Sunday, January 3, 2010

Extruded Time

Some of the more iconic styles of the 80s haven't aged very well — specifically the cutting edge Memphis design style, championed by the ledgendary Ettore Sottsass. A break from the modernist design themes of the 70s, the style combined kitsch elements from the 50s with busy leopard skin patterns and exuberant ziggurats and wave forms. The shapes, ornamentation and colors influenced graphic design with the California/Florida New Wave style utilizing busy patterns in teals and pinks, but made its biggest impact in furniture design. Memphis strived to shock, polarizing the opinions of many designers and challenged the time-honored, traditional notion that good design should be timeless. The Museum of Modern Art in New York famously refused to mount a Memphis design show. If you're unfamiliar with Memphis design watch, the film Ruthless People — you'll have no trouble spotting the furniture.

This Canetti desk clock by ArtTime (bought in the late 80s) is one of the more restrained examples of the style, and still keeps time, more or less. The hour is indicated with a perforated disc with a yellow arrow, the minute hand is a blocky red extention, and a ticking yellow orb with an embedded blue block denotes the seconds. The deep cylindrical design makes the form unusual for a standard clock, although it can still be easily hung on a wall or placed on a desk. I like the red, deep blue and yellow color accents — reminds me of Rietveld's De Stijl color palette. Now a quarter century on, the clock is, ironically, stuck in time — a dated moment in a design trend of the 80s.

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