past & present

Mad Style: Our Favorite Designs of the Late 60s and Early 70s

by Maxwell Tielman



Top image mage via AMC. | 1. Vintage Panasonic Toot-A-Loop Transistor Radio | 2. Bird Bath Toy (via Victoria & Albert Museum) | 3. Gubi Semi Pendant, Designed by Claus Bonderup and Torsten Thorup | 4. Victor de Vasarely 
Vega-Nor Poster | 5. Pastil Chair, Designed by Eero Aarnio | 6. Paper Dress (via Victoria & Albert Museum)

If you’re anything like me, you sat in front of the television this past Sunday night and watched rapturously as Mad Men—the AMC show that originally captured our imaginations in 2007—began its seventh and final season. A lot has happened in the world of Sterling Cooper & Partners since the beginning, and we have watched as our favorite characters navigated the tumultuous landscape of 1960s America—political upheaval, sexual liberation, drug experimentation and earth-shattering changes in science and technology. Now, we find Don, Peggy and company on the brink of a new decade, confronted with unprecedented uncertainty, challenged ideals, and new ways of looking at the world. Although the character drama of Mad Men has always been fun to watch, the show is, at its core, an exploration of culture—both material and otherwise—something that is touched upon in nearly every aspect of the show’s production design: costume, furniture, art and, of course, advertising. Following the trajectory of the show’s timeline, we have seen Mad Men’s visual world transform—morphing from confident boom-year Modernism ushered in by the 1950s to the explosive cultural experimentation of the late 60s and early 70s. This season, the the drama has hit fever pitch, as has the production design—our eyes are treated to a dizzying array of colors, pattern, textures and hairstyles (oh, the hairstyles!).

This season of Mad Men takes us to 1969, a year that found itself in a state of flux, both technologically and ideologically. It was in this year that the space race reached its climax, culminating in the moon landing of Apollo 11. It was also the year of Woodstock—the famous (and infamous) music festival that defined the so-called “Hippie” generation. Coming out of a decade that witnessed shocking social changes and rapid industrial advances, one witnessed two distinct (albeit intermingling) strains of thought—an urge to explore the new forms and materials of the future and an impulse, fueled by the environmentalist movement, to come back down to earth a little. On one hand, there was an effort by designers to introduce radically new, psychedelic forms using industrial materials like plastic, foam and metal. On the other, the “Age of Aquarius” youth was calling for a more liberated, culturally rich lifestyle—one that embraced communal living, open love, exotic cultures and the intoxicating siren call of nature. The result was design that ushered in the idea of Postmodernity and a visual world that was not just more experimental, but a heck of a lot more fun. —Max

Check out some more of our favorite late 60s and early 70s designs after the jump!


Above: 1969 Pepsi advertisement, illustrated by John Alcorn.


1. Eclisse Lamp, Designed by Vico Magistretti | 2. Ultima Thule Glass, Designed by Tapio Wirkkala | 3. Cronotime Desk Clock, Designed by Pio Manzu | 4. Marimekko Kaivo HW Fabric, Designed by Maija Isola | 5. Nesso Table Lamp, Designed by Giancarlo Mattioli | 6. Vintage Ligne Roset Chair, Designed by Michele Ducaroy


Above: Milton Glaser’s Bob Dylan Poster, 1967

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  • I really enjoyed the episode on Sunday night. Love the evolving style. The late 60’s are such a fun period in fashion. I have a whole page on my website dedicated to that era!

  • It’s nice to see Don make some mature decisions on the plane, even though he’s clearly struggling with everything. However, I’m more worried about Peggy! I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but ah…
    Anyway, I love all these design pieces. I’ve almost bought that toot-a-loop so many times off eBay.

  • Somewhere I have a silver paper dress from the 60’s. I remember it came in the mail, folded in a small mailer. No idea if it was ordered from a catalogue or was some kind of give away with saved coupons.

  • I had a radio like that one, except it was bright blue. Used to wrap it around my bike handlebars and ride all over the neighborhood! Thx for the memory!

  • It has been fun watching the styles evolve on Mad Men over the past seasons. Have you noticed how short the dresses are worn in the office?( I wore the mini’s too) It’s funny that it would be inappropriate today for work attire but was accepted back then.

    You have chosen some iconic 60’s items, my favorite are the Peter Max Posters. I will miss Mad Men when it is over. As a vintage online shop owner I will also miss the buzz that Mad Men created for our little niche. We specialize in Nostalgia after all.