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Design Virus

Posted by Joshua Glenn  May 7, 2008 02:46 PM

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A couple of years ago, Rhino Records released "Hallucinations," a collection of 1960s pop-psychedelic tunes; the cover of the CD boasted a period photo of a woman clad in a polka-dotted wimple, posed before a polka-dotted background. Whenever I see a vintage image quoted like that, I wonder where it came from... but never find out. Thanks to British designer John Coulthart, though, this particular riddle has been solved.


Coulthart, noted for his own neo-psychedelic CD covers, posted an item today to his blog, called {feuilleton}, about "the viral nature of design" -- meaning the repeated use of motifs and styles from one designer and era to another, the breeding and proliferation of typefaces, and so forth.

He points out that the "Hallucinations" cover image was lifted from a 1965 ad in Mademoiselle for Pond's Fresh-Start cleansing gel.


Even better, Coulthart reminds us that the 1960s polka-dot fad was inspired by "Metamorphosis," a 1964 op art painting by British artist Bridget Riley.


Polka-dotted outfits have recently been revived by the British girl-group revivalist act, The Pipettes. This virus has found a new vector!

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1 comments so far...
  1. hhahaha cool

    Posted by Tiffany Vargas October 28, 08 05:04 PM
About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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