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This book describes the art and design movement ‘Postmodernism’ that took place in the late twentieth century. Its influences can be seen across a wide range of mediums including architecture, graphic design, prod uct design, fashion, film, music, lite rature, fine art and photography. Chapter 1 places the movement in its cultural and political background and discusses the philosophy behind Postmodernism. This chapter outlines Modernism, including the work of Bauhaus, as well as Enligh tenment, to help explain how the Postmodernism movement came to be. In Chapte r 2, Postmodernist such as Michael ts itec arch at looking architecture is discussed through such tion of Las Vegas and buildings Graves and Robert Venturi, the crea ture itec Dancing House’. High-tech arch as the ‘Pompidou Centre’ and ‘The t rnis mode Post between Modernist and is mentioned as it bridges the gap architecture and the effects of these movements on the London skyl ine are reviewed. Chapter 3 focuses on Grap hic Design. Key players who cont ributed , David are Wolfgang Weingart, Jamie Reid to Postmodernism graphic design d uate eval is work r thei and Brody Carson, Barbara Kruger and Neville within this chapter. Chapter 4 describes Postmodernism product design through referring back to the Modernist “Wassily Chair” and then looking at lemon nca Sideboard’ and Phillip Stark’s Memphis, Ettore Sottsass’s ‘Casabla ion, Postmodernism also affected fash squeezer. Chapter 5 discusses how

cinema, music, literature, fine art and photography. Chapter 6 concludes the book by evaluated everything that was discussed and exploring the concept of ‘Post-Postmodernism’.







Postmodernism is perhaps the most controversial of all the movements as its whole purpose was to defy definition. It brought a radical freedom to art and design, was often ironic or absurd and shattered ideas about style and the modernist idea of utopia. It replaced simplicity and order with complexity and contradiction. It seems appropriate that the exact origins of postmodernism are impossible to detect since the movement denies the idea of knowledgeable origins. There were mentions of (7)

postmodernism in the 1950s but it isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t considered to have become a movement until later in the twentieth century.









familiar with the term â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;postmodernismâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; that it was used in newspapers, magazines and television adverts.


The ‘post’ prefix draws obvious connections with the modernist movement. Many of the features of the movements seem to contrast each other such as modernism purity was replaced with eclecticism. Rick Poyner, author of ‘No More Rules G r a p h i c Design and Postmodernism’ d e s c r i b e d Postmodernism as a “parasite, dependent on its modernist host”. However, others argue that Postmodernism simply stemmed from what people


had learnt during Modernism. The modernist poet, T.S. Eliot, said: “It’s not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them” and this suggests that once artists and designers had clarified the rules during Modernism they were then enabled to purposefully break them during and creating Postmodernism. Whatever the nature of the relationship b e t w e e n Modernism and Postmodernism, the Modernist movement is key to understanding t h e

Postmodernist m o v e m e n t . Modernism was an art movement that began in the late 19th century and gained momentum during the early 20th century. T h e movement w a s sparked by the

developments of the w e s t e r n world and the increasing friction a m o n g s t European p o w e r â&#x20AC;&#x2122; s t h a t culminated with World War One. Modernism is a d i r e c t r e s u l t of the

Industrial Revolution, w h i c h h a p p e n e d in England between the mid 18th and 19th century. The revolution saw the invention of the industrial process and was the movement away from hand made craft items towards the use of machinery and chemicals. The period also saw the replacement of wood and manual power with iron and steam power as well as the beginning of the wide spread use of carbon based fuels and electricity.


. ws Je own e th ed d s h p t t ne wi step Han d no e i u d es ag pius an is d Mi er e l o h y us as s in , Gr uha r. T gh d Me hau e 28 a ve u ce u er B o a we 19 he k o th pla e B n b rpa . In om t too long re d th gai t e a y r e s n t f yer oo och ov 2, li cit rli an t m a e t R 3 n e M st r he B azi r 19 io he nd po uN la n De 0 a in Nat in t in im is t Ba ed y the ost s a 193 in he e en l st sm V h d n m o T l l r p t o m n in Ber of g ho as h as and ure s e erni us. ol o 9 i It h t w e t od a o 1 n g c o h t use ni us 9 ou ower le Stat ly f M Bau sch n 1 mer. au i h a a b a t d u c p a i ei g auh r s o s an ted e Ba gu ct o the art us y es a W B t r t D e A pe y t h e e ni f an ropi of to ap Th r a cam uden e U of t as rk o as y ve y ern- ew G t l h fo rty st o t nd wo us w ter n ci mo new gov hdr n e a the t t l o a a a e p i a t t h h is w as e the W erm d t e k f y l i o f v heby e G rce hen nal cit ol g he to rmin th s fo 5 w atio he scho ols ols al B ic fo us. wa 192 d n in t he e â&#x20AC;&#x153;B he t at i e t T n v ha l i int dy or mo ny. po a th t o e o f b r g p g g ma in si wha o in ndin t t Ger row Rus of Un hey fu temp rom a g ist ngs iet t t a at tâ&#x20AC;? f ere Marx nni Sov th w i d r e A ks in beg th eve vi rty he ome eli pa re t bec er b we uld itl wo n, H io


