What is Memphis Design and why is it making a comeback?
Trends everywhere, not just graphic design, tend to be cyclical. 80s trends have seen a resurgence in fashion, interiors, design, and even music. Memphis Design started in the 1980s with Italian designers at the Memphis Group.
They worked 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. Read: bold colors, bright patterns, and lots of funky shapes. At first, this style was not well received. Even with the revival of this trend, some designers can’t stand the clashing colors and vibrant patterns. However, this movement that went against “good taste” continues to inspire designers today to push their creative limits and think outside the box.
Where is Memphis today?
From fashion and jewelry to home decor, this trend started making a comeback in the mid-2000s. Today in graphic design, you’ll find the distinctive Memphis traits on social media, websites, print, and more.
How can I emulate Memphis in my design?
The movement began as an experiment. Make it your own by blending these traits with other retro styles, or blend with more contemporary designs. Memphis is all about being fun and optimistic. These designs can work well for a social media campaign that has a loud voice, or for a campaign that relies on nostalgia. Here are some key traits of Memphis to incorporate into your designs:
Funky patterns. Squiggles, aka the Bacterio print, was designed by Sottsass in 1978. This is easily the most recognizable pattern from the movement. Other patterns include zig zags, dots, and cross hatch.
Make it modern: Create patterns with a “hand drawn” brush. Don’t be afraid to incorporate pattern in unusual ways, like typography.
Bright and bold colors. In original Memphis designs, you’ll find bright yellows, pinks, blues, reds… you get the idea.
Make it modern: Use pastel neon hues that still call back the bright colors of the 80s. Create soft gradients to add texture and depth.
Overlapping shapes. The use of overlapping shapes to create pattern and structure is a signature look of Memphis design.
Make it modern: Incorporate both symmetrical and organic shapes, and focus on the negative space. Overlap pattern and textures.