In 1970 I was a freshman in high school. Although I wasn’t aware of graphic design as an art form, I was beginning to notice the effect design had on me as a consumer. Book jackets, billboards, record-album covers, and magazines were an important part of my life. In a few more years I would begin to appreciate the talent they represented.
So though I was not part of the scene that today’s images represent, I feel a certain attachment to them, and I suspect some had an early influence on my eventual graphic aesthetic. All of today’s images are from the 27th Annual Portfolio of the Art Directors Club of Los Angeles — the “Best of the West” in graphic design. In 1970 when this annual was published, it was much more expensive to print in color, so the images are all reproduced in black and white. Click on any image for a larger version.
Art directing was a much different field back then, with more limits on what could be done technically. There were fewer typestyles available, and type was set by someone else who specialized in it. No computers, no Illustrator, no InDesign. Art “directing” was just that: directing others and compiling the results into a final work.
This collection of images reveals four of 1970’s trends. First was a cartoon-style of illustration that relied heavily on airbrush work.
Second, type was often very ornamental, using fonts that are extremely dated by today’s standards. But I’m still a sucker for many of these over-the-top type designs.
Third was the trend toward bold, simple statements. Just look at the similarity between these billboard designs, all for different products.
And fourth was the tendency toward type set very tightly. It had a lot to do with the new phototype technology, which allowed typesetters for the first time to overlap and tightly set display lettering.
And as far as logo design goes, this was a period of bold lines and images. Again, the technology of the time had something to do with the results. Logos were mostly inked and then photo-stats were made. Getting grey screens added a level of complexity that many designers chose to eliminate. So while you see drop shadows, they’re stark and bold, not a soft grey.
While a few of these designs would work well today, most seem dated. 1970 seemed to be a year of high contrast on many levels. I find the era graphically appealing, but then I still enjoy the occasional Cat Stevens or Jethro Tull album.