On br e wa oug of ht to s ke y du co the a b Th rin ns s o de g ump hif ut vel re e op t t Po flec gro the io fr Po me n w s t t wh t- ed h tw th om stm nts an ich mod i of ent at pr od er n ie th d od er tha t c th n o t t f e u n o c o o ec ns h k ct ism e r ele po e i c u p an ono ar m e o e p m b l mi ly ov ra ula mer eri ntu ac n Th d te e e g c r r s t i r e to y. he s pe s nc m c c is ul e wi opl su U lim mi fun S at d- ct hed tur of to th e dde 19 io on e n was e “s mo to in 80s n. is , w h m b a e pu ow e ne , In th y. be alt t t ec rch -of a h e h th ono ase f-i out Th mor a hi U e K l g e e m l s sh e lo h an ga ic . ” and y lu we . fu d Th i p w s c w an ci d ma rth Po be li is it h te d m h s t ac ter er; tm we at ch d a t an od en e he nd ma ces ial g er ir e w an ter sib s ni Mod id in w e d i l s e e Ja rn ne u al e, re mo m is d is mes nhe s po d c e w e fr l on ard er stm hea rn ver m is th om ike co o e d ode p pr mm f. if rn an t an e t h e c en Fr fe is d si alo re ci e t e re t o d t t g Pr ua y it us ra ed, der nt ti eci tio s ca me nsi “ ic um r I t wi me ous n s d” als tio t o . n th ll n t u t m p be ey not hei et erf p Thi o a s e ca ru r s ls ct th cr l e st id is edi ti n e, ha y. e m o t ff r e co t v ca les ec we he e th nsu a t s a r iv r y . me to e sy d el , r ap is mb ho y Al T w m p ev he se tho sp ar , ol er e to em ugh nd ent of li a on th ke thi m ne nd p e e e s o a a we w ney d en r of o m . a o k ul id dor t i i ve ne d co eol ses c i ts men ss t p p o mme ogy a k , n ey de s t nte . S t “d sig m o d ott thi s s e d n s a li di er t s e t fe, cat n i ha s st t ( 1 e r n n ed is 9 8 i t ot 12 4 ) y ” . to to

The philosophy behind the Postmodernism movement is mainly a reaction to the period of Western history from the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries to the mid 20th century. Postmodernists dismissed the belief that there was an objective natural reality calling it a kind of native realism. Some Postmodernists even went as far as to say there is no such thing as Truth. Richard Rorty, who proffered to be called a “pragmatist” to a “postmodernist” and who was a key defender of Postmodernism, argued that any form of truth is an “intersubjective agreement among the member of a community”. [Geuras, n.d.] Postmodernists denied that there are aspects of reality that are objective, that humans can know some things for certain and that there are any objective, absolute of moral values. Postmodernism was 13

a direct contrast to Enlightenment, a European intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th Century, which believed through the use of reason, logic, science and technology, future societies would be more humane, just and prosperous. Many postmodernists thought that this Enlightenment faith was responsible for the development of technologies that caused many of the deaths in World War Two. This led to the belief that even reason and logic could be dangerous as could easily be used for evil. Therefore, it is ironic and perhaps un-intentional that the first and last two decades of the twentieth century have a lot in common in terms of being times of great technological advances. In the early century inventions such as telephones, electricity, airplanes and refrigerators had a large impact on society and during the postmodernism era, cellular phones, Internet, answering

machines and E-mail dramatically changed the way people lived. There was also a correlation between the wave of Postmodern design and new social structures. In the 1960s, there were certain morals within society, these were against abortion, pre-marital sex and homosexuality and women were generally the homemakers. However, as designers started to break through all of the constrained rules that were forced upon them, so did society and gradually constrictions became more lenient and different ways of living became more acceptable as the era progressed. The Punk subculture was one factor of this social change and brought anarchy to the UK. Whether design caused this social change or vice versa, or these two things worked in conjunction together, is debatable.


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P o s t m o d e r n i s t a r c h i t e c t u r e derives from the modernist movement. In late 20th century, some architects began to turn away from modern functionalism due to it being viewed as boring or unpleasant. Their response to Modernism involved combining new ideas with traditional forms, taking previous aspects of buildings and merging them together to create new designs. Postmodernist buildings consist of different shapes and details that are used in distinctive and unique ways, with some incorporating symbols to make a statement or create a response to the viewer making them surprised or even amused.


Michael Graves, an American architect, is a notable figure in the development of postmodern architecture, designing The Portland Building, which became the first significant postmodern monument. He opposed the notion of modernism in the 1980s by incorporating historical characteristics, specifically sculpture, into his architectural designs. The Portland building was identified as postmodern, through its use of colour as symbolism; with the lower floors in green to represent the earth and the top floor in blue to represent the sky. Even though critics deemed it an eye sore, its design was the first to

successfully incorporate artistic influences and sculpture on a large scale. The building itself is organised in a typical threepartition style of base, body and head. Graves describes the building as â&#x20AC;&#x153;a symbolic gesture, an attempt to re-establish a language of architecture and values that are not a part of modernist homogeneity.â&#x20AC;? (Merin, 2013) The creation of the Portland paved the way for postmodernism in architecture and inspired the architect and eventual leader of the movement, Rob Venturi.



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Hen- rch sae con prmatevolu dia cu di m uian co eseq m aut nis et vit voluptaspe dolupta em sim pta ptisluptrerisovrero e rchil it et aut esequiandi dia sum vel ipsanitia m fuga. Hen- illu qua sus iumnati eum os non sequ aut es aect as mos ur temunti ptat ae cullu . Uda isc rit rro em volo lore fac ium nonet quamquaesmt est officates co sa rem il ipi ipis t ut Nam ipi qu rae. en nis as is m m ax olu net im qui p us officates nis rae. Nam ipi , sa m et labore dem velerna aut et istusc Udiscium nonet estererm.ibu do-i do-eostidoll etorpo aut in oms nim recu dolo or s m io sa one et mai ut eat lor s daereni consec qu e ero ia vo pta lor no haru ro ns tum ers sinc cu lluptatur mosaectem iumandu mintius ciurest excest pit uae ecea earu aliqun t m rum atur atur reribus daereni cons sinctum harupta ero imin nim omn aere niet ex ere . 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"Less is a bore"

R o b e rt Ve n t u r i Robert Venturi was one of the most famous postmodern architects who fought the case for Postmodernism and one of the most influential theorists who tried to steer architecture away from the modernist movement. His book ‘Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture’ was where the term “less is a bore” was composed from, originally taken from Mies van der Rohe‘s famous quote “less is more”. Venturi’s described his style and taste by stating: “I like the elements which are hybrid rather than “pure,” compromising rather than “clean,” distorted rather than “straightforward,” …inconsistent and equivocal rather than direct and clear.”

