Supergraphics is a distinctive mark of 1970s graphic design. Known for boldness, colors and size, supergraphics is a cheerful and optimistic take on more rigid monochromatic European graphics. From the beginning, these graphics became a staple for wayfinding and the decoration of public space, breaking the boundaries of architecture and becoming more than simple graphic gestures.
Supergraphics found its home in California where, in the late 1960’s, a series of visionary projects blurred the boundaries between landscape, architecture, and graphic design, giving birth to a completely new way of understanding spatial decoration. Barbara Stauffacher Solomon is a pioneer within this movement, and continues to be an active designer in San Francisco.
After training at the California School of Fine Arts, she left to study graphic design in Switzerland in 1958. With four years of rigid Swiss training, she came back to San Francisco and quickly found work in the office of famous American landscaper, Lawrence Harplin. In his studio she took on every graphic project, starting with Sea Ranch. Built in the early 1960s, Sea Ranch is a community located on the California coast that is home to a large assortment of modernist wooden architecture. Solomon created a graphic identity and painted murals over the built environment.
Her lines melted the architecture, her shapes were inspired by the ocean waves and the local animals. The artwork had been blown up all over, running along the stairs and following the sun light on the walls. There were no boundaries between the architecture and her graphics, as the artwork spanned across the ceilings and staircases. Swiss severity and the colors of the American West Coast came together, generating the style that we now refer to as supergraphics.
Solomon’s work and the supergraphics still represents one of the main innovations in graphic design and spatial decoration. We consider supergraphics with its colors and bold imagery, a constant source of inspiration in our work.