Where it began
Postmodernism is said to have begun with the demolishing of the Pruitt-Igoe housing blocks in St Louis Missouri, see below. A building that was designed with a modernist style built to capture as much sunlight as possible and with various similar consideration to maximise the space. However, what was not considered were the individuals that would live in the cramped blocks that would be neglected and problem-filled.
Postmodernism is a movement that pushes away from the clean and structured form of modernism and towards a more expressive form of design. Paula Scher describes this in her own work as being “less concerned about creating structure and more concerned about creating spirit”
The movement took hold in a variety of area’s from architecture to typography and could be first noted in typography among some of the designers working within the Swiss-style including Siegfried Odermatt, Rosmarie Tissi and Wolfgang Weingart. Wolfgang Weingart is said to be the father of New-wave Typography due to his highly experimental work and punk feel.
This punk feel is evident in Weingart’s work as shown above with its use of line, shape, layering and colour as seen in the above-left outcome and in the experimental use of typography seen in the centre and right outcomes creating shapes out of type and adding playful layers using point, line and plane.
David Carson is an American graphic designer and art director. Carson has become renowned for his innovative magazine design, and use of experimental typography making him the epitome of a postmodern designer. He claims this to be due to his lack of knowledge of the field and particularly modernism as Carson has no formal training he wasn’t actively attempting to break the rules he didn’t know what the rules were. I feel this comes across in Carson’s work which appears more intuitive rather than methodical.
Carsons style has been termed grunge typography which I feel to be an accurate description of the above works however I can’t help but draw some parallels to Weingart’s work and what I find to be a similar experimental feel in the outcomes particularly in relation to the use of typography. Yet there is definitely a distinguishably raw, collage feel more apparent in Carson’s work. It is also interesting to note that when Carson selects a typeface he chooses it to reflect the content that is will be used on. This in contradiction to the modernist approach which favours letting the words speak for themselves Carson doesn’t want the meaning to be simply read he wants it to be viewed.
The Memphis group
The Memphis group along with the San Fransisco group are said to have created pluralist movements within postmodernism dealing with fabrics, ceramics, metal and glass objects. It began in 1980 with Ettore Sottsass and a group of designers that came together with the aim of creating a new collective form of design. Their style is considered to be inspired by Art Deco and Pop Art and included bright colours, geometric shapes and bold patterns. While the group disbanded after only 7 years influences have been taken from the movement and can be found in everything from fashion to cars.
The above left is an image of Katie Perry at the MTV awards in 2011 wearing a Dior Memphis-Style outcome. After the death of Sottsass, a greater interest in the Memphis Group came about with may high Fashion brands including Karl Lagerfield, Missoni and Christian Dior beginning to draw influence from the movements bold graphic patterns and bright contrasting colours.
The above right shows even BMW getting on board in 2017 with its i3 and i8 being given custom-designed paint jobs in the Memphis group style coinciding with the Milan Design Week.