‘The Vanna Venturi House’, a small home designed for his mother, is one of the first noticeable pieces of work in the postmodern movement which he used to demonstrate the ‘complexities and contradictions’ in modern architecture. Venturi played around with scale and the function of the building by not necessarily linking the inside design with what’s being portrayed on the outside.



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Venturi used similar techniques of distorting function and scale in











inspired by a duck shaped structure in Las Vegas, is the symbol of

structure, with a purpose modernism; they can’t portray anything except what they are inside. The





that is identified by a

sign. To make it straightforward and easily recognisable from the outside, there 21















The Dancing House’ is a very peculiar postmodernist building in Prague, designed in 1992, by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić and Canadian architect Frank O’Gehry, and completed in 1996. The building was originally named Fred and Ginger as it was designed to mimic the famous dance duo Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing together, but soon became known as the dancing house. The Dancing House is an example of deconstructionist architecture, by its strange and unusual shape; it was created using 99 concrete panels of different shapes and dimensions to give its weird and wacky look. The Dancing House today is now home of the city’s well known restaurant and bar; Céleste, open to the public with modern offices below. It firstly caused quite a stir amongst the city due to its very modern surroundings but is now accepted and has now become one of the city’s well known tourist attraction.



When Venturi visited Las Vegas the town was full of sheds with signs stating their purpose, however today Las Vegas architecture is formed of â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;ducksâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, a pyramid, Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty and so on. Now known for an array of postmodern architecture, the development of buildings on the Las Vegas strip began in the 1980s. American architecture lead postmodernism architecture worldwide as the country was wealthy enough to innovate.



The Las Vegas strip itself is more effective at night, the buildings themselves are secondary to the visual signs and symbolic content that lights up the town. A classic characteristic of postmodernism is the sculptures on the strip, which are duplicates of famous landmarks of the world. The strip itself takes inspiration from the visual imagery of Disney; its quirky buildings were built with different themes in mind, with no relation or resemblance to

each other. Often referred to as an adult Disneyland, the architecture of the Strip is seen as an escape from reality, a simulation of the world that isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t real. However, the themes if Vegas completely contrast Disney due to the adult themed activities that Las Vegas is famous for.



H i g h - t e c h architecture is a movement that began to develop in the 1970s. While it is not entirely postmodern, it bridges the gap between modernist and post-moderni architecture. Furthermore, st it is difficult to catego ries high-tech architect as it falls into both sty ure les of movements.






The Pompidou Centre is a cultural and leisure centre in Paris, and is home to the largest museum of modern art in Europe. Designed by Italian architect, Renzo Piano and British architect, Richard Rogers, the building is a sign of early high-tech architecture. Incorporating post modernist characteristics, the exposed infrastructure was created to maximise the interior space, resulting in an â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;inside outâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; theme. This is clearly shown in the brightly coloured pipework, with the staircase and escalators structured on the outside of the building. These metallic structures contrast the modernism style throughout the interior of the building; the free plan space inside matches the modern art which is displayed throughout the gallery. Furthermore, the pipes outside are colour coded in order to match what they contained. The Pompidou was significant to the development of postmodernism and high-tech architecture, as it was one of the first buildings to incorporate the high-tech characteristics, and was designed on creative impulse.


A noticeable high-tech architect in present times would be Sir Norman Foster. Chairman and key architect of Foster + Partners, he is responsible for the creation of one of Londonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most known high-tech buildings, 30 St Mary Axe, more commonly known as The Gherkin.



Known for its distinct cone-like shape, it is easy to see how the building is deemed post-modernist. Its shape contrasts the surrounding modernist buildings of London and was designed with a purpose; the cone shape was deliberate in order to reduce wind turbulence. London is home to several postmodernist examples of architecture such as Embankment Place (Charing Cross Station,

1990), The Vauxhall Building (MI6 building, 1994), and more recently, The Shard (2012). However, it is difficult to label London entirely as Postmodern, but with the development of more green, sustainable architecture with a function, it is easy to see that the Postmodern architecture in London is advancing.



Graph i c Design













particularly in the late 1980â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s and early 1990â&#x20AC;&#x2122;s. The ideas that were created

were novel and un-familiar. Graphic design within this movement saw a surge of

creative activity in visual communication. Designers were quick to re-evaluate

existing rules and started to engage new methods of solving problems, arranging

layouts and applying colour. These new approaches were put into practice using

the introduction of Macintosh computers. The creative aspect is in built within

these devices; the system provides a simpler way for users to use the software

with in adobe. The programming is behind the scenes, which makes it easier for the

common practitioner to use. Other advantages of the mac included: larger memory,

the ability to run dual systems side by side, the layout and slicker design

features. Due to the inherent changes, graphic design became a more open field.

â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Graphic work became more self assertive, idiosyncratic and sometimes extreme.

