Back in 1967, I was working for an American design consultancy that had set up shop in London.
This book was produced while I was there. Roger Harris, who had just joined us, designed it.
It was about the contemporary interior design of the period, and Roger produced the whole book on a classic Swiss grid system of verticals and horizontals, except, that is, for the cover, where he introduced a curve to reflect the very curvy furniture that populated the book and a more general change in the air for graphics.
A very curvaceous Sophia Loren in The Millionairess 1960, directed by Anthony Asquith
In fact, the ’60s and early ’70s were all about the reintroduction of the curve in graphics, furniture, architecture, textiles, shop fronts, typography, wallpaper, restaurants, lighting, magazines and film stars (yes, even they were more curvy back then), and there was even a revolving restaurant at the very top of the Post Office Tower below (now called the BT Tower), at which I was taken to lunch.
Many of the concrete brutalist buildings constructed during the 1960s were often softened by the occasional curve. This one, a multi-storey car park in Gateshead, was made famous in the crime film Get Carter but, like so many of these inhuman structures, has now been demolished, along with the many hastily built high-rise flats that alienated so many of the people that had to live in them.
The car park in Gateshead made famous in the crime film Get Carter.
Below the Barbican Centre opened in 1982 designed by Chamberlin Powell and Bon.
Shopfront for the Chelsea Drug Store on Kings Road 1970.
The Kineta Holiday home designed by Alexandros Tombazis 1968
Former bank of London or Lloyds Bank. By Clorindo Testa, Buenos Aires 1960's. Picture from buenosairesphotographer.com
The Queen Elizabeth Hall's curved doors at the Southbank Centre arts complex opened in 1967
Oliver Mourgue's chairs used in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey 1968
Joe Colombo's Universal chair 1965.
The TWA Terminal JFK designed by Eero Saarinen 1962
Arco lamp designed by Achilli and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni for Flos 1962.
Eero Saarinen seated in his Tulip arm chair 1956 and to the right his classic Womb chair 1947/8
The Dress Circle restaurant at Harrods 1968.
Margaret Calvert and Jock Kinneir’s now much-celebrated British road signs, conceived in the late ’50s and introduced nationwide in 1965, have lovely curved corners.
Biba packaging logo designed by Antony Little (1966)
Graphic for the Time & Place night club design by Bentley Farrell Burnett 1969
The influence of art deco and art nouveau filtering from the US was beginning to corrupt the hold that the hard-edged clinical modernist principles had on British graphics, perhaps with the added influence that the increasing use of LSD was having in changing visual perception at the time into a kaleidoscopic wonder world of possibilities. Whatever it was, the curve was finding its way into fabrics, wallpapers, shop fronts and restaurants. Let’s take a look.
Design magazine cover by Bentley Farrell Burnett 1970
Rubber Soul abum by The Beatles 1965 with hand lettering by Charles Front
Mary Quant in Honey magazine in 1965
Chaise Longue designed by Geoffrey Harcourt 1970.
Fabrics designed by Barbara Brown 1965 (top) and 1967.
The first Pirelli Calendar designed by Derek Birdsall 1968.
Massimo Vignelli’s perpetual calendar designed in 1980
Derek Birdsall designed this first Pirelli calendar in 1968, which seemed to sync with Massimo Vignelli’s later perpetual calendar designed in 1980 and still in use in many studios and homes today, including mine. But wind back to 1959 and Willy Fleckhaus, art director of the legendary magazine Twen,often used curved borders to contain photographs and illustrations. A little later, Harri Peccinotti echoed Twen’s look on the very first Nova cover.
Twen magazine art directed by Willy Fleckhaus 1965
Illustration by Heinz Edelmann for Twen 1965
The first edition on Nova magazine 1965 art directed by Harri Peccinotti
Kartell storage units 1965
In 1965, the Italian company Kartell introduced a myriad of plastic products in primary colours employing the curve.
The Olivetti Valentine portable typewriter designed by Ettore Sottsass with Perry King in 1969
The Brionvega TS502 in 1962 and the radio designed by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper
Chromed Tubular Metal and leather Sling Chair for OMK designed by Rodney Kinsman 1967.
The 620 Chair Programme designed by Dieter Rams in 1962 and recently reintroduced by Vitsoe in the UK.
Moonstrips Empire News created by Eduardo Paolozzi 1967.
Table lighter designed by Dieter Rams in 1968 for Braun
Interior details at the Barbican Centre 1982
Joe Colombo Table Lamp 1964
And I’ve noticed in recent years the curve has returned to grace many furniture and product designs…
Flos table lamp Barber Osgerby 2011
Jasper Morrison Glo-Ball 1999
Portsmouth furniture range by Barber Osgerby 2000
Lunar range by Barber Osgerby
Loop table by Barber Osgerby
Parcs office range for Bene designed by Pearson Lloyd
I could have gone on and on but I won't, you get the idea.
See my earlier post on brutlalism