An Introduction to Design and Culture in the Twentieth Century

An Introduction to Design and Culture in the Twentieth Century

An Introduction to Design and Culture in the Twentieth Century

An Introduction to Design and Culture in the Twentieth Century

Excerpt

Now that 'Design' is understood from Tokyo to Moscow, from Buenos Aires to Montreal, it is obvious that each country according to its politics, its economics, its sociology, its industry, uses 'Design' in a different way; but one must add that a universal language is being constructed daily.

This book is about design and culture in the twentieth century. The word 'culture' is used throughout the text in its most democratic sense, that is, as a concept which embraces the ideas and values expressed by modem society as a whole, rather than one which only touches one level of human endeavour. In parallel, design is understood here as a phenomenon which affects everybody.

This definition of culture has to be considered within a broad context which subsumes economics, politics and technology as these are the forces which have determined the dominant cultural patterns in modem society. Design is also formed and sustained by these forces and, as a result, designed artefacts act as cultural ciphers. In this book, I have set out to examine both the way in which culture has influenced design in this century and the manner in which design has, in its turn, played a part in creating culture through the objects, institutions, personalities and the patterns of behaviour and thought that have accompanied it. Since 1900 design and culture, in this wide sense, have become increasingly interdependent and the implications of this relationship will re-emerge constantly in the following chapters.

My main thesis is that, within the framework of industrial capitalism which created it and continues to dominate it in contemporary Western society, design is characterized by a dual alliance with both mass production and mass consumption and that these two phenomena have determined nearly all its manifestations. Like Janus, design looks in two directions at the same time: as a silent quality of all mass-produced goods it plays a generally unacknowledged but vital role in all our lives . . .

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