Evolution Of Different Design Movements Cultural Studies Essay

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Describe how some design movements evolved from the political and economic circumstances of the time.

Bauhaus, Defeat in WW1 meant that Germany had social displacement whereby people who were focused in the building of machinery and weaponry, were now displaced as the demand for such items had fallen. This as a result led to the rise of the movement as designers accepted the need for industrial growth and designers developed the functionalist approach to design. Whereby the designers and economists believed that the industries used for mass production of weaponry could be, with adequate modifications could be used for the mass production of products, this inturn could increase economic growth.

Futurism: Written words and the printed words were a key component of Futurism, which allowed activists to employ movements such as Futurism and constructivism.

During the times of war such as WW1 and WW2 activists, protestors and generally concerned citizens were able to employ different aspects of movements to persuade the government.

a. What is postmodernism?

Postmodernism is a term used to describe the progression of architecture, design, literature, visual communications, music, sociology and film that have evolved from the 1960's (end of the modernism era). Visually, postmodernism is characterised by the decoration and ornamentation by experimental approaches and reflected the spirit of 'the' age, or Zeitgeist.

b. How is it different to Modernism?

Unlike Postmodernism, Modernism is more conservative and restrained and reflected the spirit of 'its' age. Modernism was more cleanly and in favour of functional forms. However when surface decoration was applied it was minimally used and appeared restrained. Visually, modernism was characterised by the use of modern materials such as glass and steel, the application of abstract forms, the manipulation of space and a conservative colour palette, dominated by whites, greys and black.

Postmodernism is often referred to as "less is bore", (written by Robert Venturi) whereas Modernism is summarised by "less is more", (Ludwig Miles Van der Rohe).

c. Suggest distinct design movements that have occurred within that time.

Pop (1958 - 75): The Pop design movement was iconic for the use of materials and design elements found in everyday life. Pop design was aimed at t he youth market and was inspired by social change such as the space race and consumerism in the 1960's.

Radical Design and Anti-Design (1968 - 78): This particular movement was inspired by the sculptures by Claes Oldenburg and was epitomised by two main studios, Archizoom Associati and Superstudio. The Radical Design movement contested the notion of Good Design and its emphasis on pure form, a restrained palate and the use of strictly ¨appropriate¨ materials. The Anti-design movement sought to renew the cultural and political role of design, employing all the design values rejected by modernism. It embraced irony, kitsch, strong colours and distortions of scale to undermine the purely functional value of an object, and question concepts of taste, and "good design".

Eco Design (1970 - present): The Eco Design movement is essentially designers adhering to environmental concerns when a product or design is made. It brought about the use of sustainable materials and reducing environmental impacts through design.

Postmodern Design (1965 - present): This movement is referred to as the stylistic developments that are contradicting to the norms of modernism. Post-modernists used colour, ornaments, and references to historical style and elements that sometimes appeared eccentric or disturbing.

Memphis (1981 - 88): The Memphis Design movement challenged the aesthetic concerns of the modernist styles, embracing the use of highly decorative forms, bold colours and pattern. Memphis addressed popular culture, mass produced objects and the rise of science fiction such as computer games, media and products.

Digital Design (1984 - present): The Digital design movement was prompted by the rise in digital technology which had an enormous impact on the nature of design and visual communication. Since computer-based technologies have transformed the norms of designing, designers of this movement tend to use computers to research, enhance, model, and test their particular design in order to respond and adhere to the demands of this period.

List social factors that affect the content of visual communications.

Different trends and fashions are highly influential of what consumers buy and when they buy it. Therefore in summer, warm orange-yellow colours would be used to promote a particular product line or design.

Appropriate advertising may be subjective to the culture in which the advertisement is based. Where one culture may prohibit the use of models to advertise a product another country may approve.

Social protest may be a determinant of the content of visual communications as street art or graffiti is a means of youths expressing their political views or make a social statement.

Particular social values, structures and relationships shared by different people and cultures may determine the content of visual communications. For example an advertising campaign that aims to promotes honesty and loyalty will not picture a corrupt businessman or a criminal.

Design an explanatory diagram that depicts the characteristics of a past design movement. Use imagery and examples from key designers of the period. Incorporate visual means to describe the influence that movement had through history.

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau was an iconic design movement from 1880 - 1910. This movement originated in France where it became internationally recognised and appreciated by both designers and audiences. It was characterised by its emphasis on decoration and artistic unity based on natural, organic, flowing shapes and forms. It is however distinguished by its organic curvilinear forms and sensual and rhythmic styling. Art Nouveau had ultimately changed the methods and content used by designers from that of earlier movements which can be seen in the product design, architecture, jewellery, signage, interior design and graphic design of that period.


The staircase of the Maison & Atelier of Victor Horta not only personifies but is the epitome of the Art Nouveau movement. It is recognised by UNESCO as "representing the highest expression of the influential Art Nouveau style in art and architecture."This particular staircase idolises the characteristics of Art Nouveau such as the natural flowing movement of the staircase itself, the curvilinear lines of the staircase handrails and balusters, and the organic shape of the window in the wall. The staircase represents rhythm through the use of repetition of the balusters and newel posts on each landing. The emphasis of decoration and artistic unity is visualised by the decoration on the walls of the museum is also iconic of the movement as it is organic and forms a sensual and rhythmic style. The curvilinear and organic shape of the posts seen on the left side of the picture reinforces the notion of the movement in this picture, and it is this expressive design which characterises the Art Nouveau movement.

Key designers such as Jules Cheret, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, Leonetto Capiello, Victor Horta (see above) and Hector Guimard aided in the global movement as they utilised Art Nouveau in their designs.

Jules Cheret designer of the 1894 poster Aperitif Mugnier, undoubtedly expresses aspects from the Art Nouveau movement. This can be seen by the curvilinear form of the typography, which is contradictive to the norm of straight typography seen in pre and post movements. The organic shape of the women and Coca-Cola bottle is iconic of the movement as they are not normal geometric shapes. The poster has a particular flow, represented by the "walking" women and angled typography.


La Toilette is an early painting of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. This particular painting of the Art Nouveau movement shows organic shapes, curvilinear forms and shapes and natural flowing shapes and forms. The organic shape in is the form of the innocent red-headed woman, the rounded table expresses a curvilinear form and shape; the natural flowing forms are the sheets which flow into the floorboards through the use of colour and movement.

The Asti Cinzano painting by Leonetto Capiello clearly expresses the Art Nouveau movement. The organic shapes or forms are represented by the innocent women, grasping a (organic) wine bottle, the organic shapes of the ripe red and green grapes and the flowing orange ribbon. Curvilinear form is seen by the thin orange ribbon on top of her mid-waist and partial curvilinear typography. There is a natural flow about the image created by the movement of the ribbon.

Before the Art Nouveau movement designers hadn't employed rhythmic, sensual forms, instead they were more focused on designing objects that improved the quality of life through their sheer beauty. As a result of the movement many rules regarding the norms of designing were broken; this is a key component of why Art Nouveau was as successful as it was because it was experimenting with natural, organic, flowing forms never before seen in designers and audiences. The influence it had on history was that it opened the door to designers, allowing them to be creative thereby creating distinctive flows and rhythms. Not only was Art Nouveau used in paintings and typography but also buildings (architecture), this is highly influential as it meant designers (architects) were able to employ Art Nouveau apects, thereby contributing to history.