and Oranges, 1962
Saul Bass, Apples and Oranges, 1962

She says: “The sugary offerings within these pages range from the obvious to the obscure. This is a heavily curated selection based on little more than the way the heart quickens when the eye encounters something radiant, wonderful and new.”

Bill Plate and Gene Howard. The Swingin’ Eye. Album Cover, 1960

Source: Universal Music Enterprises

Bill Plate and Gene Howard. The Swingin’ Eye. Album Cover, 1960

Earthquakes, Mudslides, Fires and Riots: California and Graphic Design 1936-1986 is published by Thames & Hudson on 12 January 2015 and priced £39.95

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