Design For Change

In this particular lesson we explored how design has been used as a force for “social change” and its role in activism and ideological movements. We tried to focus more on examining the the supposed idealism of the modern movement at the beginning of the twenties (20th century) were able to translate into products and buildings that shape people’s lives.

Idealism and Design 

The idea that has been the most influential but has also shaped the design culture in the past 100 years has to be the fact that design itself has the power to influence society in order to improve making life a better place and saying this not just for the rich or elite but for everyone due to “cheap mass-manufacturing” so therefore being able to cater to all.

This particular idea is key in terms of MODERNISM – which is a term that refers to a huge range of practitioners, styles and ideas based on design which have collectively shaped and defined Design as a whole in the twentieth century.

Modernism was just not simply a style: but more of an attitude, a determination to break from the past which was able to gradually dominate the attitude towards art and design.

What Is Modernism ? 

Firstly modernism is a movement that began in the 1900s, early modernism was inspired by arts and crafts influential idea about “good design”.

Then modern design was characterised as being “frugal / utilitarian / masculine / industrial, as opposed to decorative / feminine / primitive”

What influenced the intense interest in the whole idea of reforming society was the first world and design was in the forefront of these supposed discussions. Especially architects or architecture as a whole – central to the influence of modernists.


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“Bauhaus” – the new kinds of arts education which  was a combination of all types of creative practice. Incredibly influential even though it was short lived  as it was shut down by the Nazis.

Postmodernism and the Rise of Activism 

Following the “modernism movement” more movements raised but not based on design, more on human rights such as struggle for civil rights, Peace Movement and anti-Vietnam war protests across Europe and USA etc. Artists and writers described this supposed new culture as ‘postmodernism’ and described it a condition of confusion and uncertainty, in a case whereby a sense of ‘self’ was increasingly fragmented.

In the 1970s and 1980s faced a reaction against modernism and and its utopian ideologies. Till today ‘Modernism’ has not been replaced but rather an increasing rise of ‘activism’.

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