[Poyner,2003,p17], the movement was admired for its energy and anti- professionalism. 33

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NW Design in the United States, before the new wave begun, was undoubtedly constrained. Companies such as Mobil, Exxon and Aristar had a wellordered and structured system while their literature and visual work were totally lifeless and predictable. The design form took by these companies was very Modernist. Modernism was taken further in a more corporate way in the United States compared to Britain. In Britain, Postmodern culture was accepted quicker, the new wave was identified by youth culture and popular music. Designers became more open minded and extended their style of work outside of standard rules of professionalism.


The graphic movement developed at different paces internationally. American critics were quickly concerned that the movement should be labelled the ‘new wave’ or ‘postmodern’. However, in Britain there were no attempts to define the existence of a new wave in reaction to Modernism. Design in England around the start of the movement found young designers interested in a new, more aggressive and provocative form of design called ‘Punk’. Punk affected not only graphic design but also other genres such as fashion and music. Punk was brought into the field by youth and the aim was to shock, similar to the way psychedelic design did in the 1960’s.


Graphic design became a subculture and was used in a way that young people could communicate between each other. The designs were not meant to be meaningful to the outside world and the design profession was slow to realise that what was occurring was a fast moving, important movement. American designers were visibly limited unless they were fans of British punk music and therefore whilst American architecture lead Postmodernism architecture, within the developments of Postmodern graphic design, Britain played a key role.






A key graphic designer who was one of many who influenced the development of the Postmodern era was Wolfganag Weingart. He was born in Southern Germany in 1941, and is known as ‘the father’ of Swiss punk typography. He trained as a typesetter in Switzerland and even as a student he was un-comfortable with the normal, traditional methods stating he wanted ‘to question established typographic practice, change rules, to re-evaluate its potential.’ [Poyner, 2003,p20]. Weingart had an experimental mind and found that everything that made him curious was forbidden.


WEINGART He said â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;I was motivated to provoke this stodgy profession and stretch the type shop capabilities to the breaking point.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; He had strong beliefs that the formula like system would not constrain his passion and creativity. The effects of letter and line spacing fascinated him and he tried new techniques in typography like stretching words and lines so that the text was close to being unreadable. To put his theories into practice he used lead type and a letterpress during which he investigated the basic relationships of size, weight, slants, and legibility in typography.


Graphic design was influenced by geometry at this time and the shapes of Modernism were exaggerated and played with. Stepping vertical boxes became popular in work of the designers: Weingart, Kunz and Bubbles. Rules of slick, clean-cut design were broken and original experimental designs were introduced. However, some of the concepts of Postmodernism were brought in at many times during the early 20th century, and actually fit in with the characteristics of the term. This adds to the vague nature and boundaries of Postmodernism as there are no distinct dates of when it began and finished there are arguments whether Postmodernism is still continuing.



During the Deconstruction era in the 1960s, many designers produced graphic design, which was dismissive of the rules of professional craft. Such work was not usually allowed in the histories and surveys of design. Philosopher of science, Paul Feyraband, said that ‘the only principle that does not inhibit process is anything goes’. During the 1970’s and 1980’s graphic artists associated punk rock as an assault on professional design methods, revelling in chaos and deviation.



Jamie Reid was an influential designer during the Postmodern era. He is an English artist who is best known for his Sex Pistols album covers such as ‘Never Mind the Bollocks’ and ‘Anarchy in the UK’. He was a key figure in his anti design inventions, which came to define the angry look of punk. He improvised with graphic techniques for political purposes, rather than just being another paid member of the design profession, this detachment is typical of the young amateur punk designer. His work is a loosely collaged design, which experiments with ransom note style typography. Ransom notes are cut up newspaper headlines; they are used to protect the identity of the people involved by hiding their writing. Another iconic piece of work is ‘God save the Queen’ cover, which features cut out newspaper headlines across the eyes and mouth of our Queen. The piece comprises this rebellious theme, as the image of a respected monarch has been graphically manipulated and mistreated. This breaking the rules attitude and experimental characteristics is common amongst this movement. Furthermore, Reid’s work has particularly strong connotations to Weingart’s work in the way they have both used type to stamp their belief during the development of Postmodernism in graphic design.



One of they key players Carson’s obliviousness and an integral part to formal design rules gave him a of the Postmodernism completely fresh perspective and movement was David therefore his style was something Carson; his work inventive, irreplaceable and completely changed of a new era. Carson’s use of the way people viewed experimental typography broke graphic design with all the constrained rules of his cutting edge modernism. Many of the words daring pieces. For are not even legible, but this Carson there were no didn’t matter, it was a new rules, and unlike many and innovative way of working others who believed with type, as ‘through play that in order to we experience the pure joy break the rules you of typographic expression.’ had to understand (Carter,1977) In his unique them, Carson simply designs Carson dared to be worked in complete different. Randomly placed ignorance of them, letters were cut off at stating ‘I never the edge of the page, learnt the things words flew in different you’re supposed directions, upside-down, to do, I just do back to front, thick, what makes the thin, blurred, rough, most sense.’ there were no limits. (Poyner, 2003)

The purpose of typography here was not to inform or be legible; it was used as a form of decoration, layering text and image in order to create one beautiful mess, something that was completely chaotic, yet authentic.


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Kruger often attracted attention, not only for dismissing the conventional rules of modernism, but for confronting and criticizing certain social structures of the time. Much of her work was focused around issues related to power, such as consumerism, feminism and politics. Kruger would express her strongly held convictions using conventional propaganda techniques paired with advertising techniques, in order to create bold and striking pieces.


Constantly updating and documenting popular culture trends and styles throughout the Postmodernism era was I-D magazine, a British youth culture magazine dedicated to fashion, music and art. Created by former designer and Vogue art director, Terry Jones, the magazine was launched in 1980, with the first issue being hand-stapled with typewriter-produced text. From then on the quirky magazine was a centerpiece in the Postmodernism movement and although it changed and evolved, now being a glossy magazine, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s street style has always been an integral part of I-D magazine. Early designs of I-D magazine can clearly be seen to follow the trends of Postmodernism. In this example, the use of collage, bold colours and rough randomly placed text give off a sense of rebellion and anarchy that fit with the punk subculture of the time.



