Industrial design

Design and industrialisation have been building up an impressive history for over a century. While the relationship may initially have been difficult – the 19th century saw the transition from manual labour to industrialisation and characters such as William Morris explicitly continued to champion traditional production – the 20th century demonstrated that machine production does not necessarily have to lead to inferior objects. Moreover, new ideas increasingly determined the design philosophy. Form was matched to function and decoration largely lost ground. By promoting a type of design that responded to the context of the machine, the quality of industrial production was improved. The slogan ‘art and technology, a new entity’ was indicative of the new Bauhaus trend in 1923. Individualised production made room for industrial standardisation. In subsequent decades, industrial functionalism increasingly became the paradigm for good design. Functional products with a clear and rational design completely organised everyday life, not only for the elite but also for the general public. The 1960s were years of triumph for functional design and for faith in technology and progress. Design and production processes became highly technological and specialised and clearly intended for mass production.

However, this does not mean that the paths of the industrial and the non-industrial have to diverge completely. Scandinavian design demonstrates that it is possible to build up a rich history of industrial design based on traditional crafts. However, industrial designers have also written history with designs in which they play in a surprising way with concept, humour, memory, decoration, etc. and build up a more mental relationship with the user. This produced icons such as the Joe Sofa (1968) by Gionatan De Pas, Donato D’Urbino and Paolo Lomazzi.

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