My name is Liza, and I’m an Illustration and Visual Media student. As a design student and an intern, I often feel challenged with an idea of the extent to which design should evolve. During brainstorming, designers throw ideas around, bounce them off each other, desperately looking for the one that works. I believe that there is no right or wrong in the design. There is only an endless number of options and paths to take. This notion can be supported by the fact that art movements like Anti-design existed side-by-side with Modernism, defying and challenging its main principles. Anti-design artists pursued different ideas, creating unique objects ‘rather than embracing style, mass production, consumerism and sales. I will look at whether the work of the Anti-design movement is still relevant today and what form it takes.
The design scene always had both mainstream and an underground look. These two complement each other and make the design better in the long run. Although, in the short period when the rivalry reaches its climax, some design outcomes can appear to be nothing but radical and consequently short-lived. The Anti-design movement was the opposite reaction to the mainstream, so even though it didn’t class itself as an underground movement, it certainly acquired some of its primary features. An example of design whose sole’s purpose was to challenge Modernist design principles is a series of cupboards designed by Ettore Sottsass (1966). Objects that are decorative and abstract made it to art history books but not our homes. Maybe the reason is the cheap, fragile materials used to make these monoliths looking cupboards. Maybe a rebellious nature of the movement and focus on bizarreness was a limiting factor that didn’t let the Anti-Design outscore mainstream Modernism?
On the other hand, despite thriving for uniqueness, bright colours and unusual forms, there was a major preoccupation with space and storage within the movement. They were exploring ways in which their designs could become collapsible or stackable. This has led to the creation of the Selene chair by Vico Magistretti (1966). The name we are more familiar with now is stackable plastic chair. Back then, it was revolutionary because it allowed the user to participate in the design process by stacking chairs together. Such a radical decision proclaimed the Anti-design artists as forward-thinking and innovative. By creating a product that brings designer and user to the same level, the design industry began to accommodate its products to the needs of society and not vice versa. Years later, affordable essential goods will be available at a range of prices and colours. However, at the same time, new desirable products will be invented, more sophisticated, rarer, the ones that distinguish an individual from others.
It's important to mention the role of the Anti-design movement in the making of these desirable products. The ones that stand out because of their unusual look do not class as necessities and have an aesthetically pleasing appearance. The beauty of an object built or made is one of the central elements that influences an individual's health and society’s wellbeing. Nowadays, it's normal to purchase a product that brings you joy but doesn't serve any function. However, it probably seemed unnecessary to design a Reversible Vase (Enzo Mari) in 1969. Sophisticated and thoughtfully executed object, designed to accommodate the needs of modern households. Now, you can access dozens of products online by typing reversible vases in the search engine. And the customers are buying the products that fit their interior, make their lives easier or happier. The Anti-design movement might not be around anymore, but its core principles have stuck around for a while.
In conclusion, the Anti-design movement was a unique period that shaped the contemporary design market. It challenged visual uniformity and the traditional definition of aesthetic. A new aesthetic was born that opened another pool of ideas and opportunities that inspires designers up until this day. Challenging the mainstream design appears to be a good tradition to keep the design field fresh and relevant. While some of the movement's designs disappeared over time, others flourished in new environments. New generations of designers found creative ways to accommodate Anti-design principles and use them for good. As a creative, I agree that design is an ever-growing and evolving industry that becomes too homogenous sometimes. However, I believe that good ideas always matter and will be noticed. Not every good design is great, and that is the trick.
Rokusek | Marketing by Design. 2020. Antidesign is the new design - Rokusek | Marketing by Design. [online] Available at: <https://rokusek.com/2020/10/antidesign-is-the-new-design/> [Accessed 5 December 2021].