From American Design To Its Pragmatism Cultural Studies Essay

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The typical American life-style of wearing American jeans, drinking American coca and watching Hollywood movies was sweeping across the whole world for decades; what's more, no trend has been shown that it would stop.

In the field of design, American had taken place of German to be the new design center after The Second World War, affecting the world with its idea of Pragmatism.

By revealing the origination and affection of modern American design, this paper aims at exploring the secret of American Pragmatism. Do not write one sentence paragraphs.


American Pragmatism

Pragmatism, in some degree, is the national philosophy of America. Born out of the "American spirit", pragmatism has its own significant unique and rich content. It stressed that all the theory and practice should be based on social reality; function should be put on the priority of list.

Pragmatic thinking of changing the traditional college philosophy which is divorced from reality links the traditional theory closely with the American reality and running through the whole system of traditional American culture, not only in philosophy but also from those aspects of political, economic, law, religion, art, science, education and psychology. In a word, the spirit of pragmatism has spread to nearly everywhere.

The traditional "American Spirit" of pragmatism has several meanings:

First, it is a philosophy of reality and positive actions. All the problems of life issues are arising from the people's actions; only through action can we solve the various problems encountered in life to realize our personal requirements. No action, no one, no one's all. Pragmatism focuses on the initiative of action; in particular, it believes that in an uncertain world, only through positive action and struggle could one earn his success. Success belongs to those who dare to take risks, not afraid of failure and have courage to fight for brighter future.

Second, it is a philosophy of utility, purpose and practical results. Action and effect are the only principles to all. So, the purpose of human activities is not for useless events but a meaningful life. Pragmatism emphasizes more on the final effect of events instead of the concepts or principles.

Third, it is a philosophy of progress and development. Pragmatism thinks that the world is constantly a changing world, people's actions and endeavors are a kind of continuous exploration or experimentation process, one can nether completely rely on the theory of the past form nor rely on his previous experience, he must always been positive to study and to find out new ways to solve new problems. It is impossible to solve new problems with out this entrepreneurial spirit, there is only one result for been conservative or stagnant --- to be swallowed up by the stream of life. Pragmatism emphasizes that the key to survive is totally a personal choice --- to explore, to struggle and to innovate, this is a pragmatic creed of life.

The new angle from American design

America had taken place of German to be the new design center after The Second World War, affecting the world with its idea of Pragmatism.

American design mainly refers to the Simple and practical design style appeared in the United States in the post-war fifties and sixties, it contains two significant aspects: the internationalism which had affected the whole design style in the Western world and the business oriented design principles, these two aspects are all born of American pragmatism.

Back to our topic, Always people would like to explore this typical American phenomenon by looking at its masscult, however, in the field of design, pragmatism also plays as a significant role. So unlike the past, this article is going to analysis this typical American philosophy from American modernist design, the reasons are as the follows:

First of all, Design is the creation activity of human's cultural corporality. Because the ultimate goal of design is functionality and aesthetic character forever, the argumentation of design about functionality and format has a time-honored history. American modernistic design with its full thoughts of pragmatism, to a large extent, has shown the "function" incisively and vividly.

What's more, American modernistic design has caused immeasurable influence to the whole world of design and its pragmatism spirit undoubtedly played an important role.

Last but not least, to analysis from this special point of view is bound to open up our visions and would help understanding the deeper meanings of American pragmatism more rationally. Therefore, you probably mean "Pragmatism in American Desing."

So by revealing the origination and affection of modern American design, this paper is going to explore the inner secret of American Pragmatism.

2. Main characteristics of modern American design

When people talk about American design, "modernism" is always a word that could never be ignored.

In the world of design, the "modernism" of the 20th century not only had profoundly affected the entire century, the human material civilization and ways of life but also had a decisive impact on all the art movements and design activities of the 20th century.

"Modernism" stressed that the function and purpose of design should be considered at the first place. It emphasis a lot on the scientific, convenience and cost during the progress of design; it forms to promote "non-decorative" simple geometric shape and neutral color schemes with distinct anti- Art Deco position and it emphasizes that design is something to serve the public, to promote and provide consumers affordable design products, the core of its theory is "functionalism." Functionalist design, which was produced and developed in the United States, has the most direct link with the spirit of pragmatism, in turn, it is also able to represent the typical American pragmatism. The following examples could prove it very well.