There were no rules when making and styles and effects â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;often developed from mistakes.â&#x20AC;&#x2122; (Poyner, 2003) Another factor that makes the logo for I-D magazine so iconic is that when placed on its side, it reveals a winking smiley face, and many of the covers have played around with this idea either by placing the logo on itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s side or featuring photograph of a model winking. As times changed, I-D magazine evolved with them. In this 1993 edition the logo and use of limited text has kept, but the cover has a more modern and crisp look, using only one bright colour, which contrasts with the clear black and white photo.


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Neville Brody, an English graphic designer, typographer and art director, had a great influence on the Postmodernism movement and could be considered as the most influential graphic designer of his generation.


Brody’s career began with his involvement in the music scene of the early 1980’s, designing record covers and working with companies such Rocking Records, Fetish Records and Cabaret Voltaire. With this work Brody began to define the ‘visual language of independent punk music and culture.’ (RCA, n.d.

As well as this, Brody is most famous for his design on The Face Magazine, which ran from 1981 to 1986, and then Arena magazine, running from 1987 to 1990. It was Brody’s ‘work on magazines that firmly established his reputation as one of the world’s leading graphic designers.’ (Fontshop, n.d.) Neville Brody’s influence on design didn’t stop at the end of the Postmodernism movement, his work continues today. Fontshop, a website containing many of the fonts designed by Brody, is still popular today. Brody was also the founder of Research Studios, ‘a multi-disciplinary creative network’ (Research studios, n.d.) with networks in Tokyo, New York, London, Berlin and Barcelona. Brody works independently and alongside graphic designers, working on one-off commissions for local businesses, to designing ‘comprehensive visual communication strategies’ (Research studios, n.d.) for global corporations.







g Desi

Po s t m o d e r n i s t product design

is arguably one of the best-remembered attributes of the movement. From Michael Graves Kettle to Charlie Sheenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s apartment in Oliver Stoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 1987 movie Wall Street, these pieces of design bent the boundaries of functional design, to create something much more emotive and playful. Many designs of Postmodern products went against Bauhausian principle of form follows function. The Modernist movement was a period in history, which bore terrible scars from two consecutive world wars. The simplistic, functional design referenced the need for recovery and simplicity after the horrors of the war. However, the Postmodernist movement turned this ideology completely on its head and it was now time for a serious change in design and its associated attitudes.


Eckardt The Bauhaus had an indelible mark on the art, design and educated worlds. Championing simple functional design that could be mass-produced, the Bauhaus looked to combine art, science and the industrial process. “In the words of Wolf von Eckardt, the Bauhaus ‘created the patterns and set the standards of present-day industrial design; it helped to invent modern architecture; it altered the look of everything from the chair you are sitting in to the page you are reading this on now’.” (Whitford, F, Bauhaus, 1984, p. 10)





A great example of the Bauhaus’ mark on design is the “Wassily Chair” invented by Marcel Breuer and named after Russian painter Vasily Kandinsky. During 1925 and 1928 Breuer became fascinated with experimenting with industrial materials and techniques. Inspired by the lightweight durable frame of his bicycle, he began

experimenting with creating a lightweight, comfortable chair that was both cheap and easy to manufacture. The chair is simply a tubular steel frame with a canvas type material stretched across this to support the sitter. This design was adapted and refined over the years to become the classic standard chair, which can

be f o u n d in almost every school, office, café, library, etc. This chair is representative of the Bauhaus and their design p r i n c i p l e s because of its simple yet highly functional design, fully encompassing the “less is more” quote which became the Bauhaus’s calling card.


In 1981, Ettore Sottsass founded the design collective Memphis. Memphis was a Milan-based firm of young, innovative furniture and product designers, who wanted to bring something new to the table as opposed to follow the trend of the past 40 years. In their operational years, from 1981 - 1987, they broke almost

every rule in the Modernism handbook. Memphis designs often collaborated with other Italian manufacturers, particularly of new and exciting materials. The introduction of the famous plastic laminate finish was a far cry from the industrial materials heralded by the modernist movement; they were products for fashion,


In 1981, Ettore Sottsass founded the design collective Memphis. Memphis was a Milan-based firm of young, innovative furniture and product designers, who wanted to bring something new to the table as opposed to follow the trend of the past 40 years. In their operational years, from 1981 - 1987, they broke almost

every rule in the Modernism handbook. Memphis designs often collaborated with other Italian manufacturers, particularly of new and exciting materials. The introduction of the famous plastic laminate finish was a far cry from the industrial materials heralded by the modernist movement; they were products for fashion,


ETO (45)



In 1981, Ettore Sottsass founded the design collective Memphis. Memphis was a Milan-based firm of young, innovative furniture and product designers, who wanted to bring something new to the table as opposed to follow the trend of the past 40 years. In their operational years, from 1981 - 1987, they broke almost every rule in the Modernism handbook. Memphis designs often collaborated with other Italian manufacturers, particularly of new and exciting materials. The introduction of the famous plastic laminate finish was a far cry from the industrial materials heralded by the Modernist movement; they were products for fashion, not function.

This ethos, ‘fashion beats function’ was true for the entire Postmodernist movement. Colourful geometric shapes met with neon animal prints, creating different quirky designs. Ettore Sottsass’s ‘Casablanca Sideboard’ (Fig.2) is arguably one of the most famous Postmodernist designs ever created. Its jagged edges and shiny laminate surfaces make it almost completely dysfunctional.



