The Innovative and Experimental Magazine Designs of the 1960s: A Project by Molly Locke

Written by Molly Locke


Cover photo: Snapshot from editorial spread design

For our A-Level photography project we were allowed to chose any subject matter that interested us. A massive passion of mine is fashion, explored in many different forms; styling, sustainable fashion, making clothes, fashion photography. After a lot of thought, I decided to base my project on 'Fashion Photography from the 20th Century' which is seen as the birth of this art form. For a section of the project I explored and looked at the innovative and experimental magazine designs of the 1960s.

The 1960s. The post World War II boom had just happened and was still continuing on, we have the civil rights movement at it's pinnacle point, Bob Dylan, the landing on the moon, Elvis Presley, only twenty years prior everyday household items we still use to this day were invented, like the first colour TV and microwave. The years leading up to the 60s and the 60s themselves, all of the 20th century actually, was immensely innovative and experimental. This rippled into the creative outlets of society, influencing everything from architecture to illustration to film to... fashion photography; an art form only seen as 40-50 years old. Below are some screenshots I found from a blog post written by Paleofuture ( about what the future looked like to the civilians of the 1950s and 60s. "The period between 1958 and 1963 might be described as a Golden Age of American Futurism, if not the Golden Age of American Futurism" the blog states.

I don't have to state that futurism was a huge inspiration at this time. Everyone from producers to consumers to owners were intrigued and fascinated by the ever changing times. The bigger your idea, the more crazy you sounded, the more captivated people were. It was a mystical, dazzling time period leading to the hippie; love, peace, happiness of the 1970s. Therefore the magazine, design, fashion photography industry was evolving, as it was a fairly new art form. For a long time companies got away with conventional content as that in itself was enough to attract the consumers. Magazines before the 60s were beautifully designed and innovative, but in their own ways, it was a different style of experimentation that came in the late 50s and 60s. The first non-illustrated front cover only came about around now, there was so much potential and possibility.

Alexey Brodovitch & Richard Avedon

Alexey Brodovitch is mainly famous for his career of art directing at Harper's Bazaar from 1934 to 1958. When Brodovitch first moved to Paris he was offered a job by John Story Jenks who immediately recognised the amount of talent within him and sent Brodovitch to teach at the ​Pennsylvanian Museum School of Industrial Art. This is where Brodovitch started his course 'The Design Laboratory' which taught students all aspects of graphics and visual arts. This was also the course in which Richard Avedon harboured his amazing talent, soon to change the face of fashion photography for years to come. Brodovitch actually saw so much potential in Avedon that in the 40s he sent him to do some shoots in Paris and this is where Avedon's career set off. Brodovitch and Avedon were extremely inventive and fresh. They were bold and innovative taking many risks, they thought outside the box and experimented with different colours, shapes, typography, images, which all combined to create new unique looks. Every image and design tells a story and captures the eye magnificently. Avedon and Brodovitch worked off and inspired each other through the 60s, they were probably the two most influential designers of this time. See some of their work below.

This was also the era when women started discovering themselves through consumption. Women were more and more interested in brands, clothes, appearance than ever before so magazines were racing against time and their competition to appeal to them and become the 'next big thing'. Women's products were being highly commercialised, creating a capitalist society that big business fed off. One reason women were attaining this lavish, successful life was from their disposable income which was achievable from the jobs that a lot more women were attaining for arguably the first time in modern history. Because of this companies took advantage and used it as a selling point, knowing more women were spending their money on materialistic items and products. They sold more smarter and male inspired clothes to make women feel empowered and important. Make-up was massively commercialised, as well has hair products, accessories, shoes and much more, creating this beauty image depicted in so many magazines seen from this era. There was an aspiration created by the media and brands, that was essentially impossible to attain but kept women coming back for more. Companies manipulated this new interest in wanting to express yourself and enabled it to benefit their profit. I think everything was a mixture of negative and positive change because women were achieving more rights and were able to be 'less feminine' achieving more independence and freedom, however, it was so negative for companies and brands to use this to up their own profits and manipulate such a positive change into their own hands. It's an interesting factor to look at because although women were given so much freedom and independence perhaps the freedom shifted because we still live in such a controlled society, in terms of capitalism. There are different standards in which everyone choses to conform to in some way, shape or form, so are we actually free and independent?

For the project I wanted to focus on all of this; the lavish lifestyle, the marketing of products, the beauty standards, the experimentation and futurism. I am massively attracted to the uniqueness of the 60s and just how inspirational it was. Now when we look at it all it might not be seen as huge, controversial, experimental pieces but back then, seeing that for the first time, creatives would've been heavily inspired and amazed by what everyone was producing. To present my work I took many images and edited them to look like a magazine. Creating a front cover, advert and one editorial spread. See work below.

This project was extremely interesting to work on and now that I'm moving onto the 1990s, hopefully more will come!

Molly x