Few TV shows are as anticipated in design circles as the series finale of Mad Men (Sunday, April 5). There’s not much left to say about the show’s stellar storytelling and impeccable set design (the furniture! the clothes!) that hasn’t been said already, so we’ll spare you. Suffice it to say that since 2007, we’ve been hooked, and every Sunday night for the next seven weeks you’ll find us butt-to-chair, glued to the screen.
But beyond the sharp suits and sleek chaises, when we thinks of ’60s style, another thing that immediately comes to mind are the Art Nouveau-influenced psychedelic rock posters of San Francisco. Of course, that look had its origins in the offices of Push Pin Studios on 32nd street in New York City. Unlike the West Coast artists—yet much like the characters on Mad Men—Push Pin designers Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, Reynold Ruffins, and Edward Sorel, et al, wore jackets and ties to the office while creating some of the most iconic work of the decade.
There are three posters in the AIGA Design Archives (pictured above) that really exemplify the era when, for a brief moment in time, these artists’ work collided, creating what has become known over the years as “The Push Pin style.” In addition to the counterculture, the look also had influence on more commercial applications, including The Beatles’ animated feature Yellow Submarine, created by Heinz Edelmann, and the paintings of Peter Max, who interned at Push Pin. These posters were all published in a 1967 issue of the Push Pin Graphic, the self-published freeform periodical that was sent to clients and friends. The concept for this issue was faux travel posters that invited us to “Head Out To Oz” (McMullan), “Take a Trip Out to Lotus Land” (Glaser), and “Visit Dante’s Inferno” (Chwast).
Which brings us back to Mad Men. Guess what’s hanging in Roger Sterling’s office in season six? Seymour Chwast’s poster. What better way to capture not only the feel of a heady era when the free-following whiskey had, more often than not, been replaced with marijuana and LSD, but also Don Draper’s own descent into a personal hell. It makes sense, then, that the show’s meticulous creator, Matthew Weiner commissioned Milton Glaser to create the on-air and print show graphics for the final season. For Glaser it was a return to a form he hadn’t worked in for decades. Whether his solution represents Draper’s intoxicated reflection on his own colorful experiences or a respite before his final leap is something we’ll have to wait for the series finale to find out. You know where to find us seven Sundays from now.