Justin McGuir k of The Guar dian feels that de signs such as these were more wo rks of fashio n and art, rather than fu nctional design. He ca lled it “Media tised furniture for an image econ omy” (2011). In the early to mid-19 80s, the economic climate in th e UK and the US wa s at a high. This sudden wealth allowed people to be more lucid with money ma king them more outl andish and “s howoff-ish” with their purchase s. This change in economic clim ate widened the ga p between Mode rnism and Postmodern ism ever furt her; Modernist mate rials were ch eap and accessib le, Postmode rnist materials we re different and unheard of. Frederic Jame son commented, “I t is like the transition fr om precious me tals to the credit card”. Precio us metals have ti me on their si de, they will not rust or wear, they can effectivel y be timeless . The credit card ho wever is a sy mbol of consumeris m, and the ap parent need to spen d money. Sott sass commented that Postmodernist design is “d edicated to life, not to eterni ty”. (1984) 59


In 1990, Phillipe Starck created perhaps the most famous citrus squeezer of all time. The ‘Juicy Salif’ was designed for Alessi, the Postmodernist retail powerhouse. Rather than a piece of practical, functional design, Starck’s citrus squeezer is heralded as an icon of industrial design and has been displayed in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Alberto Alessi, the founder of the aforementioned kitchenware company, commented on the conceiving of the ‘Juicy Salif’: “While eating a dish of squid and squeezing a lemon over it, Starck drew on the napkin his famous lemon squeezer.” 60


Fashion Cinema Music Literature fine Art Photograph y (48,49)


While architecture, graphic design and product design are perhaps the most key areas in understanding the Postmodernism movement, Postmodernism also affected fashion, cinema, music, literature, fine art and photography.


e Th l ra tu the l cu e p- ced gav o p ra th b at eng t m e th tr es s s s t er 80 19 men ss its int d wa e ve ne m s de mo ful nis Thi plor on de y r i x . a e h pl mod ter une fas uct xan od Ale ood ac nd st Po har w a many pr tw ic c ne s o, Wes het y a b by l of he he e ku l st t ed we awa enn ae . T the n r i ee K s ng – vi ng e on s a ei Vi ati ani he at i r e ic p R nd re re ost e m c a c gn . l o alm rd st si ers en of tua Pa - t a e n arn on gn Qu rs tex as es i i i B c s M nee con uch yl es sh im o r r s st iec col ‘Fa ern s i e p ve d p es er k mod erm al re y o iqu oth of . M boo t on e w it n d e c .” hn of d i e r y c l e k e t e a n m i qu d t ion rie y l lai “Wh ect ity tio as n mp w d j e at a he c r b s v c , e o u it e e t s a on’ e od onsu ion owe . m g m h l i hu yl hi i d at f t ost of c fash al nte n a y st in t wa i o ic p s i n d ts an ote mmu ved n, erm st e y a t s e Co cei tio n t rni ul wr th tra Po inf e c s ), i n r s d s u n o e a c 3 ve mo es mo it od ok tim y pr of ost ucc ate de Fig. to ty h d s P he y r w ood s ( ers an s t of ives . l w n l a n s ce 996) cia we est tio sig ure ial r k. W e r c t o 1 d e l t ne ( mme te n ll cu ma wor co ople ien co hio ll ny ir v s pe Vi 70s fa m a d a the 9 o As r 1 ist fr use te a he dern ion and cre t o a o m ir t s, sp riod find pe uld co (51,52)


Postmodernist cinema are movies that actively seek to subvert the inbuilt rules of the movie making and movie going experience. They often ignore preconceived views of storytelling, linearity and production as well as seek to make the viewer participate by thinking about the film experience and what is happening in the real life context of the films. (53)


ho and c e s m l i f n â&#x20AC;&#x153;Postmoder ions and s n e t e h t reproduce define t a h t s n o i contradict our timeâ&#x20AC;? ductory o r t n i n A (Sarup, M, uralism t c u r t s t s o guide to p , p 177) m s i n r e d o m and post-

The early work of director Quentin Tarantino with ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992) and ‘Pulp Fiction’ (1994) are both excellent examples of mainstream Postmodern cinema. Both examples play with the idea of what is expected from an action film as well as the idea of linear storytelling. In ‘Reservoir Dogs’, the viewer isn’t shown the main event only what comes before and after, basing the story around a robbery that you never see. Tarantino takes this idea further in his follow up film ‘Pulp Fiction’ by simultaneously telling the stories of several characters over a period of time. Another example of Postmodern cinema is David Lynch’s first film ‘Eraserhead’ (1977.) Eraserhead is a Surrealist horror film about a young man who suffers from hallucinations. The film is distinctly Postmodern as it tries to shock the viewer and remove their understanding of where the main character stands between reality and dreams. Unusual names such as ‘X’ also take a sense of personalisation away from the characters and leave the viewer uncomfortable as they realise our names are steeped in tradition. “Pop in the most broadest sense was the context in which a notion of the postmodern first took shape” (Huyssen, After the Great Divide, p16)





In the 1960s, Andy Warhol had a partnership with Velvet Underground, which helped launch Warhols attack on the mainstream as well as introducing the band and particularly Lou Reed to the Avant Garde New York art scene. Captain Beefheart mixed a unique brand of bluesrock with humorous and abstract lyrical concepts, which were delivered through either his rasping vocal style, or as free form poetry during musical breaks. In the early 1970s, the Glam Rock scene began as a reaction against the psychedelic art scene. As well as Postmodern fashion and films, musicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s relentless breaking and making of rules combined with its mass appeal have made it the quintessential breeding ground for Postmodernists. In the art world strict rules, tradition and highbrow scepticism often crush out lowlevel artists attempts at redefining the rules. Music has a far lower point of entry, which has lead to countless collaborations, juxtapositions and reapplications over the years.