2.1 Mies's "less is more" --- International Style

Mies van der Rohe, Ludwig, 1886-1969, German-American architect. A pioneer of modern architecture and one of its most influential figures, he is famous for his minimalist architectural dictum is the famous "less is more." And the United States gave him the stage to show out his inner pragmatic ideas.

In Germany, he was an assistant to Peter Behrens. Mies's 1921 design for an all-glass skyscraper attracted international attention, and he went on to create several such projects, none of them actually constructed. He directed the seminal 1927 Werkbund Housing Exposition at Stuttgart. His German Pavilion for the Barcelona International Exposition (1929; recently reelected) was heralded for its sumptuous materials, asymmetrical plan, and complex interpenetration of exterior and interior spaces. Mies was appointed director of the Bauhaus at Dessau (1930).

He left Germany in 1937 for the United States, where, from 1938 until his retirement in 1958, he headed the department of architecture at Chicago's Armour Institute (now the Illinois Institute of Technology), teaching and putting into practice the Bauhaus aesthetic that fused art with technology. There Mies incorporated the principles of the glass skyscraper with a surface expression of steel-frame construction. In doing so he helped create a style that dominated the American urban modernist idiom, but with a perfectionism rarely matched by any other architect.

The International Style is mostly based on Mies's principles of the glass skyscraper with a surface expression of steel-frame construction. It is a perfect unique combination between the pre-war Germany's Bauhaus modernism and American pragmatism. Once it had appeared, it gradually became the world center of modernist design, and totally changed the direction of architectural design in the whole Europe with its advanced thoughts of pragmatism. So far this influence is still clearly visible: those glass skyscrapers and surface expression of steel-frame constructions which could be seen almost everywhere in all the major cities are the typical internationalist style works.

The international style advocated by Mies contains several typical characteristics which could be closely connected with American pragmatism:

First, the construction of the building itself is beautiful, any decorations are definitely extra burdens;

Second, what should be put at the first place should always be the function, that means all the forms or styles can be considered only after function allows;

Third, as to facing various demands, the eclectic style of approach appeared, more and more attention were paid to short-term consumer demand and long-term durability design features were ignored.

2.2 "The Loewy Legend" --- Top priority on commerce

In the world of design, if the Germans involved in the largest contribution to the establishment of the modern design theory and education system, then the most important contribution of the United States is related to the development of the industrial design and to make it professional. Obviously this unique pro-business principle is also from the spirit of American pragmatism.

There is a well-known representative --- Raymond Loewy.

The French-born Loewy, who went to America in 1919, is one of the iconic figures of industrial design, whose work is evident in everything from habitats in space to symbols of government to logos for things as disposable as cigarettes.

He started out as a fashion illustrator before making his first foray into industrial design. Or, to be more precise, "redesign." While Loewy could create functional objects from the ground up, some of his greatest successes came when he was asked to improve on existing designs.

His first triumph was his redesign of a mimeograph machine -- the pre-Xerox method of making multiple copies of a document -- in 1929.

Five years later, Loewy took Sears' boxy Coldspot refrigerator and streamlined it; making it at once more aesthetically pleasing and practical (Loewy came up with the idea of metal racks for shelves, to allow for greater circulation of cold air.

As one critic put it, Loewy "made products irresistible at a time when nobody really wanted to pay for anything."

His work expanded to include designing locomotives and buses for Greyhound, automobiles for companies like Studebaker, including the timeless Avanti and the Starliner models.

Loewy created the logos for companies such as Shell Oil and Nabisco, TWA and United Airlines, Canada Dry and the U.S. Post Office.

He redesigned the look of Air Force One, the stamp commemorating John F. Kennedy, and worked on interiors of the Skylab space station for NASA.

Loewy even modified that most American of icons -- the Coca-Cola bottle, as well as a number of devices that dispensed said soft drink.

His motto was contained in the acronym MAYA: "most advanced, yet acceptable." Loewy would often create slightly different designs of a single item in order to reach the broadest market. He appreciated high style, but was careful to avoid creating designs that were too extreme to be embraced by the public.

Rowe's commercial supremacy principles reflect strong pragmatic features as well:

First, the most important thing is neither the design philosophy nor the design concepts, but the design of cost-effectiveness.

Second, the development of his design company represents the development pattern of American industrial design at that time: a high degree promotion method which is closely bonded with market.

