Sunday, March 21, 2010

American Kitsch

1945 marked the end of World War 2, which meant there was a general atmosphere of optimism about the future in the air. This was the zeitgeist of the time; looking to the future with bright-eyed optimism. There was mass excitement about the technological innovations and advancements which were occurring, and designs at that time were taking a futuristic turn. Aerodynamics, and space crafts heavily influenced the design of products in this era. Products had to look "modern", however much of the styling was superficial and had nothing to do with the function of the product itself.

The word kitsch literally means "in bad taste", and designs associated with this era are often pretentious and vulgar, but often have a sentimental theme behind them. It started as a radical movement, emerging from the emergence of sub-groups in American culture, but eventually became mainstream. The sub-group icon, James Dean, heavily influenced the beginning of the movement in America, as he promoted a rebellious image to society.

Aeroplanes were perhaps the greatest influence on 50's design, there were dynamic curves and lines, and themes of space travel. Aerodynamic styling found its way into automobiles and architecture, with many buildings having a "space age" feel to them.

In terms of type, casual scripts and italics ere typical of the design at that time. The text was generally loose, and crazy. While designs themselves were constructed using semi-geometrical curves and quasi-modern looks. The electric guitar and jukebox, created in this era, were manufactured with aeroplanes and aerodynamics in mind. Posters and packaging at this time usually depicted people with exaggerated expressions, cartoon looks and caricatures. Drama was usually emphasised, script was hand drawn, and the colour scheme was bright and loud. Another characteristic of design at this time was the used of disembodied heads, seemingly floating around the page.

In comparison to today's society, it seemed like a much more innocent time to live in. The atom bomb was used in a romantic way to sell many products and services.

Many modern designs reference this era of design, there has been a revival in kitsch-style appliances and car interiors.

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