The primary players of the UK Punk scene, which took place in the mid to late 1970s, were The Sex Pistols, a band which some would argue was a gimmick conceived by their manager Malcolm McLaren to sell clothes from his shop SEX. The band denied McLarens claim that he was the creative force behind the band and said they aimed to get the working class ethic into the mainstream. Although The Sex Pistols are regarded as the primary force in the Punk scene there were many other acts such as The Clash, The Ramones and The Damned who were all early and important players in the Punk rock movement. All these bands focused on promoting antiestablishment, anti-mainstream and pro-working class.





The Punk dress code made frequent use of household items such as pins to avoid having to sew ripped clothing and a subversion of mainstream clothing outlets through the frequent use of charity shops and handme-downs to get clothing. The Doc Marten is synonymous with the Punk movement and was first popular with dock workers, policemen, postmen and factory workers though its origins are a redesign of the standard issue military boot in Germany during World War 2.

The Punk era only officially lasted between 1974 and 1976. Bands such as The Stooges and the Velvet Underground were considered Proto Punk due to the fact that the Intellectual Avant Garde upper art scene heavily influenced them. Punk stripped away the growing arrogance of the music, art and even political scene bringing things away from the largely corporate controlled world of the mainstream, which at the time was in massive amounts of disarray due to economic depression and domineering right wing politics. The repurposing of found artwork (particularly political and tabloid) became the visual calling card of Punk.

M Z D OSDFJ P G SDFJ E M O M Z J T Z E O E Z Z M J J E M Z Z M K M ZZ SDF M A L Z O S Z M W FKN Z SDFJ R FKN X A O DFJ Postmodernists had an interesting view on language. Ferdinand de Saussure, a Swiss linguist and semiotician, inspired the Postmodernists to see the meaning of a word as not a static thing but something that ranges as it contrasts with the meaning of other words. Jacques Derrida is also largely responsible for the Postmodern view of language as he is famous for developing a form of semiotic analysis known as deconstruction.


Postmodernist literature came about in the late 1960s to 70s’ and remains one of the most as the key techniques used cannot be applied to Postmodernist literature alone, but still they were the most prominent in this era. Postmodernist literature was a reaction against Modernist approaches, and just like in other areas of Postmodernism, such as architecture and design, literature was strange and often didn’t make sense. Similarly to in film, temporal distortion was a popular technique, this involved using a nonlinear timeline; the story would often skip backwards and forwards and include ‘cultural and historical references that would not fit.’ (Postmodernism, 2009) This contributed to the elusive nature of Postmodernist works, along with having a questionable narrator, faction and sense of philosophy.

complicated areas of literature to define,



Faction was used when the subject material was based on real life events, however small fictions were added in and the line between what was fact and what was fiction would be so blurred to the extent where it would be almost impossible to define one from the other. This is similar to historiographical metafiction, where the difference between factual events and fiction would be obvious, for example in Thomas Pynchonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Mason and Dixon, when George Washington smokes cannabis. In terms of philosophy, postmodernist literature often contained endless deferral and a quest for self-understanding. However, due to the characteristic of endless deferral, this question could never be answered and so stories were often left with untied endings. Thomas Pynchon, one of the most famous postmodernist writers often used pastiche in his work, combining themes from other genres such as song, science fiction, crime-fiction and history. His works were also known to be quite dense and complex and he often, like many other postmodernist writers, wrote under the idea that society could never be truly understood, leading to a sense of paranoia in his works.


Postmodernism was one of the first movements to introduce elements of commercialism, kitsch and camp aesthetic within the artistic context. One of the main characteristics of Postmodern art is the mix between high and low culture, these make distinctions between what is seen as fine or high art and low or kitsch art. It also includes six other characteristics that make it Postmodern; bricolage, use of words as the central element, collage, simplification, appropriation, performance art, recycling of past styles and themes. One of the movements that Postmodern art particularly comes from is the Avant-garde Modernist movement; it pushes boundaries of what is accepted as the norm and considered to be a trademark of Modernism, it viewed art to be a social change while helping to shape many of the political movement in the 20th century. Other movements that tend to portray the Postmodern style within their work are conceptual art, installation art, multimedia and inter-media, and pop art.



n in the 1960s. stmodernism bega Po in th wi y ph ra Photog coming an issue, nd photography be ou ar y it al e in ig With or styles within th to expand their n ga be s er ph ora photog stmodernism in ph e idea around Po n media itself. Th t, by compositio r the focal poin te al to s d wa be hy ri tograp self. Desc the photograph it om fr it ve mo re ve or to rast the creati raphy was to cont as banal, photog a. Early signs the Modernist er of rk wo ng gi ga and en d be the work of photography woul in m is rn de mo st of Po coloured photoo brought about wh n, to es gl Eg m Willia taken in black e time were only th at es ag im ; graphs tcome was deemed this opposing ou e or ef er th e it and wh e the viewer and aimed to challeng is Th t. is rn de Postmo s actually art, that his work wa ea id e th d an s, critic estonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work is The style of Eggl . on ti es qu or de was un influenced the ph stmodernism has Po w ho of e e pl yl am st an ex an opposing as a whole. With it tography movement to what we know y aped photograph sh s ha e qu ni ch of te tive and daring. as today; innova






? (66-73)


n o i s u l c n o C wwwwww



In Chapter 1, Modernism and the work of Bauhaus was explained, the social and political background of Postmodernism was reviewed and the theory of Postmodernism was outlined. In Chapter 2, many examples of Postmodern architecture were discussed from Micheal Graves’s ‘The Portland Building’ to Robert Venturi’s ‘Vanna Venturi House’ and his work on Las Vegas. ‘The Dancing House’ and ‘The Pompidou Centre’ were referenced and the effects these building still have on Paris and Prague, two key cities in Europe, was explored. The effects of Postmodernism on London’s current skyline were also discussed.

