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Modernism and Postmodernism in Product Design

Modernism and Postmodernism are two essential idea in style. The Postmodernism is advancement from the Modernism. The contemporary movement of the 1930s through post-modernism of the 1960s. Although that in this modern society, it is still using Modernist and Postmodernist style. Modernism and Postmodernism have their own concepts and sign. In the following paragraph, I will go to identify the different between Modernism and Postmodernism in product style. And likewise analyze each Modernist and Postmodernist product.

First of all, the period of Modernism started in beginning of 20 century.

Modernism took place in 1930s. It affected by Bauhaus style concepts in 1919. Its founder was Walter Gropius. The motivation originated from Russian Constructrism and De Stijl and look for clear comparable idea to De Stijl. There are 3 essential principles; kind follows function, economy of type and truth to materials. That function ended up being the essential beliefs of modernism. Therefore modernist item designs are base upon function. Its products are more usefulness. “Modernism is item too much superfluous decorate.

” (Mattox 1995, [Online] “It is supporter streamline, geometric, clear, neat and tiny. It generally presents the significance in straight” (Mattox 1995, [Online] “The product of modernist style is tension on good quality. Therefore all of the modernist designs take on geometric, simplify and practical” (Mattox 1995, [Online] Now I am going to discuss some modernist item.

Chris Everard 2000, in Wilhide 2000, p.37

The first of the modernist product is a lamp. It calls AJ Visor. It was designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1956. He is a modernist designer. “When he established his own practice in 1930, he introduced the modernist aesthetic to Denmark” (Wilhide 2000, p.

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37) His style is simple. This lamp looks simple. It has a metal shade and it is steeply angled. “The minimalism of the stand and the stem give that look alertness and focus.” (Wilhide 2000, p.37) This design based on the function, it can provide the concentrated directional lighting for reading. The metal shade like a visor, it can shield the eyes from the glare of the light. Metal is a one of the modernistic material. “The base is circular and it cut out a circle in the base. It can balance the lamp to stand.” (Wilhide 2000, p.36) “Overall, it is poise and refinement.” (Wilhide 2000, p.37) It uses the white colour and simple shape to make user feel an elegant and simple life style. Therefore it is a modernist design.

Chris Everard 2000, in Wilhide 2000, p.32 Chris Everard 2000, in Wilhide 2000, p.33

The second modernist product is a light. It calls Tube light. It was designed by Eileen Gray in 1927. She is a modernist. Her style is simple and elegant. “She likes to use some new materials in her period such as tubular steel.” (Wilhide 2000, p.32) This light has a long light tube. The tube supported by slim chromium plated steel frame. This kind of material is a good quality in her period. It looks simple and it no more decoration. In this design, it base on function. The only one function is for lighting. “From this light, it show that Gray expect have a simple, harmonious and comfortable life.” (Wilhide 2000, p.33) This light is a typical of modernist design.

Barcelona, in Stimpson 1987, p.69

The third modernist product going to analyze is a table. It called Barcelona. It was designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1930. “It designed for the Tugendhat House.” (Stimpson 1987, p.69) It made of flat bar steel and it has a joint welded in X shape be the frame. “It has a glass top be the surface of the table.” (Stimpson 1987, p.69) It is a simple and traditional table. It shape in square and has four legs. The surface of the table is flat and square. It is a practical table. Therefore, this table proof that the modernist design is geometric, simplify and functional one more time. And also meaning modernist designer expect have a simple life style.

Wassily Chair, DWR [online]

The last modernist product is this chair, called Wassily Chair. It was designed by Marcel Breuer in 1925. “The Breuer Wassily has few equals. However, Marcel Breuer may not be as famous as his modernist contemporaries Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, he was certainly as brilliant a furniture designer.” (DWR, [online]). “The first bent tubular-steel chair ever, is a case in point; all first tries should be this good.” (DWR, [online]) The chair is using the daring and fresh colour to printing. That can animated character brings life to any residence or office. This is a modernist product.

Secondly, Postmodernist: Decoration and appropriation, the return of narrative and content. (Postmodernism 2001, [online]) The period of Postmodernism is start at the end of 20 Century. Postmodernism is stress on the decoration and the looking. Their design is base on their feeling and what the meaning they want to present. It was also not affect by popular culture. Each Postmodernist design or product can be present each designer’s thought and their own culture. “They like to develop some classic or modernism design to Postmodernism.” (Chan 2000, [online]) Postmodernist design is not usually presents the meaning in directly. It means the meaning is not clear. The material of Postmodernist design is depending on the designer. They use everything which can be present their feeling and meaning to make the Postmodernist Product. “Therefore Postmodernist design is advocate progressive, Contextual, multiple view, complexity and abstract.” (Mattox 1995, [Online]) Now I am going to give some example to prove my definition.

