70s Graphic Design: A Rundown of 1970s Style

Staring at a blank screen in CorelDRAW, you might look for unique ideas. Try looking back to move forward. Specifically, you can take inspiration from the fun, freaky designs of the 1970s.

The 1970s provided a turning point for many areas of life and graphic design proves no different. Newspapers and magazines underwent major re-designs during this decade, moving towards utilizing whitespace, revamping fonts, changing capitalization rules for headlines, altering caption size and placement, and removing the ornaments. The new look includes hotspot accents and draws the reader's eye through the page to guide reading and encourage reading the entire page.

Photos and graphics also benefited from a redo. Photographers were encouraged to shoot wider shots but focus only on the key players in the photo's composition. Photos underwent added cropping and editing. Graphics became key to the news page and often replaced photos. The advertisements paying for the news holes also transformed.

Advertisements and marketing collateral as a whole during the 1970s, looked either bright and wild or do-it-yourself (DIY). The extremes both blossomed from music influences as well as pop art influences that began in the 1960s. While newspapers and magazines worked to make themselves more austere and minimalist, the ads going in them did the opposite. Advertising and marketing collateral went wild, either boasting vivid colors in Funkadelic color schemes or patterns or using simple black and white.

Colorful geometric psychedelic designs

Geometric patterns covered a plethora of album covers, book covers, and  advertisements, always in multi-colors, typically gold, yellow, orange, hot pink, and sometimes blue and green. Many of these geometric patterns grew out of psychedelic music. Many food products and theatrical advertisements used this style, as did product packaging, infusing store shelves with rainbow colors. Examples of these schools of graphic design include this 1970s soda advertisement for 7 Up and the print for this gift wrap.

Black and white – the punk influence

The other half of the graphics that proliferated on magazine racks and marketing collateral seemed DIY, using basic black and white. This grew out of the punk movement and its austerity. The punk influence carried over into photography used in ads, resulting in many black and white ads. Many of the ads using this influence either included a multitude of text with a black and white photo or a hand drawn graphic. While some consumer products used this design, music gravitated to it. For example, this Black Flag poster utilized hand drawn lettering and artwork combined with the new whitespace design used in print communications, while this Ramones poster utilized the hand lettered fonts and updated photography rules.

Colorful contributions from disco and the hippie movement

Within those two major categories of graphic design for the decade, the hippie movement and disco also wrought their influence. The music of the 1970s provided a way for the youth of its time to express themselves. Along with art and fashion, people used other creative forms to express their politics and personalities. As controversial as some hippie ideals were, major corporations such as Kimberly-Clark Corporation used its art influence in its ads for Kleenex brand tissue.

Extravagance showed in everything in the 1970s, even in graphic design. The hippie movement contributed to the bright colors and lent the tie-dye phenomenon to virtually everything from lunchboxes to dresses. Disco contributed flowy, funky fonts inspired by neon lights, such as this ad for Silesta fabric shows. Graphic artists gravitated toward hand drawn lettering rather than printed typefaces from International Typographic Style. These contributions fall into the colorful category, often blended with the geometry or color bursts of psychedelia.

Where the 1970s led us

By 1977, graphic design headed in the direction of the 21st century. Although we'd probably change the photo today, the rest of this Apple computer ad from 1977 could still run in a magazine today. The vibrancy of colors we use today, the whitespace in graphic designs, minimalist design techniques, and the acceptance of creative fonts, especially those that appear hand drawn or actually are drawn by hand, all grew out of the 1970s and the music influence of punk, disco, psychedelia, and the hippie movement.

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