Influences of design history on the development of products

Art nouveau, arts and crafts, bauhaus modernism, art deco, streamlining, new design style (post modernism)


Arts and Crafts (1850-1900)

Philosophy:  Grew out of a concern for the effects of industrialisation upon design, traditional craftsmanship and the lives of ordinary working class people, aiming at the return of the designer to combat industrialisation. The philosophy is honesty in design and making, and fitness for purpose.


·          Simplicity- Interiors were visually simplistic by removing clutter and including suitable furniture, which would provide a practical and clean living environment. Furniture was humbly constructed with little ornate decoration.

·          Splendour- approach led to designers often experimenting with different materials and new techniques in new artistic ways. Therefore small and highly ornate artefacts were produced working with unusual materials and precious metals.

·          Nature- Natural plant, bird and animal forms were a source of inspiration. The use of stylised flower patterns were a reflection of the purity of approach. Symbolism with motifs, e.g. a heart symbolising friendship appear, in many designs.

·          Colour and texture- Colour was used in interiors to provide unity and focus. Link between colour and nature was strong. Designers preferred natural materials, e.g. wood, stone, that where available locally.

Designers: · William Morris- poet, writer, socialist and designer and innovator of Arts and Crafts along with John Ruskin, a theorist and critic who studied the link between art, society and labour, putting Morris' philosophies into practice

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Art Nouveau (1890-1905)

Philosophy:                                                                                                                                                                           Art Nouveau (new art) was an international style of decoration and architecture developed in the late 19th century. Name was developed from the Maison de l'Art Nouveau, an interior design gallery opened in Paris in 1896. It was developed by designers creating an art form appropriate to their modern age. The principle was the idea of Unity and harmony across fine arts and the formulation of new aesthetic values. It links arts and crafts and modernism.

Style: Nature- heavily influenced by natural forms and made these into curvy whiplash lines and stylised flowers.

The female form- is often referred to as "feminine art" due to its frequent use of languid female figures

Other Cultures- inspired by arts and artefacts of Japan, e.g woodcuts with asymmetrical outlines provided vertical lines and height. Celtic, Arabian and ancient Greek patterns inspired the intertwined ribbon patterns.


Charles Rennie Mackintosh- exemplified Art Nouveau in Britain. Studied at the Glasgow School of Art, were he became a member of the "Glasgow Four", in which they invented the Glasgow style of Art Nouveau. In 1889, he joined the firm Honeyman and Keppie were he achieved most of his work.

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Modernism (1900-1930)

  • Modernist architects and designers rejected the old style of designing based on natural form and material.
  • Instead, they believed in "the machine aesthetic" which celebrated new technology, mechanised industry and modern materials that symbolised the new 21st century.
  • The designers rejected decorative motifs, and preferring to emphasise the materials used in pure geometrical forms.
  • The principles spread out through Europe with groups like De Stijl in Holland, Bauhaus in Germany and Futurism in Italy.
  • Le Corbusier, a french architect, thought the buildings should function as "machines for living in" where architecture should be treated like the mass production of products.
  • The result of this was many high-rise blocks of flats with repetitive "cubes" as living spaces.
  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe adopted the motto "less is more" to describe his minimalist aesthetic of flattening and emphasising the buildings frame, eliminating interior walls and adopting open-plan living spaces.
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Bauhaus Modernism (1919-1933)

The Bauhaus building (house for building) is a new school of art and design that was opened in  Germany to help rebuild the country and form a new social order after Germany's defeat in world war 1.

Philosophy: functionalism, reducing the form to the most essential elements by omitting decorative frills


  • "Form follows function"- Featured functional design as opposed to highly decorative design. Simple geometrically pure forms were adopted with clean lines and the elimination of unnecessary clutter.
  • "Products for a machine age"- products respected the use of modern materials and mechanised mass production processes. As a result products looked like they had been made by machines and were not based on natural forms of previous movements
  • "Everyday objects for everyday people"- consumer goods should be functional, cheap and easily mass-produced so that ordinary working class people could afford them.

Designers: Marcel Breuer- best work is the "Wassily" chair, also known as the Model B3 chair, which he designed in 1926. It was revolutionary in the use of materials (bent steel and leather) and methods of manufacturing.

Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe were also key designers of the Bauhaus modernism.

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Art Deco (1925-1939)


  • Popular modernism
  • Opulent architectural and decorative arts style in reaction to post-war austerity


  • geometric forms- popular themes were trapezoidal, zig-zagged, geometric fan motifs.
  • primitive arts- simplified sculptural forms of African, Egyptian and Aztec Mexican art and architecture influenced contemporary designers to omit inessential detail.
  • machine age- Art deco style celebrates the machine age through explicit use of man-made materials, symmetry and repetition. Architecture celebrated man's technological achievements in building skyscrapers and ocean liners.


Eileen Gray- famous work- E-1027 villa in France, and the Bibendum armchair designed for the E-1027

Albert Anis

Walter Dorwin Teague

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Streamlining (1935-1955)


  • It was influenced by the modern aerodynamic designs derived from advancing technologies in aviation and high speed transportation. Celebrating speed and efficiency
  • Consumerism and style
  • New prosperity and widened consumer choice


  • Teardrop shape- perfect shape that represents aerodynamicism. This form became the new aesthetic direction and guided the design of modern products
  • Futuristic design- science fiction provided optimism for a new and better future with sleek rocket shapes and atom designs


Raymond Loewy- designed aerodynamic streamlining for high-speed locomotives. he also created car designs which incorporated new technological features, introducing slanted windshields, built in headlights etc. He also advocated lower, leaner and more fuel efficient cars long before fuel economy became a concern. His most successful car was the "Avanti" (Italian for forward)

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New Design Style/Post Modernism (1975-Present)

Philosophy: Ideal perfection, harmony of form and function and dismissal of decoration. "Less is bore"- expressive and individual as opposed to modernist functionalism

New design style 

  • humour and personality- products were bright and colourful like children toys, often with unnecessary decoration in an attempt to give static objects a personality. this made the products more appealing to the consumer who wanted to express their individuality.
  • Retro design- designers took past movement styles and re-interpreted them in a modern way, with modern materials and technology
  • Deconstruction- a development in architecture where the surface of a building is distorted so that it would not be rectangular. finished visual effect gave an impression of controlled chaos


Philippe Starck- french designer with a diverse range from interior designs to mass produced consumer goods such as toothbrushes, chairs, houses etc. In 1982 he created interior designs for the French President's private rooms. His products are often stylised, streamlined and organic looking. They posses humour and sometimes have names to give them personality.

Other designers include Richard Rogers and Ettore Sottsass, the founder of the Memphis group.

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