Visual Energy  |  Rave Flyers Index  |  Hyperreal
contents  |  intro  |  chapter 1  |  chapter 2  |  chapter 3  |  conclusion  |  bibliography  |  pics

Visual Energy   (Simon Parkin, May 99)


"London's dancefloor culture forged changes that mattered; it altered the market place of pop and the impulse behind young design."(1)

Though this dissertation we have seen how an oppressive, materialistic government and status quo led a whole section of British society to find asylum in the hedonistic pleasures and broken down barriers of Acid House. We have seen how dancing would be the new medium of escape - a transcendence into an altered state where culture, creed or class would bare no meaning. We have seen how a subculture, although non-confrontational by nature, opposed an old-fashioned society by embracing all things new, such as technology and Ecstasy, and by finding alternatives to social and political conformities. All of this was seen as a recurrence, or a recreation, of the sixties hippy movement, and through this, can be seen to function in the same way that all subcultures do.

These young people were happy, ecstatic, dancing to a music without subject, song or pop-star where rhythm is all-encompassing and their everyday existence was left behind as they disappeared into the dancefloor. The result of this new appetite for danceability changed the club atmosphere in Britain, led to a fresh attitude of sociability, inclusion and expression which was to reverberate across the whole of youth culture for years to come.

This expression in turn affected the design of flyers and throughout this dissertation we can see how the young people who were involved and inspired by the freedom, anti-establishmentarianism and multi-coloured energy of dance music - spawned by Acid House - translated the dance vibe into visual equivalents. We have seen how these young, anonymous designers used the entrepreneurial opportunities opened to them by a Thatcher government and also by a young, anti-elitist club community, to do-it-for-themselves. Design was taken from the elite few to the street where a cross section of Britain's multicultural society, brought together by Acid House's inclusivity and breaking down of social, racial barriers, were able to input their influences. The anti-elitism and cultural eclecticism in flyers was aided by an acceptance of technology, the use of the scanner, and the DIY ethic that Punk had previously championed, all of which mirrored the free-form ethics of Acid House.

This dissertation has shown how this new culture needed new modes of expression, a new visual language; the energy, spiritualism and loss of inhibitions, all expressions of escape that were inherent in Acid House culture, and also its infusion of Ecstasy and technology, saw visual interpretations in the visual language of flyers.

We have seen how flyers have kept an underground, illicit, samizdat quality, allowing designers the freedom to infringe copyright laws and take images from an endless, eclectic source, that mirrored the culture and music of Acid House and also appealed to the young clubber by giving the feeling of being exclusive and against the mainstream.

In parallel to Acid House culture I have shown how the design of flyers mirrored, and copied, sixties Psychedelia. This has shown not only how design functions within a subculture, but also another expression of escape from eighties Britain by the young people in this subculture.

I have also proved how flyers have always been at the forefront of fashion and have been able to keep up-to-date with style because of their rapid, transitory nature and because of their grassroots design, which gave these young designers a space to show their work and allowed them a great scope for experimentation, thus providing an up-to-date visual diary of feelings and fashions within dance music culture.

Finally we have seen how Acid House, and flyer design, followed the path of all subcultures and its style was assimilated into popular culture with flyers losing their anti-establishment values and being used to make money for big corporations because they recognised the power of flyers, and more specifically, the glamourous image of drugs associated with their imagery, to sell to a difficult-to-reach audience - the young.

Through this dissertation we can see that where Acid House succeeded in appealing to Britain's youth was in that "it was a culture with options in place of rules."(2) Acid House was about breaking down existing rules, breaking down barriers, if only temporarily. The dancefloor vibe was created by people rather than one person. Because of this, no one person can tell the true story of the subculture: each person who experienced Acid House and its many spin-offs into dance culture will have a different version of events.(3) Flyers are able to tell a realistic story of an era because of their tight association and integration in their culture, because they are indelibly linked with the culture that they are expressing, and because they are visual interpretations of an experience.


1. Cynthia Rose, Design After Dark, Thames and Hudson, 1991, p.70
2. Matthew Colin, Altered State, Serpents Tail, 1998, p.5
3. Matthew Colin, Altered State, Serpents Tail, 1998, p.5

contents  |  intro  |  chapter 1  |  chapter 2  |  chapter 3  |  conclusion  |  bibliography  |  pics
Visual Energy  |  Rave Flyers Index  |  Hyperreal

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revised 24 September 2008