The History of Design on Modernism and Post Modernism


Art comprises of several elements which when put together, can help achieve functional and decorative purposes. In every still art design, the designer’s objective is to develop a theme and to communicate that theme to whoever reads that piece of art. This is achieved through the use of alignment, repetition, contrast, colors and shapes. Of particular importance is contrast due to its application in the separation of objects within the same space. Where the elements in a picture are significantly different, contrast is used to show the differences in materials, patterns, structures and even texture of the pictures. Differences in design periods can also be depicted through the use of contrast to represent different construction materials, layouts and positioning relative to other elements in the picture. Still life presentations are more likely to have contrasts in elements as shown in the below picture.


Image Analysis

The discourse on the application of contrast in design is extensive due to the possibilities that contrast reveals in art. Design has undergone a series of transformations in terms of the diligence, considerations and outcomes from the process over the years. In furniture design for instance, consideration of different consumer aspects has to be made in the planning and construction of the furniture intended for the user. For instance, most of the medieval furniture used wood, iron and brass extensively as the materials of construction.  In the era of modernism between 1945 and 2000, most good were made by machine rather than by hand. This indicated a shift from analog designing to the digital designing processes. Aspects such as organic modernism also came to rise in the era, whereby artists focused more on curvilinear elements, resulting in softer and fluid images.

Figure 1 above depicts a transition through periods of art and design where there was flow from the more rugged, simple designs to the softer and warmer designs. Through the use of contrast in picture representation, designers distinguished their works from those of others from different ages or periods in history. For instance, comparing the antique and the vintage furniture in the figure above reveals interesting information based on the concept of contrast. One of the key aspects of these pictures is how color has been used differently across the different designs to show different features. In the vintage furniture depiction, natural colors have been used to depict contrast such that each feature is depicted in its natural color or the closest to it. The intensity of the colors are also different such that one can easily decipher the seat, which is white, from the walls and the glass which are a different shade of white. In the antique design on the other hand, the same color is used in different hues. Through the use of lines, patterns and effective shading, contrast was obtained across different features in the picture.

The differences between the antique design and the vintage design therefore show a divergence in design themes, with the antique one showing the desire for harmony through similarity while the vintage one represents harmony obtained through distinction. Each of these images is effective in communicating the uniqueness of the designer and their capacity to create desire. Similarly, the art décor image and the retro furniture, both use distinctive patterns, repetition and great contrast in communicating about the prowess of the designer. In the retro design, a combination of colors reflects contrasting color combinations, help to include even the minutest details into the picture hence giving the perfect still life image. Kirkham (18) describes this as a key feature of post modernist designs, which distinguishes them from the modernist and other period designs. The same effect was observed in several other designs studied in class. For instance, each of the designs depicted in figure 2 below has a unique application of the aspect of contrast, which brings out the differences in their specific features. Figure 2 (b) shows a laboratory setting, presumably with individuals conducting pilot studies on an engineering subject. The use of color to show contrasting objects helps to bring out the crowded space being used by those in the laboratory. Moreover, the contrasting colors also show how different the items in the space are. Disarray is portrayed even more through the use of contrasting shapes and lines.

In figure 2(c), contrast is also used to depict differences both in the ideological accomplishment and in the functionality of the items depicted. The design is such that the lower images are in a clear white color, which could be taken to mean lack of clarity in the innovation. The upper pictures depicted I blacks, reds and greens show a time of better understanding, more functional innovations and general clarity in terms of ideas and their implementation. These designs and others described before them, all use contrast in one way or the other to depict temporal differences not only in the perceptions of the world but also in how they affect life. The modernism and post modernism designs incorporate many forms of art into the modeling process, resulting in greater visibility and even more clarity in the implementation process.



Works Cited

Kirkham, Pat. Humanizing modernism: the arts, ‘functioning decoration’ and the Eameses. Journal of Design History, vol. 11, no. 1, (1998), pp. 15- 29.

Williamson, Carlinea. What are the different types of furniture styles? House of Home, 2017 March 28. Retrieved from