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What is Modern?

Art Deco . Bakelite . Bauhaus . Norman Bel Geddes . Donald Deskey . Dunbar . Charles Eames . Alexander Girard . International Style . Knoll . Paul McCobb . Memphis . Herman Miller . Howard Miller Clock Company . Moderne . George Nelson . Isamu Noguchi . Tommi Parzinger . Post Modernism . Post War Modern . Pop . Gilbert Rohde . Eero Saarinen . Edward Wormley . Russel Wright




List of all terms. Art Deco
Popular decorative design style of the 1920s and 1930s. The name is taken from the exhibitions of Les Arts Decoratifs, where such work was first exhibited. Cubist painting and African and Native American art influenced the development of Art Deco, but the polished, dynamic forms of modern machinery and aircraft were most inspirational. The style is characterized by stepped forms, rounded corners, triple-striped decorative elements, and the use of chromium and black trim. Important practitioners of the style have included (in America) Donald Deskey and Gilbert Rohde. The style was popular for restaurants, theaters, hotels, ocean liners, and Worlds Fair exhibitions, as it did not have the serious theoretical underpinnings that modernism or Bauhaus styles encompassed. The architecture and interiors of the Chrysler Building and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel (both in New York) are good examples of Deco design.
List of all terms. Bakelite
Trade name of one of the first plastics to come into wide use. A phenolic invented in 1907 by chemist Leo Baekeland, the material is a good insulator against heat and electric current, can easily be molded in varied shapes, and is relatively inexpensive. The colors are usually limited to browns and blacks.
List of all terms. Bauhaus
German school of design that, in the 1920s and 1930s, became the leading intellectual and creative center in the development of modernism. Emphasis was placed on factory-produced designs that were simple, functional, and industrial. The egalitarian philosophy espoused by the school embraced clean designs in basic materials, and this philosophy permeated all types of design, from furniture to textiles to applied art. Also see international style
List of all terms. Norman Bel Geddes
American industrial and stage designer with a prominent role in the use of streamlining in the design style of the 1930s. His work includes Toledo scales, Philco radio cabinets, and a Graham Page automobile, but his influence was greatest through the publication of unrealized, generally futuristic projects. In his 1932 book Horizons, he described and illustrated projects like a fully streamlined ocean liner and a huge passenger airplane with public lounges, promenade decks (in the wings), and a gymnasium. His best known and most influential work was for the Futurama exhibit for General Motors at the 1939 World's Fair, which depicted a futuristic landscape complete with highways and cities. This exhibit is often credited with the development of modern superhighway systems.
List of all terms. Donald Deskey (1894-1989)
American industrial and interior designer associated with the Art Deco style of the 1930s. His best known work included interior design of the Radio City Music Hall in the Rockefeller Center. He was also responsible for the development of Weldtex, a patented form of fir plywood with a striated surface that disguised the strong grain pattern of the wood. Deskey's firm, re-established after World War 2, created architectural, packaging, and interior designs. Crest toothpaste continues to use the 1950 Deskey packaging design.
List of all terms. Dunbar
List of all terms. Charles Eames (1907-1978)
Eames is best known for his 1956 design of a leather lounge chair and ottoman, utilizing molded plywood units supported on cast aluminum bases. An architect and designer, he began working with molded plywood in 1941 producing plywood-traction stretchers and splints for the Navy, which led to his experimentation with plywood furniture. In a 1946 one-man exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, this furniture was featured and attracted the attention of George Nelson, who hired Eames to work for Herman Miller, who manufactured all of Eames subsequent projects. Eames utilized organically curving, sculptural forms in combination with mechanistic, structural details, exemplified in his fiberglass shell chairs. His work contains a level of playfulness and ornamentation that is thoroughly modern without being austere or forbidding.
