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This movement originated in Italy in the 1960s as a reaction against what many avant‐garde designers saw as the impoverished language of Modernism, the emphasis placed on style and the aesthetics of good form by many leading manufacturers and celebrated designers. This sense of dissatisfaction with the increasingly widespread diminution of the social relevance of design at the expense of capitalist enterprise had been increasingly aired during the 1950s, particularly in the context of the Milan Triennali. It was also mirrored in the wider economic, political, social, and cultural debates that gripped Italy in the 1960s.

Ettore Sottsass Jr was a key exponent of the Anti‐Design outlook, as were the Radical Design groups Archigram and Superstudio, all expressing their ideas in the production of furniture prototypes, exhibition pieces, and publication of manifestos. Anti‐Design sought to harness the social and cultural potential of design rather than embrace style as a means of increasing sales. Where Modernism was typified by notions of permanence, Anti‐Design embraced the ephemerality of Pop (shown at the Venice Biennale of 1964), consumerism, and the language of the mass media; where the Modernist palette was generally muted with a prevalence of blacks, whites, and greys, Anti‐Design explored the rich potential of colour. Where Modernism admired the integrity of material properties in their own right, Anti‐Design embraced ornament and decoration. Furthermore, where Modernism inclined to concepts of Good Design and the adage ‘form follows function’, Anti‐Design considered the expressive potential of kitsch, irony, and distortion of scale, characteristics that were also to become hallmarks of Postmodernism and important features of Memphis design.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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