3. Origination of modern American design What is the relation between this part and last part?

Each phenomenon has its own reason for its existence. The pragmatic features of American design came from the complex social background in the United States at that time, its unique philosophy, the wide tolerance of its culture and so forth. Here, two aspects can not be ignored: market needs and international trends.

3.1 market needs --- Pragmatism

Pragmatic principles focus on the satisfaction of original purpose, emphasize the results and effects. In the field of design, the final purpose is always closely linked with the commercial requirement. Good design can satisfy the requirements of most people, And the requirements of most people represents the demand of the market. So, for American design, the principle of 'top priority on business' is actually from a very simple American values: Good design should meet the needs of the market.

Industrial design, for example, had shown the effects from the market needs very well. During the 1929 economic crisis in the United States, the competition means of enterprises were getting more and more intense and strengthened, and this became the beginning of the American modern design. To dealing with the increasing needs from the market, some independent design firms appeared. Their industrial products, packaging, corporate identity and corporate image were all designed according to the requirements of customers, and they often have long-term relationship with some large corporations. These design firms formed an active market of design and gave birth to the first generation of American industrial designers.

3.2 international trends --- Pragmatism

As a kind of American born national spirit, pragmatism means functionalism, means to use everything useful no matter where it comes from. Thus, eclecticism and inclusiveness are two words which are tightly connected with pragmatism, and these features formed another Origination of modern American design --- following the international trend.

For example, in the second world war, Germany's main leaders of the Bauhaus came to the United States and brought the idea of modernist design which stands for the highest peak in the world of design at that time as well. Their arrival rapidly leaded to a great change of the U.S. design community. It's clear that the stat of the famous internationalism building exercise is inseparably interrelated with Germany's Bauhaus style.

4. from American design to its Pragmatism

4.1 tremendous success and affection

In fact, those pragmatic principles of the international style and the top priority on commerce have affected not only in the aspects of architecture design and industrial design but also all the other design aspects. Nowadays, these pragmatic principles of design have become the unique design characteristics of the United States and spread all over the world.

In the field of architectural design, buildings with the structural glass curtain walls which stands for the typical American International Style could be seen everywhere in almost all the big cities.

In the field of industrial design, one of the most representative examples is the apple computer. Apple Company's 'window' and 'mouse' had changed the complex computer which is only for those professionals into new tools that can be easily grasped by everyone. It is the Apple Company which had made computer to become the Standard equipment on personal computers worldwide.

And for fashion design, New York style fashion shows more characteristics of the spirit of American pragmatism. By comparing with the "old Europe" national fashion which is often appears aristocratic temperament, the New York fashion trend more popularization and civilian. New York fashion designers emphasize more on the force of personality, the functionality of the clothing and the comfort of fabric; in their design, the leisure style and Minimalism are fully developed. It is because of having this Popular and simple philosophy of pragmatism which makes American Apparel a worldwide favor because everyone could stand on their own runway by wearing it.

4.2 thoughtful inspirations

The success of American design is inseparable from the pragmatic philosophy of American traditional culture; moreover, this philosophy had already affected almost all the other fields and become a national philosophy which is serving for all the benefits of this country.

Here the question comes: can this pragmatism be applied to the development of other countries? In fact, its impossible for any other country to fully digest the typical American philosophy, the reasons are as follows:

Firstly, Pragmatism, as an American philosophy and an American spirit, is not only the product of industrialization and modernization, but also the essential spirit of generations; its formation and development involve some preconditions of natural science and social science.

Secondly, The United States is a typical capitalist country which has realized industrialization, urbanization, modernization and internationalization. It is a modern developed country with the well-developed productive forces, the market economic structure, the advanced democratic system and the multi-cultural structure. American's pragmatism culture, to a certain extent, has shown the country's proper degree and level of modernization.

So, when comparing with the specific details of Pragmatic Philosophy of the United States, it seems that how the Spirit of a nation could be fully used among the country's cultural industries is the more noteworthy aspects.

5. Conclusion

American pragmatic cultural, on one hand has promoted the development of the United States itself, on the other hand is a precious inspiration to the other countries all over the world in the application of their own cultural resources. Although we can't expect all the cultures in this world would be developing along the same path forward, to find some ancient things in common through the process from the development of different cultures could be realized.

The key point is not about what American pragmatism contains, but about how to connect the nation's traditional philosophy with its culture industry. Only by knowing this can we avoid having cultural prejudices or preferences, and finally getting a correct identification and use of our own national culture, this is also what this discussion of American pragmatism aims at.