List of all terms. Alexander Girard (1907-1995)
American architect and designer of interiors, exhibitions, and textiles, with a special skill in dealing with colors and textures. Girard had his own design firm in Detroit, which served clients like Ford Motor Company (for car interiors) and Detrola Corporation for both office interiors and product design. In 1948, he designed and built his own house, which attracted a lot of attention for its lively modern interiors. In 1952, Herman Miller hired him to lead their textile program, and he developed new weaves, lines, and print patterns with a unique, personal orientation. He designed the "Good Design" exhibitions of 1953 and 1954 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
List of all terms. Heywood-Wakefield
List of all terms. International Style
Term used to describe architectural design that is simple, functional, and unornamented, following the theoretical teachings of Bauhaus and the leading figures of Modernism of the 1920s and 1930s. The term was used a s the title for an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, curated by Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson in 1932. Most of the work shown shared characteristics of flat roofs, large glass areas, plain white walls, and an emphasis on the use of steel and concrete as building materials.
List of all terms. Knoll International, Inc.
Founded in 1937 by Hans and Florence Schust Knoll, this manufacturer became one of the top producers of quality modern furniture. Best known for their office systems and the application of the corporate identity concept in design, the company still manufactures modern designs by designers such as Eero Saarinen. Recently, the Knoll designs reflect post modern and high tech styles.
List of all terms. Paul McCobb
American furniture designer whose low-priced department store furniture line brought modernism in interior design to a large segment of the American public in the 1950s. He designed the "Planner Group" in 1950 using traditional birch and maple and simple construction in an undecorated, modular fashion. It was ideally suited to the medium-to-low priced department store market at the time. He also designed other lines, including upholstered seating and room-divider storage.
List of all terms. Memphis
Group of designers of furniture and household accessories who were known for erratic, illogical, avant garde, and anti-establishment style. Bright colors, fantastic forms with a touch of "kitsch" or bad taste characterize the Memphis designs produced between 1950 and 1970. The group formed a loose relationship in 1981 in Milan, sharing the motive to break away from the formalism of International Style. Memphis seemed to coincide with the surge of interest in post modernism in architecture and related fields. With its playful and mischievous departures from the order and logic of earlier modernism, Memphis has recently been regarded as a viable style as opposed to a stylish fad.
List of all terms. Herman Miller
American furniture manufacturer, which, under the design direction of Gilbert Rohde in the 1930s, began producing modern furniture. After World War 2, George Nelson became the design director, and in 1946, introduced an entirely new line of typically modern furniture. Subsequently, Nelson introduced Charles Eames and Alexander Girard to the Miller design team, with increasing commercial success. Today, Herman Miller continues to produce modern home and office furniture.
List of all terms. Howard Miller Clock Company
Small manufacturer of clocks based in Zeeland, Michigan. Initially called the Herman Miller Clock Company (an outgrowth of Herman Miller), it became the Howard Miller Clock Companu in the 1930s, when Herman Miller's son Howard took over. Though primarily a maker of traditional clock designs, the company was somewhat influenced by the modern designs of Herman Miller. At first the companu produced clocks in the Art Deco style. After World War 2, George Nelson offered modern clock designs to Howard Miller, including th enoted Ball Clock, in which 12 balls act as the hour marks. It was a success, and cleared the way for many other modern clock designs, and for hte addition of lamps, lighting fixtures, and other household accessories. The company continues to produce such items today.
List of all terms. Moderne
Historical and stylistic term for the advanced design efforts of the 1920s and 1930s. A Frech word, it refers to developments in France that were moving toward a truly modern style, but it implies a fashion-oriented emphasis, lacking any serious theoretical basis. The term has become somewhat interchangeable with the English "modernistic", which has similar suggestions of a modern style viewed as an alternative to other, more traditional styles.
List of all terms. George Nelson
American architect and industrial designer, a leader in the post-World War 2 development of the design profession. Nelson established his own office in 1947 in order to develop an entirely new line for Herman Miller. He gradually acquired other clients, inlcuding Howard Miller Clock Company and General Electric. Nelson operated his office on a studio or atelier system, making it both a training ground and forum for many American designers who were actually responsible for its output. He has written several books on the subject of design: Tomorrow's House (1944), Problems of Design (1957), and How to See (1977).
