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1980s1980's Furniture Design in the UK: Inspiration


1980s1980's Furniture Design in the UK: Inspiration

SHARE Master in Product & Furniture Design Master's in Product Design BA in Product Design

Hold on to your floral sofas and tessellated stone tables, the 1980’s are back. After over a decade of minimalism, the more-is-more aesthetic of the MTV era has returned. Let’s have a look at some of the decade’s top décor trends and the prevalent movements and designers that typified the era.

Furniture design in the 1980s was characterised by two movements. One was the do-it-yourself spirit that carried over from the 1970’s punk era, which inspired London-based designers like Tom Dixon and Ron Arad to teach themselves how to weld, and Jasper Morrison to assemble chairs using simple tools and prefabricated components. The other was the flamboyant, unashamedly kitsch post-modernist spirit popularised by Ettore Sottsass and his young collaborators in the Memphis Movement in Milan.

One of the names that really stands out is Tom Dixon, and his infamous S-Chair. Dixon worked on more than fifty prototypes for the S Chair using different materials including rush, wicker, old tyre rubber, paper, and copper. It’s rough-hewn charm typifies the post-punk DIY spirit of Dixon’s designs. Originally made by Dixon himself, the S-Chair was later put into production by the Italian manufacturer, Cappellini.

Zany was a popular word at the time, and although it is no longer cool, you will know the aesthetic when you see it. Think bright colours, bold shapes, squiggly lines, and cake sprinkles. Furniture design, nay all design, was playful, and pushed boundaries with clashing palettes and haphazard furniture arrangements.

In the 1980s, Habitat founder Sir Terence Conran founded the Boilerhouse Project, an educational charity aimed at raising the level of discussion about contemporary design. The project proved that there was a public appetite for design, and later became the Design Museum. The very first show at the Boilerhouse was called “Art and Industry”, which set out to make the case for the serious study of industrial design by exploring the influence of professional design on the manufacturing industry. However, it was misunderstood by critics who were yet to take industrial design seriously. Nowadays, the view is completely accepted, and it is common to see consumer products in a museum.

Each time the Design Museum has moved to a new building, it has done so by holding another agenda-setting exercise. When it moved to Shad Thames, it opened in 1989 with Commerce and Culture to argue that the distinctions between the commercial world and cultural institutions were increasingly blurred.  

Meanwhile, across the pond, Michael Taylor was challenging the beliefs of his contemporaries with his California Design. Consistently denouncing the cluttered and pretentious, his simple ethos was that “when you take things out, you must increase the size of what’s left”. In fact, the latter part of his career was characterised by oversize furniture and signature elements, quite the opposite to what was happening in the UK at the time. Taylor fans recognise his work to be pure and simple, but by no means plain, it was a combination of rusticity and glamour. 

A new era of styling and creativity is redefining many aspects of the design world and how it chooses to present itself, making this a very exciting time to be a part of the change. Learn from industry experts at Istituto Marangoni, and take the first step towards your future in Product & Furniture Design


BA in Product Design at Istituto Marangoni

Whether you find 80’s design inspiring or repugnant, as an aspiring professional designer, you would be best advised to seek out an Institute that can help you acquire the necessary knowledge to turn your ideas into something real.

The undergraduate programme in Product and Furniture Design at Istituto Marangoni is taught by industry experts, and is aimed at providing a complete education to allow participants to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills in their chosen field. Both furniture and industrial product design overlap with many creative fields, including craft, fashion, art and interior design. Product designers understand where these areas meet, making use of contemporary influences and appropriate methods in their own creative process.

This three year course covers a vast array of skills, and participants work both individually and in teams to nurture and develop creative talents in design processes, methods and final product realisation. Particular attention is given to product sustainability, ergonomics and user awareness, as well as preparation in design language and communication to impart a professional approach to the planning, negotiation, and presentation of ideas.

For more detailed information on this and other courses available at Istituto Marangoni, please click on the following link.


Master’s in Product & Furniture Design at Istituto Marangoni

Aimed at supporting participants’ careers in the design industries, the Masters in Product & Furniture Design is ideal for those who have already acquired some specific skills at undergraduate levels, or for industry professionals who wish to broaden their knowledge of a specific area of design.

The emphasis of the course is on research and innovation and aims to provide participants with a unique professional ability to interpret socio-cultural developments through aesthetic research and integrating it as new product languages move into highly innovative projects. Participants will engage in front-runner projects for prominent Italian design brands under the supervision of top-level art directors.

For more detailed information on this and other courses available at Istituto Marangoni, please click on the following link.  


Master in Product & Furniture Design Master's in Product Design BA in Product Design
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