Modernism

Logo Modernism from Taschen.

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailpngOver the last seven years, Jens Müller has been collecting and compiling modern logos created from 1940 to 1980. As Müller puts it, this was the golden age of the modernist aesthetic in design, architecture, art, product design. And to a point he is right. Some of the most visually memorable brand marks and logos come from this four decade period. Müller’s collection is what makes up the content of Aachen’s 6000 page tome  Logo Modernism.

The book covers pretty much every business and organization of note, and represents a sweeping retrospective modernism and how the style changed over time. Broken into specific sections the book’s main chapters cover Geometric, Effect, and Typographic. Each sub-chapter breaks down each style even further into sections such as dots and squares, overlays, alphabet, color, etc.The book features an introduction from Jens Müller on the history of logos, and an accompanying essay by R. Roger Remington on modernism and graphic design. In addition there are series of designer profiles on masters of the craft Paul Rand, Yusaku Kamekura, and Anton Stankowski focusing on their legendary work.

In typical Taschen heritage, the book is physically huge. at 10 by 14 inches in size and 432 pages of content. And as always from Taschen, the book is multilingual. It’s available for pre-order and this just made my list of books to add to the reference library. Oh and it’s affordable. Just $69.00 on the Taschen site.

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Friday Inspiration. The Carnegie Mellon Swiss Poster Collection.

I’m always on the look out for good sources of inspiration, and this morning I found a great one. The Carnegie Mellon Swiss Poster Collection with over 300 images from 1970 through 2009. The extensive collection was established by Swiss graphic designer Ruedi Ruegg and Professor Daniel Boyarski, and contains works from designers Max Bill, Paul Bruhwiler, Ruedi Kulling, Herbert Leupin, Josef Muller-Brockmann, Roger Pfund, Ruedi Ruegg, Niklaus Troxler, Wolfgang Weingart, Kurt Wirth, R. Schraivogel, Cornel Windlin, and many more.

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Paris Kabbinet from Septembre.

A little over six months ago my wife and I made a very conscious choice to downsize my living space by moving from just under 2000 square feet of modern expanse into 1000 square feet of urban loft. I’m still getting use to the reduced footprint and the challenges that come with it. One thing I do know is, it requires a much more minimal lifestyle, and you use every inch of your space. There is no room for clutter, or things you don’t use. This is why I can appreciate the Kabbinet project from Septembre Architecture. This 85 square meter apartment (approximately 915 square feet) features smart built in furniture that functions as seating as well as storage.

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The former manufacturing workshop in a Parisian alley uses the multifunctional wooden cabinetry to line the perimeter of the space opening up the central living area to create a sense of larger volume. High end finishes and a simple black and white color pallet help make the small space feel larger and exaggerate the feeling of luxury living in a small footprint.

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An Animated History of Art and Design.

When I was in art school, there was a mandatory amount of art history classes you had to take in order to get your degree. I think I was required to take one class a semester for each year. In the end I ended up taking many more than I was required to. Some were great, and some simply sucked. The suckage was partly due to the instructor, partly to the materials, and I’m sure partly due to my lack of engagement.

All of this brings me to a great series of animated shorts from The Open University. There are six in all and they cover some of the most important sections in art and design moving from Gothic Revival to Post Modernism. The animations are short, feature a nice illustrative style, a modernist take on typography, and a great section of color pallets. All six are below.

“Coast Modern” a film by Mike Bernard and Gavin Froome.

One week ago I gave up my stewardship of a Studio 804 house in Kansas City Kansas and downsized, moving to a loft downtown. The contrast in architectural styles and size is pretty dramatic. The loft however does a really nice job of blending minimal modernism with the architectural style of a building that was erected in 1905.  Eventually, what I would really love, is to be living in a modest, modern home on the central coast of California.

I have always been drawn to California modernism for a number of reasons, and I am quite excited by “Coast Modern” an independent documentary by Mike Bernard and Gavin Froome. Their film travels the West Coast north from LA to Vancouver showcasing the pioneering architects that invented West Coast Modernist Architecture. The film shows the interior and exteriors of iconic modernist masterworks and shows how the buildings were designed to work in collaboration with the natural environment.

The film doesn’t have any screening dates here in Kansas City as of yet, but hopefully that will change. Based on the trailer, this looks like an exciting documentary for all architecture fans.

Design Friday. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Barcelona Chair.

Last Friday I did a Design Friday post on the B.F.K. Chair by Jorge Hardoy. After I posted it I got an email from someone who had read it asking about other famous “mid-century modern” chairs like the “Barcelona Chair” by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. So I thought I would do a little post on that chair today.

First off, the Barcelona chair is NOT mid-century modern. It often gets lumped in with that period of furniture do to the fact that it shows up in so many interior architecture photos from the late 40’s through mid 60’s. The fact is though, the chair was designed 20 years before mid-century modernism starts, in 1929 for the German pavilion at the International Exposition in Barcelona Spain.

At the time van der Rohe shouldered a huge responsibility to create a special building that would announce Germany’s rebirth as a country of  cultural prowess, showcase their creative achievements and commercial viability in the 10 years following WWI.

The frame was originally designed to be bolted together, but was redesigned in 1950 using welded stainless steel. The new process allowed the frame to form a seamless piece of metal, giving it a smoother and more refined appearance. In addition, cow leather replaced the ivory-colored pigskin which was used with the original chairs from previous decades. The functional design and manufacturing elements of the chair that were patented by van der Rohe in Germany, Spain and the United States in the 1930s have since expired. Which has led to numerous knock-offs and fakes being produced world wide for far less money.

The “Barcelona chair” was manufactured in the US and Europe in limited production from the 1930s to the 1950s. In 1953 van der Rohe ceded his rights and his name on the design to Knoll, knowing that his design patents were expired, and realizing that Knoll was in a position to effectively promote the chair. The collaboration between van der Rohe and Knoll renewed popularity of the original design. Knoll is still the current licensed manufacturer and holder of all trademark rights to the design. In 1965, Knoll purchased the trademark rights to the Barcelona word from Drexel. In 2004, Knoll received trade dress rights to the design from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Despite the trademarks that Knoll holds, a large replica market continues to this day. Gordon International  has continued to manufacture the chair and accompanying furniture since the mid 1970s, even after a court battle against Knoll in 2005.

“van der Rohe’s Barcelona chair is an icon of “modernism”. The chair’s design was inspired by the campaign and folding chairs of ancient times. By transposing an ancient and regal design into a modern setting, the van der Rohe enjoyed instant acclaim. The chair was shown off perfectly in the environment of the Pavilion. Royal visitors, it is said, did not actually take advantage of this newly designed seating accommodation, but the chair quickly attained the reputation of being “a design worthy of kings”.”