Mathematics, modernity and glamour; the art deco movement began in Paris during the 1920s and changed the design-world forever. Drawing on diverse influences such as neoclassical, constructivism, cubism, modernism and futurism, art deco continued to expand its influence during the 1930s, dominating all areas of design, architecture, accessories and interiors. It also left a lasting mark on the world of art, film and fashion. The linear symmetry of art deco couldn’t be further from the flowing lines, curves and romanticism of its predecessor, art nouveau. Instead of florid detail and opulent swirls, art deco offered a complete diversion, with more in common with minimalist movements such as Bauhaus, both schools sharing an obsession with strong colour, restraint and the beauty of the machine. During the late 1930s and early 1940s art deco saw a decline in popularity, only to see a resurgence of interest in the 1960s, influencing later styles such as Memphis and pop art. Here we take a brief look designs that have been influenced by art deco, and the elements of the movement that exist around us today.
The term art deco originated during the 1960s, a period when interest in the movement was reignited. A classic design from this period is A.M Cassandre’s logo for Yves Saint Laurent, created in 1963, which embraces art deco’s geometric rules and architectural aesthetic.
Art deco is characterised by the use of mathematical shapes and machine-like accuracy, as can be seen in this contemporary re-imagined poster for the Green Lantern superhero. Note the uniformed regularity of the background, the linear outline of the hero and the angular shape of his mask.
MIAU is a local booking and events company for alternative jazz, rock and funk shows, whose name means ‘miaow’ in Romanian. The logo clearly draws from art deco influences, specifically Cassandre’s landmark 1924 design for Pivolo aperitif.
Perhaps due to the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun during the 1920s, art deco also has its roots in the ancient pyramids and tombs of Egypt. Clear examples of this can be seen in the architecture of this period, particularly the ziggurat-like structure of the Fisher Building in Detroit, built in 1928 by Albert Khan Associates.
The Egyptian element of art deco can still be seen making its mark on contemporary fashion, as shown here in these geometric-style embellished gowns from Marc Jacobs in 2011.
The 1920s saw huge leaps forward in the worlds of aviation, ocean liners and rail travel and this is an omnipresent influence on both the content and form of the entire genre. Take a look at this 1991 John Mattos’ art deco style poster to promote the film Rocketeer in the US, to see the theme alive and kicking in the late 20th century.
This re-imagined movie poster for the film Black Swan draws heavily from art deco influences. Note the strong use of colour, the geometric pattern of the raised arms forming the wings of the swan, the contrasting swoop of the animal’s neck and the elegantly understated type face.
Fast-changing cityscapes across the world influenced the art deco movement enormously. Beautifully graceful skyscrapers began to spring up in cosmopolitan cities, particularly in the United States, with the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and the Guardian Building among the most notable. These architectural developments can be seen not only in the subject matter of posters in this period, but also in the design aesthetics. These examples feature several architectural influences, from the upward-thrusting stance of Batman in the first to the organised and vertically projecting faces of the second.
This developing landscape was also reflected in today’s graphic design. This infographic displays multiple art deco influences.
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