Design Dictionary

To help make sense of the various concepts and styles that influenced European design, IMA Curator Craig Miller divided the exhibition into two major movements, Modernism and Postmodernism, which exemplify the dispute of function verses artistic concept. The remaining terms are sections which fall under one of these two movements.

Viewed design as industry—the creation of functional, mass-produced objects.
Viewed design as art—the appreciation of artistic concept.
Decorative design
Based on the Postmodernist design-as-art ideal promoted by Memphis and Alchymia, this approach to design was more about extending a decorative, historicizing tradition.
Expressive design
This Postmodernist mode viewed the purpose of design as the creation of sculptural objects, with little regard for functional purpose.
Geometric minimal design
This approach reinvigorated one of the most influential aspects of Modernist design: the concept of functional objects based on simple geometric shapes.
Biomorphic design
Modernist in its concern for function, this approach looked to the natural world for its aesthetics.
Neo-Pop design
Harkening back to the Pop Art movement of the 1960s and 70s, this Modernist design mode celebrated a straight-forward, light-hearted and playful aesthetic approach to object design.
Conceptual design
A movement in which concept was more important than function.
Neo-Dada/Surreal design
Arising in the mid-1980s and becoming stronger in the late 1990s, these Postmodernist designers looked to the Dada and Surrealist art movements of the early 20th century for inspiration, creating non-functional objects that served as metaphors for society.
Neo-Decorative design
An early 21st-century return to the earlier Decorative movement, this design mode brought the 20-year cycle full circle.