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COMPARISON OF THE DESIGN PHILOSOPHY
OF MODERNISM (BAUHAUS) AND POST MODERNISM (MEMPHIS GROUP)

V. Ryan 2011

 

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MEMPHIS GROUP 1980s   MODERNISM / BAUHAUS 1920s -30s
     
VISUAL IMPACT:
Most of the products designed by this group relied on visual impact, with minimum regard for the functionalism of modernism.
  VISUAL IMPACT:
Simplicity of design, producing a ‘purer’ form of design.
     
FUNCTIONALITY:
Little regard given to the function of the product being designed. Products regarded as art work or a design statement, rather than functional / working products.
  FUNCTIONALITY:
Function and form central to modernist ideals. Designs kept simple, with artistic work bring banished from the final product.
     
MARKET / TARGET MARKET:
Designs aimed at art galleries and rich individuals. A good example is the Etruscan Chair by Danny Lane 1984.
  MARKET / TARGET MARKET:
Designs aimed at the general public, although the best known designs such as the MB-118 CHAIR (1928) have become collectors items in their own right.
     
SCALE OF MANUFACTURE:
One Off or very small scale. Aimed at Art Galleries or rich individual clients. These products were manufactured by skilled individuals rather than on a production line.
  SCALE OF MANUFACTURE:
Mass production. Designs manufactured on a large scale, using industrial techniques. For example, the MB-118 Chair. This tubular steel chair was manufactured on a production line, through techniques employed in engineering and steel works, forming steel.
     
MATERIALS: Often materials applied to unusual practical situations. For example, glass is the main material of the Etruscan Chair. An unlikely, brittle, inflexible material applied to a product that realistically needs a softer, flexible, impact absorbing material such as natural woods. Consequently, Memphis designs lack functionality. New materials used for visual impact.   MATERIALS: Modernism promoted the use of materials such a tubular steel. Materials that had not been previously considered as a suitable for furniture. Tubular steel is light, versatile and cheap. It can be joined, shaped and formed in different ways, opening up new design possibilities. New materials used to enhance the function of the product. For example the MB-118 Chair.
 
 
 
MEMPHIS GROUP ( POST MODERNIST) PRODUCT DESIGN PRINCIPLES
 
Emphasis placed on aesthetics, shape and form. Designs often influenced by fashionable trends.

Styles from different ages, mixed to form a design/product.

Often ‘Memphis’ designs are controversial.

Use of common, everyday materials such as MDF, glass, steel and stone. This principle was shared with the Bauhaus and Modernism.

Often materials used that are not normally not associated with the product. (E.G. the Etruscan Chair designed by Danny Lane 1984). Glass chair.

Most of their designs were One Offs or for very small scale production.

A combination of craft skills often displayed. For instance, accurate engineering combined with high quality individual craft work.

Memphis designs can be regarded as works of art, rather than functional objects.
 
 
 
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