Victor Moscoso: Type Confusion and Color Aggression

By Kelsey Mitchell (Art ’18) & Alex Tomlinson (Art ’18)

On Thursday March 5th, Type@Cooper, in conjunction with the Type Directors Club, organized for Victor Moscoso (A’57) to speak about his prolific production of posters, hand-lettering works, and underground comics in conversation with art director and design historian, Norman Hathaway. His lecture, entitled “Type Confusion & Color Aggression”, addressed his career as a designer, in particular his renowned psychedelic poster art, and his place in the social environment of the ‘60s. After studying at Cooper, he went onto study at Yale, where he was taught by the celebrated color expert Josef Albers. This instruction with Albers, influenced one of his signature motifs, the usage of vibrating colors to create his stimulating and disorienting posters. After moving to San Francisco in the late 1950s, he started his poster company, Neon Rose. His posters, which reflect the psychedelic and underground atmosphere at this time “sold like hotcakes”. In order to attract viewers, he purposely and aesthetically chose to make his typography seem almost illegible. This would then both captivate and bewilder the viewer and in a way, became one of the most intriguing forms of advertising of the time. Moscoso referred to himself as a “graphic entertainer”, where he could visually manipulate and attract the viewers of his work.

As we sat listening to him speak of his work, we felt inspired and motivated as young, aspiring designers. His reluctance to conform to color norms and legibility encourages us to take risks in design and image making. Moscoso’s impact on visual culture (typography in particular) proves to be as timeless and mesmerizing as it was in the 60s. From creating posters for The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Herbie Hancock, and more, he took inspiration from music and incorporated it into his visual aesthetic. From this lecture, we gained valuable advice from such a prolific and influential artist. We saw how a designer is able to translate the world and social culture around him to convey both mood and visual representation through type and graphic design. We certainly hope we age as well as he did. Moscoso’s work can be found in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Louvre, The Tate Modern, and others. His show, “Victor Moscoso Psychedelic Drawings ,1967-1982 (Curated by Norman Hathaway & Dan Nadel)”, opens at the Andrew Edlin Gallery (134 10th Ave, New York) March 6th and runs until April 25th. The lecture can also be viewed online at, https://vimeo.com/coopertype, due to the generous support of Hoefler&Co.

Leave a Reply