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Design and Postmodernism

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1 Design and Postmodernism

2 Postmodernism in Design...
rejects what were viewed as the dictates of the design establishment built on 60s rejection of the values inherent in the Modern Movement has its foundations in 60s and 70s Pop and Italian Radical Design foregrounds the consumer and emphasises the idea of design as communication stresses the importance of signs and symbols as a means of reviving communication through design argues that the richness of historic and contemporary cultural tradition must be acknowledged once more finds its signs and symbols in the international visual language of history but equally in vernacular design and popular culture values irony and wit and often requires or assumes recognition of its quotations to achieve this – communication through a universal language is indebted to mid-century semiotic theory is indebted to 1970’s architectural theory

3 What is familiar? What elements do you recognise?
What is the function of these objects? What are the visual features of this style? What do these objects have in common? What stylistic principles are common to the whole?







10 What is Postmodernism? it is an academic term applied within a wide range of fields – philosophy, cultural studies, linguistics, literature, art and design history it identifies a new phase of social and cultural development, citing as key factors; the dominance of visual and mass media; the development of digital technology and an information society; the importance of consumption and the consumer The term postmodernism has been applied at least as early as the 1930s. However, as it is applied today, it is mostly used in relation to developments in the last few decades of the twentieth century. Although its use may vary, I will attempt to outline some of the common ideas and developments that are often associated with the term. To analyse contemporary culture, society and lifestyles we need to compare contemporary developments with those of earlier periods. In the last century many argue that we have witnessed dramatic changes of a social, economic, technological and material nature. It is asserted that the extent of these changes is fundamental and that we have entered a new phase in the last few decades whose characteristics are clearly discernible. The term postmodernism has been used to label and characterise this new phase and is identified with specific developments. Amongst these are the dominance of visual and mass media, the development of digital technology and the information society and the advent of consumption. It is argued that we need new approaches and new vocabularies to analyse the results of these changes and the theories which are commonly termed “postmodern” often relate to one or other of these. For example, theorists claim that our ability to access and understand the real world is deeply affected by the mediation of mass media. Imagery from photography, film, video and television shapes and controls our perceptions and the advent of the Internet means that we regularly function and communicate within a non-physical, virtual environment. A final and key change is the shift from a society driven by industrial production, to one where consumption and the consumer are theoretically determining the nature of our material world. At this level, postmodernism describes society and, in the field of design, the use of the term is underpinned by those changes.

11 To begin In its simplest form postmodernism is most clearly understood in terms of its rejection of the values, forms and theories associated with Modernism or Modernity It is often argued that the most straightforward accounts of postmodernism in the terms above, occur within the field of architecture. Its application within this field is of great relevance to the field of design as similar ideas, images and forms underpin postmodernism in both.

12 Modernism in design and architecture
rejected the forms and values of a previous age – particularly the revival of historic styles, ornamentation and decoration offered a democratic and utopian solution to the problems of mass production – good design for all argued that aesthetic beauty would naturally arise out of reason and “truth” – embodied in ideas such as form follows function, truth to materials evolved a simple, pure and unifying aesthetic reflected in Mies Van Der Rohe’s dictum, “less is more”

13 Marianne Brandt. The “Kandem Table Lamp. 1928 Form follows function
Marianne Brandt. The “Kandem Table Lamp Form follows function. Objects as expressions of “use value” or function The home of modernism in design is most usually sited within the Bauhaus, the 1920s and 30s German design school.

14 Marcel Breuer. Model B3. (The Wassily Chair) 1925 Rationalism in design would create a “well-ordered world” expressed in clean forms attuned to modern life, modern materials and modern technology. Tubular steel. Originated in bicycle manufacture. Suitable for mass production. Also embodies “truth to materials and structure”. Structure is evident and clearly articulated and materials are apparent – not obscured by decoration or ornament.

15 K. J. Jucker & W. Wagenfeld. Electric Table Lamp. 1923-24
K.J. Jucker & W.Wagenfeld. Electric Table Lamp The aesthetic would be appropriate for the machine-age, appearing engineered, precise, highly finished and manufactured These are simple forms which appear as if they could be dismantled and the component parts result from a production process. The irony is that much of this lamp is actually hand made and polished.

