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Power to the People

The Graphic Design of the Radical Press and the Rise of the Counter-Culture, 1964-1974

Power to the People

The Graphic Design of the Radical Press and the Rise of the Counter-Culture, 1964-1974

Publication supported by the Neil Harris Endowment Fund

Though we think of the 1960s and the early ‘70s as a time of radical social, cultural, and political upheaval, we tend to picture the action as happening on campuses and in the streets. Yet the rise of the underground newspaper was equally daring and original. Thanks to advances in cheap offset printing, groups involved in antiwar, civil rights, and other social liberation issues began to spread their messages through provocatively designed newspapers and broadsheets. This vibrant new media was essential to the counterculture revolution as a whole—helping to motivate the masses and proliferate ideas. Power to the People presents more than 700 full-color images and excerpts from these astonishing publications, many of which have not been seen since they were first published almost fifty years ago.
From the psychedelic pages of the Oracle, Haight-Ashbury’s paper of choice, to the fiery editorials of the Black Panther Party Paper, these papers were remarkable for their editors’ fervent belief in freedom of expression and their DIY philosophy. They were also extraordinary for their graphic innovations. Experimental typography and wildly inventive layouts reflect an alternative media culture as much informed by the space age, television, and socialism as it was by the great trinity of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. Assembled by renowned graphic designer Geoff Kaplan, Power to the People pays homage in its layout to the radical press. Beyond its unparalleled images, Power to the People includes essays by Gwen Allen, Bob Ostertag, and Fred Turner, as well as a series of recollections edited by Pamela M. Lee, all of which comment on the critical impact of the alternative press in the social and popular movements of those turbulent years. Power to the People treats the design practices of that moment as activism in its own right that offers a vehement challenge to the dominance of official media and a critical form of self-representation.
No other book surveys in such variety the highly innovative graphic design of the underground press, and certainly no other book captures the era with such an unmatched eye toward its aesthetic and look. Power to the People is not just a major compendium of art from the ’60s and ’70s—it showcases how the radical media graphically fashioned the image of a countercultural revolution that still resounds to this day.

See a gallery of images from the book and sample pages in PDF.

264 pages | 700 color plates | 10 x 12 | © 2013

Art: Art--General Studies


Media Studies


“Before there was the Internet and desktop publishing, there was the underground press—a rich, irreverent source of information, opinion, and outrageousness that is all too difficult to access today. With Power to the People Geoff Kaplan has brought together a rowdy and stimulating collection of design from the 1960s and ’70s that will be an inspiration and an indispensable resource to anyone who wants to speak out in the 21st century.”

David Joselit, Yale University

"Power to the People reproduces stunning covers of radical late ’60s and early ’70s papers  . . . including The Black Panther, Paul Krassner’s The Realist and the long-running Off Our Backs. This is a remarkable collection curating artifacts from the diverse worlds of feminists, leftists, technology visionaries, gays and other factions all liberated by cheap printing. . . . The powerful images Geoff Kaplan has expertly assembled are each worth an eloquent thousand words."

Chicago Tribune

“A handsome, comprehensive look at the drawings, collages and mash-ups that winked, blasted and shrieked from the pages of the underground press of the 1960s and 1970s. The result is a visual chronicle of the successes and excesses of the time. Smart essays—serious but not solemn —place the papers and the surges that launched them in political / cultural / artistic context. It’s especially good on the technological innovations that allowed creators with little money and even less experience to provide counter-news and blow the doors off cultural stodginess.”

Abe Peck, author, Uncovering the Sixties: Life & Times of the Underground Press

“When we started the International Times in London in 1966 there were only half a dozen underground papers in the US and none in Europe; a year later there were several hundred. Looking at this superb collection of pages from the underground press I am struck by how innovative and imaginative they were, particularly considering that the majority of them were designed by amateurs. This overview includes many papers that are new to me and is surely destined to become the standard work on the subject.”

Barry Miles, co-founder International Times, London

“Power to the People serves as a significant slice of countercultural history. It graphically captures the experimentation, anger, compassion, humor, and soul of that idealistic era. This anthology will provide you with images that may well bring back memories you never had.”

Paul Krassner, author of Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut

“The production methods of the Vietnam era underground press seem crude compared to today’s digital technology, but they freed non-corporate journalists, artists, designers, and political activists to publish stunning layout and radical writing cheaply, easily, and in huge quantities, enough to create a worldwide revolution whose effects are still being felt today. In Power to the People, Geoff Kaplan has created a select kaleidoscopic gallery of cover and inside page designs from the vast portfolio of papers that the Vietnam era antiwar countercultural community gifted to the world through their personal struggles, celebrations, and discoveries. Valuable accompanying essays describe how it was done, and also draw the connection to today’s social media radicals, whose roots—whether they know it or not (and too often they don’t)—are with the underground press—and who owe it to themselves to read everything they can about these papers.”

Ken Wachsberger, editor of Voices from the Underground series

"Railing against a senseless war, pollution, and police violence while celebrating the many social and cultural advances of the time, this passionate artwork, like Renaissance painting, crystallizes a spirit that is obviously dated, but also timeless."

Village Voice

“Documenting the power and significance of the counterculture publications of the sixties (understood, culturally, as the years between the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the end of the Vietnam War), this volume is a superb contribution to several disciplines. Historians and students of cultural history, graphic design, political history, and American Studies will discover a beautifully designed book that thoroughly explores the graphics of the period and their impact. . . . Highly recommended.”


Table of Contents

Introduction, by Geoff Kaplan

Timelines, 1964–1974

Design as a Social Movement, by Gwen Allen

Bohemian Technocracy and the Countercultural Press, by Fred Turner

The Underground Press: A History, by Bob Ostertag

What We Were Reading: The Creation of a Counter-public Sphere, edited by Pamela M. Lee Tim Clark, Steven Heller, Nancy Holt, Todd Gitlin, Harmony Hammond, Chip Lord, Margo Machida, Yvonne Rainer, Terry Smith, Lawrence Weiner, Faith Wilding



Choice Magazine: CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Awards

Popular Culture Association: Ray and Pat Browne Award

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