Get us in your inbox


Skateboards, LSD and other rad stuff: the Design Museum’s ‘California’ exhibition

Written by
Matt Breen

You might associate California with things like Hollywood, botox and hydroponic weed cultivation – but it also has a rich design history. The Design Museum’s ‘California: Designing Freedom’ show tracks six decades of innovative design in the Golden State. Here’s a sneak peek of what you should expect. 

Apple cursor icon

The big, friendly, pointy hand was the idea of graphic designer Susan Kare, who was also behind symbols like the trash can and smiling Mac icon. We take all this stuff for granted now, but ‘skeumorphic design’ – where computer functions are designed to resemble their real-life counterparts – was revolutionary at the time. 

‘Sketches for Graphical User Interface Icons’, Susan Kare, 1982.
 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

LSD blotter paper

Any big surprise that LSD was first synthesised in the homeland of hippiedom and counterculture? The hallucinogen was also potentially responsible for the creation of other things on this list – many of Cali’s top design innovators swore that its mind-altering properties allowed them to see the world in new and radical ways. Far out, man! 

California LSD blotter paper. Designer unknown, 1984
. Courtesy of Mark McCloud, San Francisco.


An innovation that came about when surfers wanted something to do when the Pacific’s waves were flat. In fact, in the early days, skateboarding was known as ‘sidewalk surfing’.

Snapchat spectacles

The Los Angeles-based social media platform’s smart-glasses first hit the market in November 2016. The two inbuilt cameras allow the wearer to post what they can see straight to their Snapchat feed – without a single button or screen tapped in the process. Although, since they retail at usually well over £100, these gizmos are perhaps a little beyond the budget/pocket money of Snapchat’s core audience.

Snap Spectacles, Steve Horowitz, 2016. Snap Inc, Los Angeles.

 ‘We the People’, Shepard Fairey

Street artist Shepard Fairey is no stranger to creating bold and iconic works of art: he was also responsible for the Barack Obama ‘Hope’ poster which was circulated during the 2008 presidential campaign. This image of an American Muslim woman, wearing the Stars and Stripes as a headscarf, was created in response to the election of another POTUS entirely. 

‘We the People’, Shepard Fairey/ and Ridwan Adhami, 2016. The Amplifier Foundation

‘California: Designing Freedom’ runs at the Design Museum until October 17. For exhibition tickets with a 40 percent discount, click here.

Popular on Time Out

    Latest news


      The best things in life are free.

      Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

      Loading animation
      Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

      🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

      Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!