Contemporary Design & Mass Culture, B

Ever since the war ended, different aspects of life, such as the economy, technology, as well as architecture and design had gone through numerous transformation. Shapes, forms, materials, color-palettes, ornamentation, and methods of construction of objects became simpler, more mass-produced, and highly advertised in order to accommodate the modern society who experienced the loss after the war and demanded a much more efficient lifestyle. In the 1960s, the division between “good design” and mass-production began to somewhat blurry as home furniture and accessories stores, such as Habitat marketed their goods on interior displays (Raizman, p. 318). In addition, synthetic plastic became the new and popular material for the production of furniture. For instance, British industrial designer, Robin Day designed the Polyprop Chair in 1963, from which the name of the seating corresponded to polypropylene, a synthetic plastic used as the main material (Raizman, p. 317). Since people were looking for more ease and efficiency in furniture, these chairs were designed to be stackable; hence, they became easy to store, and people were able to save some space in their homes. Although there was a connection between home furnishing and fine arts, these mass-produced goods were more sleek and simplified in general as designers and the overall society opted for standardization because of its easy assembly and lower production cost. Furniture, kitchen appliances, home accessories, and even automobile were more streamlined and rectilinear in form and subdued in color.

Later, the demand of mass-production had apparently influenced the development of mass culture and mass design. Formica, the new plastic material was introduced in 1964 at the New York World’s Fair (Raizman, p. 338). This plastic material was usually attached to plywood and used on kitchen furniture. As Formica became more widely advertised, people were able to use the material as prefabricated goods and adjust the design according to individual’s personal taste. Later, this influenced the modern society, especially the younger generation to express their individuality and freedom in every aspect of life, such as fashion, arts, design, music, and so on. Fringes or sub-cultures were also created as diversity among groups, such as women, homosexuals, and racial minorities became more visible. These groups were determined to make a statement and get their voices recognized, which was identified by their choices in bold clothing and rock ‘n roll music. The emergence of the Beatles was one of the highlights of this new philosophy (Raizman, p. 341). In addition, the search for self-expression led to a number of protests and the emergence of rebellions. The Pop Art style, led by Andy Warhol, was also the product of this new movement (Raizman, p. 342). From the use of mass media, the rebels expressed their protests against discrimination and conformity through graphic design. Posters and album covers were artistically designed as tools for speaking on behalf of freedom. Wall graffiti was also popular among the youth groups as a way of getting their political and social opinion across. This had affected interior design to move towards a more free and contemporary approach. Influenced by the Pop Art movement, design became more abstract, whimsical, and somewhat experimental, which reflected the identity of the young and more liberal minds. The Donna chair, designed by Gaetano Pesce was one of the examples from the Pop Art movement that represented the freedom of women. The curvilinear form and feminine features suggested women figures, whereas the attached, sphere ottoman reflected how women became prisoners in their own society (Raizman, p.348). 


In conclusion, the 1960s was the era of experimentation as people began to search for their identity, develop new attitude, and use design to communicate their minds and ideas in order to be accepted in the society. How do you think Pop Art has affected design today? Was the movement crucial in the development of contemporary design or do you think the whole idea of speaking against conformity was a mess and unorganized? Explain. How was the new materials, such as plastic and Formica, been applied today in design? Give examples.