Exercise 7: Using reference

Brief #1

“Collect as much reference as you can find for the1950s period. Catalogue the information you find according to these categories”:

  • People and costume
  • Architecture and interiors
  • Art – painting, drawing sculpture
  • Graphic design – posters, books, typography
  • Advertising
  • Transport
  • Film and TV
  • Surface pattern and decoration

I decided to focus on the 1950’s in North America for this exercise. Here is the mood board I created:

As we can see in this mood board, the 1950’s in America were a very bright and colorful period, filled with new advances and changes.

Furthermore, in 1953 the first colored TVs were sold in America which opened the door to the new colorful life that I mentioned. Also marking an important step in the techological advances.

Some of the causes of these modern new changes could be the enournmous economic growth and consumerism that this country experienced, and therefore a rise in advertising. At the same time, the “American Dream” was a goal that many people wanted to achieve and this helped the consumerism and advertising rise as well.

Speaking of the “American Dream”, the world was focused and privizelied for white men. And women’s rights in employment and equal pay hadn’t evolved yet. This inequality between men and women is represented in the illustrations, advertisements and TV.

I added some of the pictures that I think represent the mindset of that era eficiently.


“Are there reflections of the 1950s in any areas of contemporary art, design or culture? If so what– give examples? It may be useful to look both at what preceded and followed the 1950s to gain a sense of the broader context of this era”.

There is indeed a noticeable change of style, design, and culture between these three decades. It is most noticeable in house decore, makeup and fashion in men and women.

As you will be able to see in the following collages that I created, the 50’s were a more colorful and modern time where everything noticeably evolved.

Firstly, in house decore I focused on the chair design because I wanted to create a statement chair in my illustration.

Chair designs in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s
Women’s fashion and makeup in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s
Men’s fashion in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s


“Now make an illustration of someone sitting in a chair surrounded by typical artefacts to give a teenager an idea of the 1950s”.

First sketch of my main idea
Starting the illustration with a statement design piece
Adding one of the main characters
Coloring one of the main characters
Adding the second main character (and a background color to see some contrast)
Coloring the second main character
Coloring the second main character (and the baby and objects)
Creating some dimension with a floor and patterned walls
Adjusting the floor level to fit better in the illustration and darkening the color of the wall for better contrast
Adding another design element to represent that era (lamp)
Coloring the lamp and adding a wall clock (design element of that time period)
Coloring the lamp and adding a wall clock (design element of that time period)
Final illustration

As I mentioned previously, the mindset of this era is really visible on the illustrations, adds, am¡nd movies that I came across when I was doing my research for this exercise. The main trait that I noticed was how women’s rights had not evolved yet, and they were seen and used as objects and not allowed to peruse their own personal dreams or career. Because at that time the world was only focused and privizelied for white men.

Therefore, I wanted to use this illustration to represent this inequality. That is why the woman in my illustration has tears running down her face. To express her sadness and how trapped she is in her role in society: raising her children, taking care of the house, satisfying her husband, …

As you can see in the following image she is backuming, taking care of her child and giving her husband a cup of coffee.

Close up of her face

Lastly, I wanted to say that this is not an accusation or threat to men or women of that era, but an highlight of the inequality that we are slowly overcoming and changing.


During the process of thinking and making this illustration I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried something new. I changed my style of drawing to a more cartoony looking illustration. And I also tried to give a specific message through the illustration that I created.

I really enjoyed this exercise because it made me realize that illustration is more that a drawing, it is a message, an idea or a mindset.

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