Bibechana Pun - BA Graphic and Media Design
The definition of anti-design has evolved, as most definitions tend to do. If we go back to the original roots of the term, we find ourselves in 1960’s Italy where anti-design can be described as ‘a reaction against…the perfectionist aesthetics of Modernism’ (Moffat, 2011).
The aesthetic visualisation of anti-design is in a state of flux as the trends change quickly in our 24/7-terminally-online-social-media world. Fashion, music, art and memes go in and out of style by the hour, it would be impossible to nail down a precise and specific visual as being the poster child representative of 21st Century anti-design. In the simplest way possible, I would describe the movement as being the antithesis to the mainstream, conventional way of thinking. Art is a highly subjective matter, whereas design has rules that must be followed, these rules form the standard expectations of design and are defined by the majority at the time. The subversion of these rules form the foundations of anti-design.
In my opinion, anti-design is simply the next step, the next evolutionary phase that design will eventually undergo once the mainstream becomes irrelevant and fresh ideas are in need. In a paradoxical sense anti-design is the future of design, it just doesn’t know it yet. The daring new designers that ‘eschew[s] traditional design principles’ (12 Inspiring Graphic Design Trends for 2022, 2021) in the present will eventually set the principles for the next generation. Everything that is mainstream now initially began as a niche new way of thinking, a deviation from the norm that was eventually accepted by the majority.
A prominent trend I’ve noticed in both fashion and design recently was that of the return of the Y2K style. Through platforms like TikTok and Instagram the trend was quickly re-invented, popularised and fashionable once again. The nature of fashion is a cyclical one, as is design’s, it just happens at a much slower pace. Anti-design suggests that ‘form doesn’t have to be invented, but [can] also [be] recycled (Martinique, 2016), and so current design trends will form the anti-design trends of the future, and vice versa.
Modern renditions of anti-design can often be found in the experimental parts of the internet where the mainstream is rejected in favour of the weird and ironic. Irony and satire are prevalent forces in online comedy, and the backbone of most viral memes and tweets. I'd argue that internet humour holds an importance in anti-design, and that internet culture in general has seeped into a majority of our everyday lives. A lot of young designers now use social media to connect with like-minded people (especially during the height of the covid pandemic when physical interactions were not possible), and so new design trends that oppose the status quo are born from the internet.
Those that seek to mock the ultra-minimalist, serious, mainstream designs found in almost every app and advert nowadays may choose to exaggerate opposing features to emphasise fun instead by swapping out the gratuitous white space and sparse typography for bright colours and bubble letters that cover every inch of the page. These design trends will eventually come back into the mainstream, and the current ones will fade, until it’s their time to make an appearance again.
In my current internship I find myself facing a predicament in which I must adhere to brand guidelines that are misaligned with my own creative vision. I’ve had to overcome this by learning to detach myself from the corporate designs I create, and set aside time for me to pursue personal projects that are fulfilling in ways my day job is not. These personal projects are, naturally, the opposite of what I make at work. But however hard I may try to keep these two sides separate, it is an inevitable fact that they will influence each other eventually. Themes of anti-design will creep into the works of graphic designers stuck behind office desks, and the cycle continues on.
In conclusion, design and anti-design are two sides of the same coin that's in a constant state of spinning through the air, influencing each other and moving at the same trajectory, yet forever opposing the other. They are reliant on each other, but they will never see eye to eye, and they’re a lot closer to each other than they may think.