We are all Californians. That’s the bold statement that the Design Museum’s new exhibition makes as it examines how Californian ideals have affected our everyday lives through technology.
The exhibition traces the progression of design in California from the 1960s to the present. It reveals how design was heavily influenced by counterculture movements.Freedom is the dominant theme. It’s explored from five different angles. Hippies, surfers, gay activists and black activists – all united in their quest for freedom – used design to promote their respective causes. The centrepiece is the juxtaposition of a replica Captain America chopper from ‘Easy Rider’, a symbol of escapism and individuality.
The ideologies of those countercultures were the unwitting precursors to the start-up ethos of Silicon Valley. Also to the technology that we either enjoy or endure today. Here there is some really impressive Syd Mead ‘Blade Runner’ concept art which fittingly explores the consequences of technology on society.
Other highlights include Black Panther posters by Emory Douglas circa 1969 and Gilbert Baker's beautiful, hand-stitched ‘rainbow flag’.
From skateboards to iPhones, it’s hard to deny that California has influenced and changed the world we live in. This exhibition makes you think about what will happen to individual freedom if design technology gets too advanced – but if we’re all Californian we’ll probably just sit back and ride that wave.
Design Museum, Kensington, until October.