Design History and Styles: Late Modernism

Brief “research” on the most influential style the last 6-7 decades

The Swiss International Style
The emphasis is on typography. The style use sentences, words, and letters as an active part of the layout and communication. The style fuses the text with the imagery and makes them inseparable as a message. This makes for a product specific composition and the message promoted.

What’s new is the technology. And new ways of systematizing a design process for mass production. Fonts could be reproduced with exact copies. Not typically hand-drawn as with i.e Jugend.

Typefaces are usually bold sans serifs. Often it takes up a lot of real estate on the displayed surface. It is often designed in an asymmetric way, in line with a grid-system and/or structured hierarchically. Line-height is typically uniform, the same height between heading and body copy is not unusual. Fonts have high x-height making it more suitable for larger typefaces and shorter copy. All text received a lot of attention and whitespace for legibility and readability.

The main philosophy behind the style was to distance the designer from the personal and subjective, unlike traditional artist and painters, but rather design with the respect for the intention, in an objective way, supporting purpose and properties, and also for the whole consumer experience. However, this does not mean that the designer’s way of solving problems shouldn’t be unique and personal. It simply means that a designer’s own interpretation of a product should not come across.

I think we could use the phrase “form follows function” to better describe this movement? Though this phrase is somewhat misunderstood, and also very complex to describe, it originally pointed to the function of the object, and that its purpose would shape it naturally. Like a tree and its leafs. I can’t determine what the function of a leaf really is just by an eyeballing it. Its shape is adapted to how it’s supposed to work (or maybe it works the way it does because of the shape? Who knows? Darwin?), but is doesn’t tell me how it works. That I have to learn.

Anyway, I would perhaps rephrase to “form follows intentions”? The intended use and purpose of any design could be visible or at least pushed forward? Functions have to be learned anyway. I don’t think instinct can help us here. And after we have learned how it works, then intuitively we know how things work by observing its shape and properties. This is how a designer can form a shape, base it on what people already know, and from there take it a bit further.

“Ornament is a crime” is another phrase I think could be appropriate to use to describe this particular design style. Simply put, decoration of any kind, that would obscure the design product’s intentions, should be removed. Obvious really? Cheers!


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