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Streamlined Design Movement

Updated on January 12, 2013

Have you ever wondered why the things you see in everyday life look the way they do? Why buildings are shaped the way they are? Why particular buildings, cars, and other objects look more appealing to us? Why that one cabinet in your kitchen sticks out a little bit too far so you always walk into the darn corner? (eh... maybe that one is just me)

Anyway, these things are all part of design. Product designers, engineers, and architects all take into consideration many things when putting together any sort of product, and throughout the years all of the design decisions these people have made created many key movements and styles which have led to contemporary design.

Here are a series of hubs which go through the major design and style movements of the late 19th and 20th century which have led to how design decisions are made today, starting first with one of my personal favorites, streamlining.


Characteristics

  • Aerodynamic
  • Rounded edges
  • Teardrop shapes


Streamlining

One of the most striking and pivotal movements in modern design was the Streamlining movement which occurred in the early 20th century, from 1930 - 1950. Much different than that of International Style's functionalism, streamlining designs were characteristically of one sleek, seamless body.

Streamlined design originated when the demand for transportation was booming - with the rise of personal vehicles, railroads, and air transportation - and the shapes this design imposed on these products gave them the appearance of going fast. "Speed" meant modern in the 40's (and still does) with the advent of airplanes and faster, cheaper cars.

Streamlined design even became such a perceived part of modern design that it moved from products in which it was part of the functionality of the product (cars, planes) to being used in other products (fans, chairs) which did not need to be streamlined to improve functionality but were simply stylized in this fashion to imply that it is a "modern" product, worthy of a wealthy, modern American in the 40's and 50's


A greyhound bus station which exhibits some streamlining elements - the buses themselves do as well.
A greyhound bus station which exhibits some streamlining elements - the buses themselves do as well.
A streamlined toaster
A streamlined toaster
designed in the early beginnings of the streamlining era, this car is a perfect example of streamlining design
designed in the early beginnings of the streamlining era, this car is a perfect example of streamlining design
The Dymaxion Car - which seated up to 11 people and made roughly 30 miles per gallon - better than most cars manufactured today
The Dymaxion Car - which seated up to 11 people and made roughly 30 miles per gallon - better than most cars manufactured today

Dymaxion Designs


The word "Dymaxion" is a portmanteau, or combination, of the words dynamic, maximum, and ion used to brand a series of inventions by Buckminster Fuller. These very peculiar inventions included:

  • Dymaxion House
  • Dymaxion Car
  • Dymaxion Map
  • Dymaxion Chronofile

Both the Dymaxion house and car feature elements of streamlining in their design. They also epitomized Buckminster Fuller’s term “ephemerialization” – doing more for less, eventually getting to the point of doing everything for nothing.


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