Modernism — A New Age

BDES 1201 — Week 7

This week’s article we will be jumping into the Twentieth Century and exploring the movement of modernism. Modernism is expressed as a design reform movement that was seen globally throughout society and culture. Modernism expressed the values of the modern industrial age. The movement was to break away from the past and reflect the hopes and dreams of the modern age.

In our exploration of Modernism, we will be using the second chapter of Jonathan M. Woodham’s book “Twentieth-Century Design” from 1997 titled “Design and Modernism” in the analysis of this movement, how it developed, and it’s relationship with politics. Modernism was a new bold and daring movement, it was a fresh way for society to remould itself, it challenged how society and culture was in the past. The movement employed the use of clean and minimalistic shapes and forms, materials that were attuned with the modern mass production technology (Woodham 108), this often included the use of steel and glass. The movement also encouraged the manipulation of light on simplistic and plain surfaces.

Modernism was mostly seen through the realm of architecture, although it did manage to leak its way into a variety of different design fields that was seen worldwide. The influence of modernism could be seen in ceramics, appliances, typography and even furniture. In the 1930’s Modern interior design began the usage of natural materials to contrast the minimal designs and allowed for a humanized element within the home decor spaces, this became “Swedish Modern.” (Woodham 137)

Political implications arose from the movement, those under repressive socialist regimes were against the nature of modernism. Across Europe political pressures and tensions rose and after the crash of Wall Street in 1929 the American economy felt a large impact. People would revert back to traditional values which awoke a hatred for modernism that was felt nationwide.

There were many things that propelled the movement forward, The Bauhaus School of Design was one of them. Bauhaus united the fine arts with mass production and was dedicated to combine everyday functionality with aesthetics. It became one of the largest influential currents of modern design. Whilst under Nazi regime it unfortunately was forced to close down in German locations in fear of them being at the centre of communistic intelligence (Woodham 122). Designers and educators relocated throughout the world, in which many fled to America.

Modernism is quite prevalent still today, the modern age has an obsession with minimalistic design, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Ikea is an excellent example of modern “Swedish Design.” Ikea is highly popular for their mass produced minimalist and clean designed furniture and home decor, affordable price point and easily digestible designs that are effortlessly able to fit in with any home. We also see minimalism present in our cellphones as well, Apple greatly encourages minimal design creating a sleek futuristic look that brings in customers. Steve Jobs was widely known for his love of simplistic design and a lover of Braun’s and Rams’ designs.

Mobile Technology and Ikea showrooms —

Design trends always rise and fall, and old designs make a return. Perhaps minimalism will die out soon and the “newest” trend on the horizon to look out for will be maximalism? Only time will tell.

Questions to Ponder:

Will Minimalism trends fade out?

Will Maximalism be the next trend to rise from the fall of minimalism?

Works Cited:

Woodham, Jonathan M. Twentieth Century Design. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1997, Chapter 2.

Word Count: 536




Student of the DXD program at George Brown.

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