Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Research Paper on Design

Research Paper on Design

The topic of design, though widely discussed during the recent decades, still lacks much of the theoretical historical background in the form of solid literary pieces that would integrate the material and evidence from the various specialized design fields of the last three centuries.

“The History of modern design: graphics and products since the Industrial Revolution” by David Raizman is an attempt to create such an introductory textbook that offers clear and concise summary and analysis of the main modern design trends, concepts and techniques. Most of the statements made by the author are supported with illustrated descriptions of the art objects or techniques of a certain period of all kinds. The themes under discussion include various forms and fields of design: advertizing posters, paintings, glass, metal, wooden furniture and appliances, etc. “The History of modern design: graphics and products since the Industrial Revolution” is a valuable source of well-arranged illustrated information on the stages of development of the design fields in the modern era.

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In his book David Raizman refers to design in two basic meanings: the first one stands for the elements of artwork and an awareness of the order and arrangements of those elements, while the second refers to “the conception for the completed form of an object that is a preliminary stage in the process that leads to the final product. The latter, “the conception” notion of the design, emerged as a result of the mechanization of production during the nineteenth century. The “form follows function” basis of the modern design has been derived from the needs of the capitalism to sell the products – the consumption largely depended upon the design, marketing and advertising techniques applied to certain goods. Inevitably, the modern design should be studied in the context of the economic conditions it supported. The mass consumption proved that many products satisfied the customer’s desires, reaching far beyond their actual needs and the practical functions the goods offered. The social, psychological and economic motives for purchasing particular goods enable us to understand the way design functions in the society. In support of the statement of social meaning of the consumption, the author mentions the sumptuary law, which aimed at blurring the distinctions between the classes and thus protecting the authority. The law’s enactment resulted in the minimization of consumption and laying-off of the new design development at the same time. The sumptuary law’s relaxation quickly revived commerce and competition, which, in return, stimulated design as the visible expression of attitudes and values of the modern society. Design, for instance, was a significant feature of the display of authority by French monarchy of the seventeenth century; it defined the English middle class a century later and the rebelling spirit of the swinging London of the first decade of the second half of the twentieth century. The stages of design development are contextualized by the art, technology, politics, economics, consumer behavior and many other accompanying factors. The author uses all sorts of examples to evidence the development of the design – from vessels to home appliances – an extensive list of goods determining certain design eras. David Raizman ponders over the intertwining of continuity and change as the main phenomena of the design history, the everlasting competition of an artist and an artisan.

The beginning of the twentieth century – one of the most designer-driven centuries – was the time of the Art Moderne of antebellum Paris. David Raizman begins the XX century chapter with an illustration of the “maison moderne” by Manuel Orazi, a poster, depicting a slim lady sitting next to the contemporary ceramic and glass works of art. He confronts the poster with the facts of two prominent design workshop ventures folding during the first five years of the twentieth century – Sigfried Bing’s La Maison de l’Art Moderne and Julius Meier-Graefe’s La Maison Moderne. The author names two core reasons for the reduction and diffusion of the Art Nouveau market: the competition from the segment of the luxury furniture antiques and the contribution of Gallé and Majorelle art nouveau less expensive serial production design, which might as well have caused the spurn of the more exclusive customers of Bing and Meier-Graefe. The Société des Artistes Decorateurs’ popular idea of the equality of arts and the stimulus of self-expression and innovation embodied in the combination of fine and decorative arts displayed together on the annual Salon d’Automne. At the same time the author emphasizes that the French designers had a reputation for individuality and originality backed by their historical link to the fine art and the craft excellence of the pre-Revolution period. Their search of new sources of inspiration, new themes and directions might have also been provoked, according to David Raizman, by the political and cultural tensions of France and Germany, and the sophisticated French design was simply a response to the simple shapes and rational approach of the German design, favored at the time by the public. The abovementioned Salon d’Automne of 1905 hosted the “Fauves” whose masterpieces were signified by the higher degree of abstraction, bold unnatural colors.

Raizman notes that boldness, eroticism, exoticism and intensity of expression were common for the end of the first decade and the beginning of the second decade of the twentieth century and were aimed at the elite audience. From clothing and visual arts, David Raizman turns to the topic of Modern Art furniture, partially inspired by the French Neoclassical Furniture of the late eighteenth century, but still bold colored, featuring taut curves and bringing the sense of joy, vitality and pleasures, though having symmetrical basis of composition and skilled combination of the constructive forms and the ornaments. The author illustrates the antebellum Art Nouvaeu furniture style with two mahogany armchairs by Maurice Dufrène that exemplify the direction the French designers pursued before the outbreak of World War I. Raizman emphasizes the “simple harmony between structure and decoration” notable for these pieces of art, adding to the “expressive similarity between the fine and the decorative art”. The author summarizes the trends of the French designers and artists of the beginning of the twentieth century as the provision of joy and well-being to the public. He also mentions Henry Matisse’s “Notes of a painter”, where the aim of a canvas to calm and soothe has been compared to “a good armchair which eases a physical fatigue”. David Raizman analyzes the contemporary trends through studying the works of Louis Süe and André Mare (The black ebony cabinet, 1927), the influences of Cubism and the challenges of the new materials and techniques, as in the interior furnishings of Jacques-Emile Ruhlmann (c. 1919, desk, designed for David-Weill residence, beech, amboyena veneer, shagreen, ivory) and Armand Albert Rateau (1922, chaise longue of patinated bronze).

Another dimension of design observed are the block-printer wallpaper depicting skaters by Raoul Dulfy and pink and silvery-white radiating petal shape against a black ground printed silk textile by Paul Poiret, both expressive and vivid in color, bringing the emphasis upon leisure. The works of the latter, including clothing design, were admitted to be quite shocking for the time as these pieces allowed more freedom of movement and a close relationship between the body and the garment (e.g. the “harem” pants for women).

