Why Bad Taste is Back in Style: Postmodernism and Design's Reaction to Societal Ills

Presented with Chandelier Creative


Roadside America, squiggles, pastel hues, Art Deco, graphic patterns, lacquered surfaces. In the 1980s, designers turned to these and other “low” cultural references as a rejection of the streamlined geometries, minimal color palette, and functionalist aesthetic of “High Modern” design. This shift has been contextualized as a reaction against the larger failures of Modernism, which naively sought to cure societal ills through the imposition of “good design” principles on everything from housing projects to teakettles. In contrast, the “Post-Modern design movement scorned modern orthodoxies, creating books, furniture, architectural structures and other objects that combined discordant formal vocabularies and broke design rules. 

This Olio looks at key objects from Post-Modern design including furniture by the Memphis Group, architecture inspired by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour’s Learning from Las Vegas (1972), and New Wave Typography, asking how do we define good and bad taste? And why is the supposed “bad taste” of Post-Modern design back in style?


Location: Chandelier Creative

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