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A term used by many critics of streamlined, gaudy, ephemeral—particularly American—products in the years following the Second World War. Typical of this breed was American writer‐curator Edgar Kaufmann Jr., who wrote a celebrated article entitled ‘Borax—or the Chromium‐Plated Calf’ in the Architectural Review of October 1948. He warned British readers of the dangers of ephemeral design, obsolescence, and superficial styling, characteristics that were essentially antithetical to the Modernist aesthetic of clean, abstract forms and the tenets of ‘Good Design’. These were promulgated by organizations such as the Council of Industrial Design (see Design Council) in Britain, the Deutscher Werkbund in Germany, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. ‘Borax’ is thought to derive from 1920s American slang for showy product promotions offered by the Borax soap company.

Subjects: Industrial and Commercial Art.

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