Edmund Bell: Memphis Brights

Following on from Edmund Bell’s Raw Japanese blog, the third trend they explore in their Global Traveller series is Memphis Brights. Memphis design… love it or hate it!

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Memphis is a design movement that began in 1981 – while the name might make you think that it was born in Tennesse, it got it started in Milan, Italy. Designer Ettore Sottsass founded the Memphis Group with other designers and architects. They took their name from a Bob Dylan song titled Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again, which was played on repeat during their first meeting.

Like many creative movements, Memphis was a reaction against the status quo. The 1950s/60s mid-century modern and 1970s minimalism were about structure and straight lines. To counter that, Sottsass centred the group’s thinking around “radical, funny, and outrageous” – essentially, disregarding what was considered in “good taste” at that time. The geometric figures of Art Deco, the colour palette of Pop Art, and 1950s kitsch inspired their unusual aesthetic. (Source: mymodernmet.com)

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Prevailing features of Memphis design:

– Laminate and Terrazzo materials, which were usually found on floors, were incorporated into tables and lamps.

– Squiggles, aka the Bacterio print, was designed by Sottsass in 1978.

– Bright, multi-colored objects with a rejection of typical shapes. Often, instead of chair legs being rectangular, they’d be circles or triangles.

– A flat, vectorized style that is often accented with bright, saturated color choices.

– Geometric shapes are the primary art element and few actual photos are used.

(Source: mymodernmet.com)

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Why is it called Memphis?

They named it after the ancient capital of Egypt on the Nile River. Memphis developed as a trade and transportation centre in the 19th century because of its flood-free location high above the Mississippi River.

What materials are used in Memphis design?

In addition to plain or patterned plastic laminates, the Memphis catalogue of “aseptic” materials includes many other industrial products: printed glass, zinc-plated and textured sheet metals, celluloids, fire flake finishes, industrial paints, neon tubes, coloured lights bulbs, and so on.

The Hard Rock Hotel London employed some design features of the Memphis philosophy – ombre printed curtains (yes we did those using our bespoke Printlab service) the themed London patterned cushion and general kitsch funky colour scheme……it works!!

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What is a Memphis pattern?

The Memphis Group went on to create furniture, fabrics, patterns, ceramics and other products in a distinctly Postmodern style that blended stylistic traits of 1950s kitsch, Art Deco and Pop Art. A room containing furniture and other items designed in the Memphis Style, as part of a Memphis-Milano design collection. (Source: Wikipedia)

And last but not least……less of the facts and give me the Liquorice Allsorts, obviously inspired by the Memphis movement!

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