‘Can you read this? Are you hip?’ — Rick Griffin’s experiments on the edges of writing

Robin Fuller

Punctum, 4(1): 63-78, 2018
DOI: 10.18680/hss.2018.0006

Abstract

Rick Griffin was a leading figure of the psychedelic design movement in late 1960s San Francisco. This paper argues that although not an overt theorist, in his lettering for posters and comic books, Griffin reveals aspects of the visual semiotics of writing that provide insights for the semiotic study of graphically-embodied language. Griffin was preoccupied with the visual substance of writing. Not only was Griffin a student of myriad styles of letter (including, cholo graffiti, comic book lettering, Jugendstil and Victorian typography), but he was also preoccupied with how writing functions and how letterforms attain meanings. Through an analysis of Griffin’s comic book and poster lettering, this paper will discuss aspects of the visual semiotics of alphabetic writing including: the relationship of embodied tokens to alphabetical symbols, the socio-semiotic function of styles of letter, and lettering as aesthetic signification.

KEYWORDS: graphic ideologies; aesthetic signification; the alphabet; lettering; psychedelic design
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