16 The trajectory of European Modernism
Late 1940’s. Post 2nd World War. 1950’s. The Bauhaus and the advent of war Internationally, much design emphasised the crisp, geometrical, clean and modern. “Good Design” promoted by MOMA in New York, the Design Council in the UK, Hochschule fur Gestaltung in Germany European Modernism dominated both architecture and design for much of the mid twentieth century. In both America and Germany the principles of Good Design were essentially directly based on the tenets of Bauhaus theory and practice.

17 “GOOD DESIGN” Edgar Kauffman Jnr. Dept of Industrial Design, MOMA
“In defining “good design” Kauffman did little more, however, than reiterate the same Arts and Crafts values that had been voiced by so many Modern Movement spokesmen before him, emphasizing once again the well known tenets of truth to materials, the unification of form and function, aesthetic simplicity, and expression of the modern age…….. By the early 1950s, an international language of “good design” had emerged which was defined, upheld and promoted by all the design organizations whose task it was to expand trade, both at home and abroad” In 1950 the Museum of Modern Art held the first Good Design exhibition, laid out by Charles and Ray Eames. There was a jury of three people to select the winning designs and a Good Design label accompanied these into the retail sector.

18 Marcello Nizzoli The Lettera 22. Olivetti
Marcello Nizzoli The Lettera 22. Olivetti The Mirella Sewing Machine. 1956

19 Dieter Rams. The Transistor. Braun. 1956

20 Dieter Rams & Hans Gugelot SK4. “Snow White’s Coffin”. Braun. 1956

21 Modernism as an imposed solution
“All believed that advances in science and technology were evidence of social progress and provided paradigms for design thinking. They thought that communication could be objective and that optimum solutions to design problems could be found. Many felt that design, if rationally conceived,. could help solve social problems and did not itself create such problems. And most assumed that goods should be mass produced by industry.” Victor Margolin. Design Discourse. 1998

22 From design as solution to design as communication

23 60’s and 70’s Pop and Radical Design Semiotic theory
Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. Robert Venturi. 1966 Learning from Las Vegas. Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown..., 1972 The Language of Postmodern Architecture, 1973, Charles Jencks

24 POP – fun, disposability, colour pattern, vitality, kitsch.
In Pop and Radical Design can be found many of the element which were later to be found in the fully evolved approaches and aesthetic of Postmodern design. - fun, colour, pattern, decoration and kitsch.

25 Italian Radical Design Archizoom Associati, Naufragio di Rose dream bed. 1967
Radical Design in Italy, in the late 60’s attacked notions of Good Design and epitomised the counter culture of the 60s. However, this type of exploration was confined to the Italian design avant garde and did not penetrate the mainstream. By the early 70s, economic recession and a depression witnessed a return to more conservative ideals.

26 Semiotics One key figure. Roland Barthes Mythologies 1957 French
1972 English

27 "Every object in the world can pass from a closed, silent existence to an oral state"   Barthes, R., Mythologies, New York, Hill and Wang, 1998, p   "We shall therefore take language, discourse, speech etc., to mean any significant unit or synthesis, whether verbal or visual: a photograph will be a kind of speech for us in the same way as a newspaper article; even objects will become speech"   Ibid., p.109  

28 Architectural theory Robert Venturi
Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. 1966 Learning from Las Vegas. 1972

29 “Architecture can no longer afford to be intimidated by the puritanically moral language of orthodox Modern architecture. I like elements which are hybrid rather than pure, compromising rather than clean, distorted rather than straightforward, ambiguous rather than articulated, perverse as well as impersonal, boring as well as interesting, conventional rather than designed, accommodating rather than excluding, redundant rather than simple, vestigial as well as innovating, inconsistent and equivocal rather than direct and clear. I am for messy vitality over obvious unity” Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. 1966 C. and C. in Architecture establishes clear opposition to Modernism in architecture as early as 1966

30 “Blatant simplification means bland architecture
“Blatant simplification means bland architecture. Less is a bore” Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. 1966 Mies Van Der Rohe – Less is more

31 “there are didactic images more important than the images of recreation for us to take home to New Jersey or Iowa: one is the Avis with the Venus: another Jack Benny under a classical pediment with Shell Oil beside him...These show the vitality that may be achieved by an architecture of inclusion, or, by contrast the deadness that results from too great a preoccupation with tastefulness and total design Learning from Las Vegas. 1972 The idea of architecture as conveying meaning, as a means of communication, is then further developed in Learning from Las Vegas, where the importance of cultural signs and symbols emerges as a key element within his thinking.

