The mid-century modern design era was a golden age of architecture and design. It is a style that is difficult to define, but a common thread in the creations of the time was a focus on function before form. This idea led to minimal and sleek designs. But how did we get here? Some say it is the American response to global modernism movements like Bauhaus. Others say it was a post-war race to house and modernize American suburbs. A look at the design periods in the early 20th century can provide clarity into mid-century modern history.
Age of Modernism (1900-1910)
The Industrial Revolution and massive scientific discoveries of the 19th century paved the way for designers in the new millennium to be inspired by new technology. Early 20th-century designers pursued exciting and innovative approaches to art and design.
Art Deco (1910-1929)
Following the early age of modernism, Art Deco was born. This style stemmed from the “arts décoratifs” style developed in France. French designers and textile makers were considered by many at the time as artists. This style emphasized geometric forms and straight lines and was inspired by the industrial movement. Other popular styles spurred by Art Deco include Bauhaus and International Style, leading to the total domination of Art Deco around the world.
Streamline Modern (1930-1938)
The roaring 20s came to a screeching halt with the 1929 Wall Street crash, and along with it came a more streamlined design. Designers of this era removed all the previous excess of Art Deco and created more industrial and subtle pieces. Notably, this period is when curves were introduced, achieving an aerodynamic effect.
War Years (1939-1944)
Perhaps most important to mid-century modern history was the beginning of World War II, which shifted the creative focus to propaganda and industrial innovation in 1939. Graphic designers focused on advertising, which consumers quickly grew tired of. With people desperate for something new and optimistic after the war, the mid-century modern movement was born.