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Definition of modernism

The modernist movement in the arts originally rose out of wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In particular the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by the horror of World War I, influenced and shaped Modernism.

Visually Modernism was a move away from realism. Under the influence of contemporary art movements like cubism, surrealism and dadism graphic designers stopped creating realistic images and began to express themselves in a more abstract way. Unnecessray detail was stripped away and only those forms which were necessary were included. To the eye modernist designs were simpler, using block colour and shapes or outlines. In design generally (furniture, archirecture, etc.) the modernist movement made use of modern materials such as glass and metal. The final result was derived logically from the design brief, the function of the object. Hence the modernist maxim "form from function".

Design schools such as the Bauhaus School in Germany nurtured modernist ideas between the first and second world wars.

Modernism is a broad term and many groups of designers expressed the modernist philosophy in their own way, resulting in many sub-movements with modernism, such as constructivism in graphic design, brutalism in architecture, the international style of typography etc.

Ultimately, another cultural shift in the 1960s initiated a reaction against modernism. Many designers rejected the logical strictures of Modernism, resulting in what is now referred to as Post-Modernism. Modernist ideas have never been completely eclipsed, however, and many designers still consider themselves modernists.

Examples of modernism

Modernist architecture

Don college is a modernist building, to some people ugly on the outside but to modernist architects a brilliant yet simple idea for a building that connects to nature

Modernist graphic design

Modernist designers

Paragraphs on modernist designers including examples of their work, and their ideas about design. I suggest Mies van der Rohe, Jan Tischold, Walter Gropius Wassily Kandinsky as starting points.

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