This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

How the design of the 1920s influenced the late 1970s and early '80s


I've always been fascinated with design, and my favorite era is the 1920s and early 1930s, the time of Art Deco, and Boogie Woogie. If you were around in the 1920s, you may remember seeing a lot of it. If you're like me, and were around in the 1970s and early '80s, you saw it, too. Because it made a "comeback" for a while.

Design is like that. It's not unusual for a previous era to become wildly popular again. To my amazement, the 1970s has been making a comeback in the last few years. Yes, I've seen bell-bottom pants. But I digress, this is about the 1920s.

1920s Art Deco font on a 1981 yearbook for Saguaro High School, Phoenix, Arizona.

I was talking to one of my PhDs (Phoenix History Detectives) this morning who showed me the cover of a 1981 yearbook, and wanted me to identify the font, which was Art Deco. Of course, I immediately thought of the 1920s, which is the era of Art Deco, and then I started hearing "Boogie Fever" (Google it on YouTube if you weren't there in late 1970s) in my mind and it all started coming back to me that there was a resurgence of interest in the 1920s in the 1970s.

This leaves people who are creating "period pieces" with a dilemma. Because this font isn't what I think of immediately to conjure up 1981, but it was undeniably there. And many songs from the late 1970s did have references to the 1920s and 1930s. But if I were making a movie, I think I'd stay away from that and mostly focus on what was more current at the time, not "retro" stuff.

Retro design is still very popular, and I see it a lot nowadays. I'm noticing it especially on the Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang, which are design "throwbacks" to the 1960s. And that means that, if in the future I want to create some visuals that are supposed to recall 2017, I'll stay away from those designs, and focus more on "non-retro" designs, such as a Toyota Corolla (to take one design example at random).

So if you lived through the late 1970s and early 1980s, and Art Deco from the 1920s strikes a chord with you, that may be why. You have Boogie Fever!

Image at the top of this post: Art Deco design on the elevators in the Professional Building, now the Hilton Garden Inn, southeast corner of Central and Monroe, Phoenix, Arizona. Modern photo.


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