Chapter 3 explored graphic design on an international scale comparing design in America with design in the UK. Graphic designers Wolfgang Weingart, Jamie Reid, David Carson, Barbara Kruger and Neville Brody and magazines i-D and The Face were discussed. Chapter 4 began by looking at the â&#x20AC;&#x153;Wassily Chairâ&#x20AC;? which was influenced by Bauhaus and Modernist ideas. The chapter highlighted Ettore Sottsass as a key player in product design particularly for founding Memphis and Phillip Starke for inventing the lemon squeezer, which is such an iconic and well-known piece of dysfunctional design. Chapter 5 discussed a range of other small subject areas that were effected by Postmodernism including; fashion, fashion, cinema, music, literature, fine art and photography.

Chapter 6 asks : what came after Postmodernism?


â&#x20AC;&#x153;Postmodernism is dead and buried. In its place comes a new paradigm of authority and knowledge formed under the pressure of new technologies and contemporary social forces.â&#x20AC;? Dr Alan Kirby, Philosophy Now 79


During the Postmodernism movement, design rules were broken in a way like never before and therefore pieces from this era were truly authentic and original in their outrageousness. Young amateur designers took control of the era and perhaps influenced other designers to become more open minded in to breaking standerdised rules. The effects of Postmodernism can still be seen today in design such as the Shard and modern issues of I-D magazine. Neville Brody, who was identified as a Postmodernist graphic designer in chapter 3, has designed the typeface for the England football kit, which will be worn to the World Cup in Brazil in the summer of 2014. Current designs such as these are more reminiscent of the past rather than truly Postmodern, though this is not to say that they are any less worthy as examples of good design.


The economy f o c u s i n g on making everything more efficient as well as easy to construct, homes are being designed in a style to work with this, giving them a very unusual shape similar to Robert Venturiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s work on the Vanna Venturi house. In London, where high rise buildings can be the main attraction it is clear to see


postmodernist architects like Michael Graves have had a massive influence in the designs, like the Gherkin, the Shard and the Lloyds building. Many more buildings similar to these are now being built today in many cities like London, for example the Leadenhall building and 20 Fenchurch Street also known as the Walkie Talkie.



Las Vegas still remains predominately Postmodern, whether its hotels or c a s i n o s , new quirky buildings using neon lights and coloursâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; are taking place to change the whole perception and look of the building to fit in with the night scene Vegas gives off. Although a lot of buildings standing today are very Modernist, it is clear to see from the production of new major b u i l d i n g s being built, we are taking inspiration f r o m Postmodernism to create s o m e t h i n g different to the norm.


To this day postmodern ideals still strongly influence mainstream music and cinema. This influence can be clearly seen in the continuous stream of self-aware horror and comedy films that come out such as Scream, The Cabin in the Woods, Tropic Thunder, This Is the End and Austin Powers. Films continue to openly mock the conventions of their genre and sometimes will even break the fourth wall by directly communicating with audience or making direct references to themselves or media events that the characters should be unaware of. The notion of spectacle has became all consuming in popular cinema with huge budget films such as Avatar, The Hobbit and countless comic book films regularly being the top grossing films for the year.

t m o d e r n (79-82)


In the music scene the popularity of YouTube has lead to a huge number of parody videos, sometimes achieving nearly as many views as the original and allowing

some people such as The Lonely Island and Jon Lajoie managing to make successful careers as comedians or musicians as a result of their successful YouTube videos. Even more mainstream

musicians such as PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ or Macklemore’s ‘Thrift Shop’ gained mass publicity from having humorous videos that reflect the style of Postmodernism.


n Whe i n g or k loo fine is o it e int art a m k h h g to hi wit m y eas link r n i s e sts d a rti he mo a t t s P o many led o c int y as rec le ay Tod x e sty . hav mi ks l t wor rea rnism pas a e ir as mod is the ost art e P r out the en sm e ab he i e n t w er or bet Mod e m hind work m e y and beco g b the ver n n i e a n r h a its a t tic me lis ul me er p o e h m s h t i t rf s ra e lou nâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s k hil and o r W c o w to . , en ic les elf act its alist abstr m Egg as se t w m a is i i min s are Will gh it odern is h u m t er y. ltho pos from oth uirk m. a d q nor k y, s an h d e p n c a ac he ng ra en ari influ as t ng b le tog d o h p y imp ppi ver time, seen sli ing s rent as s fe the now ys u now dif d to. s a s s at i w t i e s i e us y k st r wor graph derni ges a a y to mo ima oda Pho the ite ple t h w o nd int peo k a hat c a w bl not and



nt for ecify a design moveme It is difficult to sp

our current times. The introduction of the internet within the last 20 years has changed the rhythm of design development. Ideas

can be share d and inspiration no longer comes from the ines. It ers, but from search eng minds of visionary design

can be argued, that due to this reproduction of design ideas, we are still under the infl

uence of Postmodernist

design today. Postmodernist design had

always taken influence from the old; Revivalism seems to be one of the lasting characteristics of Postmodernist design. Working on

this notion,

t revival design is a Postmodernis surely Jonny Ivesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Apple

of the aesthetics of Dieter Rams; simplistic, functional

Modernist design with

garish shots of colour

and life. It is impossibl

e to

tell when the affect of Postmodernism will end, or if it ever will, but we conclude that so far there has been no movement to replace Postmodernism.



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