new wave christmas tree

When getting out Christmas decorations this year, I opened an unmarked box and smiled broadly as my mind raced back in the early 80s. There they were: my handmade New Wave tree ornaments. I was a brash young designer at the time; out of school about eight years and thought everything needed (post) modern design—even something as traditional and sentimental as Christmas tree ornaments. I decided that typical ball ornaments were passé and than any tree in our house was going to look like it belonged to the home of a designer.

Graphic design in the early 80s was moving away from the rational, swiss-influenced styles of earlier decades to an exuberant post-modern style characterized by pop colors and irrational shapes and typography. It was known as New Wave. I was determined to turn our Christmas tree into 3D version of it. I simply used the tools of our trade. I bought intensely colored Pantone papers, nothing to do with Christmas, but everything to do with styles of the time period. I adhered the colors to Foamcore and with my Exacto knife, hand cut each of five different shapes repeatedly with different colors on each side.

The end result was definitely unique. I’m sure we’ve got photos of the decorated tree somewhere, but I’d have to dig long and deep to find them. I rather liked it. My wife was tolerant. My children however were very embarrassed. They hated for people to come over to the house. “My dad made them”, was the insufficient explanation as too why our Christmas tree looked “so weird.” The decorations continued to adorn the tree for several years, but eventually gave way. But we’ve kept them around anyway. Kind of like a relic of design history.