32 Robert Venturi. Architect and theorist
Robert Venturi. Chairs from the Venturi Collection for Knoll, Stylistic quotations include Chippendale, Gothic, Sheraton, Queen Anne, Art Deco. Art Nouveau and Biedermeier. This collection displays an eclectic sampling of historic styles, surface decoration, colour and pattern. The surfaces incorporate a range of finishes including wood, paints, plastic and fibreglass. There is no single unified approach to style. Choice of colour and surface seem to be wilfully disparate. For example, the art nouveau chair echoes the curvilinear forms of that style but the colours are those of plastics and the cartoon. The stylistic quotations are recognisable but celebrate a knowing wit and irony. The inconsistencies of colour and style appear deliberate within this pluralistic riot of sampling and historic quotation. Thus two key elements of postmodernism are an informed eclecticism and visual display of wit.

33 Charles Jencks. Architect and theorist Colosseum Chair and Stool. 1984

34 Memphis. Established late 1980 Group portrait. 1982
Founded in December 1980 by Ettore Sottsass with a group of young designers including De Lucchi, Zanini, du Pasquier, Sowden, Bedin and Thun. Group Portrait taken in October 1982 Front. Left to right: Michele De Lucchi AND Marco Zanini. Second tier. Left to right: Barbara Radice, Aldo Cibic, Ettore Sottsass, Ernesto Gismondi, George Sowden Third tier. Left to right: Nathalie du Pasquier, Jerry Taylor, Martine Bedin, Matteo Thun, Christoph Radl, Egidio di Rosa Many other well known designers contributed including;, Alessandro Mendini, Javier Marischal, Andrea Branzi, Shiro Kuramata, Hans Hollein, Paola Navone. Michael Graves Mythology records the source of the name as the Bob Dylan song – Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again, positing an analogy with the eclectic cultural references implied by Memphis the city, music and links with ancient Egypt.

35 Memphis makes extensive use of plastic laminates – formerly a metaphor for “bad taste” references popular culture and vernacular design extensively adopts an anti-modernist use of colour, decoration and surface design makes repeated ironic reference to modernism and functionalism blurs the boundaries between art and design chaotic, riotous mixing of materials and forms – anti-unity, maximum creativity

36 “Memphis. The new Made in Italy, which draws from global culture, from real time, from computers and television by satellite. Thus, Sottsass and his associates have shown us the way out of the cul-de-sac of the Bauhaus” A badly translated quote from an Italian magazine about Memphis in the 80s

37 Ettore Sottsass. Memphis Milano Carlton Bookshelf. 1981
Anti function, anti design. Use of colour and wit. Weightlifter. An art object or a sculpture?

38 Ettore Sottsass. Memphis Casablanca Buffet. 1981
Again emulates a standing figure. Some elements are non functional – shelves that slope. Use of plastic laminates signifying popular culture – pizza parlours, coffee shops, ice cream cafes and American diners – bad taste and low culture

39 Nathalie Du Pasquier. Memphis Arizona carpet. 1983

40 Javier Mariscal. Memphis Hilton Trolley. 1981

41 Memphis furniture. 1983 Superlamp by Martine Bedine
First Chair by Michele De Lucchi Vitrine d’Antibes by George James Sowden Sirio Vase by Ettore Sottsass

42 Postmodernism in Design...
has its foundations in 60s and 70s Pop, Anti-design and Radical Design builds on 60s rejection of the values inherent in the Modern Movement foregrounds the consumer and rejects what it views as the dictates of the design establishment argues that the richness of historic and contemporary cultural tradition must be acknowledged once more is indebted to mid-century semiotic theory is indebted to 1970’s architectural theory stresses the importance of signs and symbols as a means of reviving communication through design finds these signs and symbols in the international visual language of history, vernacular design and popular culture values irony and wit and often requires or assumes recognition of its quotations to achieve this

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