List of all terms. Isamu Noguchi(1904-1988)
Important American abstract sculptor who has also designed furniture and lighting products from time to time. As a designer, he was recruited by George Nelson to design a few tables for Herman Miller. His 1947 glass-topped coffee table with a sculptural free-form base became so popular it was almost a cliche. It is still in current production. His 1954 rocking stool was produced by Knoll, which also produced a three-legged cylinder lampof Noguchi's. The production of this lamp led to later paper sphere lights made in Japan, widely known as Akari lamps. In the 1980s, Noguchi maintained a gallery and sculpture studio in Long Island City, NY.
List of all terms. Tommi Parzinger
List of all terms. Post Modernism
Term that has come to describe the stylistic developments that depart from the norms of modernism. Robert Venturi, in his 1996 book Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, questions the validity of the emphasis of modernists on logic, simplicity, and order, suggesting that ambiguity and contradiction may also have a valid place. Design directions introducing color, ornament, references to historical styles, and elements that sometimes appear eccentric or disturbing have come into increasing use. The Memphis group in furniture and smaller objects display post-modern characteristics. Debate continues as to whether the post-modernist direction is destined to become the main line of future development or no more than a fashionable trend, soon to be forgotten.
List of all terms. Post War Modern
List of all terms. Pop
Popular, art historical and critical term used for work that deceloped in the 1950s and 1960s that drew its inspiration from commerical art expression including packaging, the art of the comic strip, the vocabulary of film animation and advertising art. The influence of several major artists during the 1960s, with their realistic images of film stars, enlarged comic strip blocks, and versions of soup and beer cans, became a school of art. Pop influenced design, as seen in the inflated furniture of the 1960s and 1970s, and the Memphis designs of the 1980s. With its eccentric forms and simicomic references, post modernism also reflects the Pop aesthetic. The style opened up avenues of expression that had previously been regarded as too frivolous to have any role in architecture and design.
List of all terms. Gilbert Rohde (1894-1944)
Known for the first bentwood chair, Rohde was a pioneering American industrial designer whose career in the 1930s was an important factor in introducing modernism to the United States. For Heywood-Wakefield and Herman Miller, he produced what was then the "new look" in furniture design. He combined sleek design with practicality, using exotic wood veneers, glass, mirrors, and chrome details on modular and sectional furniture. Functional yet attractive, the non-traditional furniture appealed to a large market. Rohde's ideas helped bring modernism to the American home for the first time.
List of all terms. Eero Saarinen (1910-1961)
Finnish-borm American architect whose varied and imaginative work in both furniture design and architecture were a significant part of the design scene in the 1950s. He worked briefly for Norman Bel Geddes, where he designed with Charles Eames. Eames and Saarinen won two first prizes together in the 1940 Organic Design in Home Furnishings competition organized by the Museum of Modern Art, NY. The winning designs led to continued design development that finally produced the Knoll lounge chair of 1948, called the Womb chair for its comfortably curved plastic shell. Saarinen also did a number of architectural assignments, including the TWA passenger terminal of Kennedy Airport, NY, and the John Deere office building in Moline, Illinois.
List of all terms. Edward Wormley (1907-1995)
American designer of modern furniture known for its restrained and somehwat conservative character. Wormley studied at the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1920s before specializing in furniture design in the 1930s, when he began a long-lasting relationship with the Dunbar furniture company of Berne, Indiana. After World War 2, Wormley set up a private practice in interior and furniture design with Dunbar as his primary client. He used wood and upholstery in a tailored way that seemed comfortable to an audience not totally ready for the austerity of International Style design. Wormley often called his designs "transitional", and he did no hesitate to use forms as those of the ancient Greek klismos chair. His Dunbar furniture was included in a number of "Good Design" exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, NY.
List of all terms. Russel Wright (1904-1976)
American industrial designer best known for the design of very popular ceramic dinnerware of the 1930s and 1940s. In the '30s, Wright began to design practical metalware objects, tableware in spun aluminum and other objects. The work was practical, informal, and appealing to average households. In 1935, he began to design a variety of products carrying the name American Way. Metalware and furniture designs were followed in 1937 by Wright's great success, the china called American Modern manufactured by the Stubenville Pottery Company from 1939 to 1959. Russell Wright was particularly successful at designs that had strong popular appeal for home use, while retaining aesthetic qualities that lifted them above the level of pure commericalism.