Part 2

Coursework, Part 2. Illustration 1 – Exercise 2.5: Using reference.

Collect as much reference as you can find for the 1950s period. Catalogue the information you find according to these categories:

  • People and costume
  • Architecture and interiors
  • Art – painting, drawing sculpture
  • Graphic design – posters, books, typography
  • Advertising
  • Transport
  • Film and TV
  • Surface pattern and decoration

I completed this part of the task by creating eight different boards on Pinterest, and I pinned a large variety of images relevant to each category to the individual board – as seen below.

People and Costume of the 1950s:

It is to be noted that costume of the 1950s wasn’t hugely varied – appearance was quite similar between females, and similarly with males. All dresses that females wore were of a similar style, but all remained below the knee, however sometimes were only just above (covering) the breasts. Menswear was normally quite smart consisting of a shirt with a waistcoat-style jumper over the top and a tie. Alternatively leather jackets were also a big factor within costume for men in the 1950s. People in the 1950s collated to be quite a few well established and worldwide familiar faces, such as: Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, Frank Sinatra and John Wayne. Analysing People and Costume of the 1950s allowed me to understand and come to the realisation that the 50s is quite a memorable era.

Architecture and Interiors of the 1950s:

I have found the architecture from the 50s to be concise, lined and sharp. This is also noticeable when observing the interiors from the 1950s, for example: if you look at a ‘typical’ 1950s style living room, you can see the sharp lines of chair legs, or the legs on tables, cabinets, cupboards etc. The sofas are low to the ground and pastel colour seem to be apparent throughout. Another key feature of 1950s interior is the bold, patterned (sometimes shocking) wallpaper.

Art – Paintings, Drawings & Sculptures of the 1950s:

As seen below, sculptures were quite prominent in the 1950s and very unique. I have found when studying paintings, drawings and sculptures that each of these categories are kept simple – they are not particularly refined. They are kept simple, and in this day an age would probably be classed as amateur.

Graphic Design – Posters, Books and Typography of the 1950s:

Typography in the 1950s was obviously not as developed as it is today, so the variety of fonts and typography is not large. However, considering this – the typography used is still  eye catching and engaging. Enid Blyton and Agatha Christie are two popular names, that still today are ever as popular. Posters in the 1950s tended to include women in ‘skimpy’ outfits and looking provocative. If these posters were to be released now, in the 21st century, it wouldn’t be long until they would be taken down/removed.

Advertising in the 1950s:

Controversial. The advertising from 1950 is quite simple and very vintage looking, but extremely controversial. All advertisements featured women in a typical ‘housewife’ outfit, and even the text was stereotypically sexist at times, for example – the advertisement for the company “Hoover” which conveniently sold hoovers, consisted of a slogan which says: “She’ll be happier with a hoover”.

Transport of the 1950s:

Transport of the 1950s, I have noticed, is very rounded. The wheels are larger than what is seen today and the body shape of the cars are very much rounded in shape.

Film and TV of the 1950s:

TV programmes such as ‘Andy Pandy’, ‘Looney Tunes’ and ‘The Honeymooners’ were some of the most popular television programmes of this era. Films such as ‘Singin in the rain’, ‘The prince and the showgirl’ and ‘Rebel without a cause’ were among the many successful films of this era. Among all of these, Disney produced some of their biggest success films in the 1950s. These included: ‘Bambi’, ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Alice in wonderland’.

Surface Pattern and Decoration in the 1950s:

Wallpapers were a stand out feature of the 1950s and these were so eye catching due to the quirky patterns presented on them. Colours seemed to remain pastel, or quite dull, with the occasion bold print. Lines were a common aspect as well as slightly rounded shapes.

The 1950s:

Controversial, bold, quirky and memorable are four words that I would use to sum p the 1950s. The 1950s allowed the entrance of new possibilities for creativeness after the deprivation felt during the Second World War. A few key aspects to reflect on are the open plan living rooms with more design-led furniture, fitted kitchens and televisions – more apparent in the homes of those who could afford them. The 1950s was a decade of change and due to the advancement of processes in manufacturing and new materials like plastic being developed – there was at last an optimistic view of the future. You could say that design was almost reinvented, or revitalised – in particular within the home environment: allowing appliances that saved time become more common. The American diner culture became more popular and widespread and enabled a new sense of style, fashion and individuality to be embraced and engaged with. Disney introduced films such as ‘Bambi’, ‘Cinderella’ and ‘Alice in Wonderland’, not known to them, but films that would revolutionise a new generation and introduce a new enjoyment and attachment for children. Cigarettes were seen as ‘glamourous’ in the 50s and as read on a poster for cigarettes: “even doctors smoke camel cigarettes”. Adverts were directed towards the stereotyping of women presenting them in provocative and controversial ways and labelling them as the ‘home keepers’ and hinting at men working. Looking into the ‘interior’ art world, Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning influenced the early decade, whereas Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko influenced later on. 1950s was the era that Pop Art was born. Interior design was a key factor, and straight lines, minimalism and unexpected colours like pastels were prominent. ‘Mid century modern’ was in full effect in the 1950s and fitted kitchens and open plan living rooms were introduced. The conservative party was the main attraction in the 1950s when it came to prime ministers. These people consisted of Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan. Other memorable moments from the 1950s included: The football world cup in Brazil, Roger Bannisters record breaking mile, Florence Chadwick swimming the English Channel, the civil rights movement and the soviet union launched ‘Sputnik’. Overall, and after analysing and observing aspects of the 1950s, innovation and change were key in helping re-establish after the Second World War.

Now make an illustration of someone sitting in a chair surrounded by typical artefacts to give a teenager an idea of the 1950s:


I definitely spent too much time being frustrated at how to curate everything for this illustration, and not wanting to fall behind, made this stressful. However, I have tried my best to reflect the 1950’s for a teenager, and I did this in a sketch/graphics style using illustrator and photoshop. The wallpaper I created to represent the patterned wallpaper that was prominent in the era and I made it bright to portray this correctly. I did a few rough sketches before the woman I chose was created. I based the chair on a 1950s style chair I had in my old house and based the hoover on the visual image I had of a 1950s ‘hoover’ hoover that I found in my current loft. I included other key furniture elements, such as the TV and Vinyl player too. I created a collage aspect by using already existing images from the 50s, such as a cigarette poster, to represent the popularity of cigarettes in that era, a film poster, portraying the provocative, controversial view of women on posters and the type of film that surrounded the 50s. Finally I placed another ‘photo’ on the living room wall which is of Marilyn Monroe – a key icon of the 1950s in a pop art style which was established in this era. My final image was fully created on Photoshop, a new experience for me – so not the most perfect image I have ever created.

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