The Memphis Movement

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You know the crazy chaotic patterns of the 1980s and 1990s? The ones that you saw in the Saved By The Bell intro or on Will Smith’s clothes in the Fresh Prince of Bel Air are some of the most iconic seamless patterns in graphic design – and they’re making a comeback.

If you’ve read an earlier post about my love of the 90s, then you’ll know that the resurgence of these insane patterns of squiggly lines has got me excited.

The Commonwealth Edison Substation by SUPER

Of course this style has a name other than “awesome crazy colourful geometric patterns”. This style is called Memphis and it doesn’t just relate to graphic design. The History of Graphic Design website states the movement began in the 1980s when Italian designer Ettore Sottsass founded the Memphis Group in Milan where it designed post-modern furniture, fabrics, ceramics, glass and metal objects. Curbed reports that the Memphis movement illustrates the hallmarks of postmodern ‘80s design with its strong geometric motifs, mixed materials, clashing and saturated colours, and a repudiation of anything streamlined and tasteful.

The style doesn’t suit everyone. From an interior design perspective the furniture is bizarre to say the least. It’s playful and bold, rebellious and intrepid and, quite frankly, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s a movement that’s hard to bypass as its bold colours and eye-catching graphics are so prominent and recognisable.

Noises by Andrew Colin Beck
Noises by Andrew Colin Beck

Neiger Design says the following are just a few elements that define the Memphis movement:

  • Flat, vector style design
  • Black and white geometric or organic patterns juxtaposed with bright pastels or bold blocks of color
  • Zig zags, squiggles, and other erratic images throughout the design
  • Graphic sans serif fonts

So if you notice any of these in designs anywhere chances are they are following the current trend that is known as Memphis. All the designs I’ve seen have a nostalgic vibe to them and they’re actually really fun and interesting to create. Go on, load up Illustrator and start playing around now. Throw on The Breakfast Club too while you’re at it and get into the swing of the resurgence of this increasingly popular design style.

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