Primo Posters

Spinning Boards, Rick Griffin 1961

This is something I learned when I moved back to Los Angeles from New York: in New York, you are respected for hard work. You talk about how busy and overworked you are. In Los Angeles, you never let anyone think you’re working too hard. You’re respected for making it all seem effortless, and having time to relax. The reality is that most everyone is working the same amount in both places. As John Baldessari said, “The only difference between Los Angeles and New York is 3 hours.” This difference, however, creates a communication gap. When I talk to friends in New York and they tell me how stressed they are, I think, “Boy, they work hard, too bad they can’t do it by the pool.” Alternatively, when they talk to me they think, “What a stoner.”

Since I don’t want anyone to think of me as a surf stoner, I’ve held back on some of my favorite items, surf movie posters from the 1960s. But, my insecurities should not deprive everyone of these fantastic items. I love the naïveté, and rawness of these. I love that they were movies shown at high school auditoriums. These posters communicate a clear sense of passion and community. There is no underlying presence of product placement. This is when design works. When it is authentic and betrays the sense of joy that the designer had when making it.

Dr. Strangesurf, Walt Philips, 1966

Let There Be Surf, The Glass Wall, Jim Freeman, 1965

A Cool Wave of Color, Greg MacGillivray, 1964

The Angry Sea, John Severson, 1963

The Search for Surf, Greg Noll, 1957

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9 Responses to “Primo Posters”

  1. Derek Vogel Says:

    Sean – I think anyone would have a hard time labeling you as a “surf stoner”. The little polo logo on your shirt makes that nearly impossible! :-)

    Thanks again for the inspiration. BTW, Jeff Barlow did a great preso in Reno last week for AIGA, similar in spirit to your post – Design = Rock n’ Roll (and I can prove it).

    Good reminders to all of us that the best design is authentic.

  2. Joe Says:

    Good to know about the L.A. vibe- I have wanted to move/work there for eons!!!

    postscript: here in Colorado we value hardwork as well, but if you start whining you might get someone telling you to go hike a fourteener ha ha!

  3. jan fleming Says:

    I love your blogging sean.

  4. Sean Says:

    thank you! Send me ideas.

  5. Sean Says:

    Oh, those shirts are just for show. Right now I’m wearing a Jack Daniels tank top and some old cut off jeans.

  6. Patrick Algrim Says:

    Might be slightly off topic. But those surf posters are really interesting to me. More recently, I have been noticing a select family of surf companies beginning go grass roots again and be even more influenced by art. I feel like that was part of the appeal to the 60’s surf stance. They were the ones appealing to young culture, no matter if the general public likes it or not. That could have been doing things that was just wild and crazy (art direction wise too), and that was ok. Interesting how graphic design and surf/skate are molding together more. Absolutely love the posters.

  7. Steve Says:

    Sean – just found this site – love it. Thought you might like to see some current surf art by Jimbo Phillips, as being used by the oldest surf club in California, the Malibu Surfing Association to promote a kids event. More of an early 80’s vibe, but some great surf art.

    and, from last year:


  8. Gunnar Swanson Says:

    These posters and preppy clothes don’t seem to be entirely unrelated to me. When I went to see “Free and Easy” in 1967, Greg MacGillivray or Jim Freeman (I can’t remember which) was wearing black and white wing tips. They were even cooler than the white bucks I was wearing.

  9. Sean Says:

    Gunnar, I expect to see you in the strawberry wrap skirt.