Alessi SpA, in Collins 1994, p.140

The first of the postmodernist design go to discuss is a set of tea and coffee service. It call Aircraft carrier. It was designed by Hans Hollein in 1983. The whole set of tea and coffee service is made by silver. The teapot and cups is position on its carrier-shaped tray. The teapot is shaped like a plane. The idea of this tea and coffee service is from the Aircraft carrier. “The cups and teapot seem like it ready to take off in the user’s hands.” (Collins 1994, p.140) In this product, designer develops the shape of cups, teapot and the tray to unlike other tea and coffee service to achieve meaning which he wants to present. “He also use the silver be the material It can present the Aircraft carrier is cool.” (Collins 1994, p.140) This design is base on the designer’s feeling and his meaning which he wants to present. From this we can distinguish this is a postmodernist design.

Alessi SpA, in Collins 1994, p.137

The second postmodernist product is a kettle. It called Bollitore. It was designed by Richard Sapper in 1983. It made by stainless-steel. It have a dome-shaped body and with a whistle in the drain of the kettle which shape like the end of a Wild West six-shooter. “When the water boiling, the kettle can produce the sound of an American steam locomotive.” (Collins 1994, p.136) The shape of the handle looks like the cockscomb. The idea of this kettle is come from the Wild West in American. “In this kettle, designer use the Wild West six-shooter shape and the sound of American steam locomotive to achieve the meaning which he want to present.” (Collins 1994, p.136) From this we also can distinguish this is a postmodernist design.

Chair_one, unica home [online]

The third postmodernist product is Chair_one. It was designed by Konstantin Grcic 2003. This is a brand new product. “The chair_one is an exceptionally versatile indoor or outdoor seating system.” (Unica home, [online]) It can use in different version such as fixed, swivel and stacking. “And it made by strong aluminum, cataphoretically-treated and painted in red, white or anthracite polyester powder.” (Unica home, [online]) The chair shape likes skeleton. It can present the designer meaning and feeling. Actually this chair is for the decoration more than the functionally. Thurs, this is a postmodernist design.

Torso armchair and sofa, unica home [online]

The final product is an armchair and sofa. It was designed by Paolo Deganello in 1982. “It was a cassina collection with the series offer armchairs and sofa with steel structure, polyurethane foam and polyester padding upholstered in either fabric or leather and attached to the frame by elastic webbing.” (Unica Home, [online]) The armchair can be a bed It used the bright colour to be more attractive. The customers can choose any colour of the chair. The designer wanted to present the freedom of the life. This is a postmodernist design.

In my conclusion, Modernism and Postmodernism have there own principles. Under my research, I find out the main idea of Modernism is base on the function and present the meaning directly and clearly. It advocates simple design. It also objects too much decorates (Mattox 1995, [Online]). The idea of Postmodernism is base on the decoration and the looking. It advocates individual creative thinking and not present the meaning directly and clearly (Nip 2001, [online]). Overall, Modernism and Postmodernism have their own characteristic. They can let designer bring more idea.


Bicket, 1998, Modernism and Postmodernism – Some Symptoms & Useful Distinctions, [online], (21/05/1998 update), available: (10/08/2004 access date)

(Bicket 1998, [online])

Chan Kai Fung, 2000, The style of Postmodernism, [online], (1/10/2000 update), available: (10/08/2004 access date)

(Chan 2000, [online])

Collins, Michael, 1994, Towards Post-Modernism – Design since 1851, British Museum Press, London

(Collins 1994, p. )

Design within research, [online], (10/08/2004 update), available:

(DWR, [online])

Nip Yan Choi, 2001, Talking about Postmodernism, [online], (10/08/2004 update), available: (10/08/2004 access date)

(Nip 2001, [online])

Postmodernism, [online], (04/2001 update), available: (10/08/2004 access date)

(Postmodernism 2001, [online])

Stimpson, Miriam 1987, Modern Furniture Classics, The Architectural Press Ltd., London

(Stimpson 1987, p.)

Wilhide, Elizabeth 2000, Living With Modern Classics, The Light, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York

(Wilhide 2000, p.)

Unica Home, [online], (10/08/2004 update), available: catalog/item.asp?id=12972 (10/08/2004 access date)

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Modernism and Postmodernism in Product Design. (2017, Sep 29). Retrieved from

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