It is important to notice that many glass, textile and furniture designers and craftsmen of the early twentieth century were initially trained as painters or sculptors, which influenced the patterns and techniques used.

The studies of the glass design around the first decade of the twentieth century show a huge interest in experimentation with various techniques as the medium allowed individual and original expression. However, the experimentation began smoothly and bases on strong traditions and influences of Emile Galle. The variety of experiments included the enameling technique of pâte de verre, however clear glass offered more space for the experimentation: relief surfaces, trapping bubbles, streaks and internal decoration all signified the main trends in glass design of the 1920s (the author provides a clear example of such techniques with Maurice Marinot’s bottle with stopper, blown glass with acid-etched decoration). Another bright example of the glass design experiments of the 1920s are the works of René Lalique, who initially created some of the most celebrated examples of the Art Nouveau jewelry but later started working with glass as a transparent medium with textured effects (e.g. the Firebird lamp, glass lamp with bronze base, 1925). Lalique later collaborated with perfumier François Coty in order to design first labels for perfume bottles and the later glass bottles themselves.

Another bright example of experimentation with design in the early twentieth century was Jean Dunand who used various techniques to find new decorative patterns. Dunand learned the lacquering technique from Seizo Sugawara and deepened the process, finding new optimal ways of creating decorative lacquered surfaces (a brilliant example of the black lacquer cabinet is provided as an illustration of the applied techniques).

The Arte Moderne designers began emerging as early as the 1905 but the majority fully developed their skills and techniques after the World War I.

Metal design, also well developed after the WWI, was widely used in the interior decorations, notably in the luxurious ocean liners during the 1920s and 1930s.

Jean Puiforcat, whose metal designs and stone sculpture were both favored by the artist himself, stands for the naturalism trough the means of geometry, balance and regularity. His silver and crystal five-piece tea and coffee service illustrate the rational beauty and geometric precision, particular for the great ocean liners’ most popular design.

The readers meet “the simplified abstraction” in an advertising poster of the luxury liner L’Atlantique by A.M. Cassandre, who believed that poster artists are rather transmitters of the information, not the authors. His sophisticated visual and verbal punning approach to transmitting the idea to the initiated spectator was clear and attractive, e.g. “Dubonnet” poster advertisement, which favors animation imagery or, others believe, the Cubist abstraction.

The end of the World War I broadened the horizons for the Art Modern in terms of the commercial scope. First of all, the commercial potential has increased through the growth of the retail outlets - Sue and Mare’s Companie des Arts Francaises, Rene Joubert’sf Decoration Interieure Moderne, Rulhman’s storefront business and the prominent French department stores have all provided greater possibilities for the creative designers to exhibit and trade their masterpieces.

Another option to grow and be noticed was the large exhibition, such as the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes of 1925 (initially planned from 1911 but delayed due to the outbreak of the World War I). This exhibition was notable in terms of participation: the hostilities with Germany lingered after the war end, and thus German representatives were not invited, while the U.S. designers declined their participation due to the inability to comply with the “pro-modern” design criteria of the organizers. The interiors and furnishings exhibited feature luxurious decoration and rare materials and were rather aimed at the exclusive market than the mass. Some interiors, however, favored angles instead of curves and used or imitated industrial materials like smooth metal sheeting, expanses of plate glass, polished marble and lacquer.

Jean Dunand’s Smoking Room, Francis Jourdain and Pierre Chareau’s Physical culture room and Le Corbusier’s Interior all illustrate different approaches to interior design popular during the first quarter of the twentieth century.

Geometry and the modern industrial forms have been closely intertwined in the design of the early 1920s. The term purism emerged around 1918 to signify the existence of the permanent beauty standards in all forms of art based on harmony, proportion and clarity. The similarities were discovered between different types of goods and objects of art and portrayed in the Purist paintings, e.g. “the mechanically mass-produced flasks and bottles, elementary geometry and the tectonic clarity of the Classical art and architecture”.

According to the Purism idea, all forms were governed by the universal principles of logic and economy. This “mechanical beauty” derived from the classicism offered a basis for all kinds of design. AS a result of these ideas, collective standards and standardized industrial production was favored against the individual approaches to design. The contradictions between the followers of this concept and the Société des Artistes Decorateurs (S.A.D.) which favoured elitist attitudes in design and production resulted in a quarrel over the design principles and targets. The Union des Artistes Modernes (U.A.M.) that followed the split within the S.A.D. obviously favored the factory assembly furnishings bringing new role for the designers in relation to standartization and interchangeability. The switch also enabled further experimentation with the industrial materials, which evoked the modern values of efficiency and hygien. David Raizman illustrates the newly-emerged concepts with the designs of Eileen Grey (the 1927 circular table with adjusted height is a perfect example of the mechanization and industrialization of the design) and Rene Herbst (chaise sandows made of tubular steel and rubber straps). The author also mentions the so-called french terrace chair, of an anomynous design, manufactured from around 1926, which offers a possibility of being conveniently stacked, adding to the utility of the industrial furniture. The author continues with the discussion of the De Stijl principles of balance between the universal and individual.

It is notable that David Raizman uses the most outstanding examples to illustrate the trends in the various fields of the modern design – most of the illustrations are «classical » and well-known to the majority of art and design students, however, the blend of the author’s observations enable to generalize the overall state and trends of design of any period under discussion. Such a generalizing illustrated approach is extremely valuable for understanding of the mutual interdependence of the political, social and cultural trends and the design. It is also important that the author’s literary work stimulates further interest and curiosity on the numerous subjects described. “The History of modern design: graphics and products since the Industrial Revolution” by David Raizman is a useful source of information for the modern design studies.
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