Departures and Rumblings: Wes Wilson (b. 1927)

Wes Wilson:

Wes Wilson is considered the father of 1960s rock concert poster and the first psychedelic poster artist. He translated signs and sounds of counterculture society into psychedelic iconography, leading his posters to be wildly experimental.

One of the prominent features of his style was his freehand lettering. While his typography was influenced by the Viennese Secessionist lettering of Alfred Roller, he expanded outlines and inset shapes, largely altered the style to fit his own ambitions. His other major breakthrough was the use of colour. Inspired by light shows of concerts, he mixed colours with wild abandon, resulting in visuals that perfectly captured the revolutionary essence of music that his art promoted. In addition, he also played with the foregrounds and backgrounds, creating design patterns that became increasingly exaggerated with each new creation. This combination of nearly cryptic letters that filled every available space, lines that melted into lines, and colours that clashed is how the psychedelic poster was born.

I find Wilson’s works very cool. His use of colour and various lines and shapes are reminiscent of the Art Nouveau period and I am a huge of both his work and the period as I enjoy the fluidity and energy they both emanate. Although his lettering is difficult to read which can be counterproductive when you’re trying to create posters telling people about an event, I am still willing to try as the placement and use of it is so well integrated in the overall image.


Grateful Dead Fillmore poster (1967)
Grateful Dead Fillmore poster (1966)
The Sound (1966)
Young Rascals, Sopwith Camel, the Doors (1967)
The Mindbenders, the Chocolate Watchband (1966)



  • “About.” Wes Wilson,
  • “Wes Wilson.” Smithsonian American Art Museum,
  • Ankeny, Jason, and Jason Ankeny. “Wes Wilson | Biography & History.” AllMusic,

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