Someone, I think it was Michelangelo said “design is the removal of superfluous detail.” I am sure that if the attribution is at all correct, it has been paraphrased. Even before i realized I was a Modernist, I believed in this statement. That is NOT to say that there should be no detail, just that the detail must be perfect.
This image, 500 or so years old, appears almost Art Deco. In fact Eve looks very masculine in this portrayal. There are a few topics for doctoral theses.
Simple and pure forms mark Modernism.
Shape and/or form (depending on your definitions) are the first things perceived in any object. Modern design is typically characterized by one of two types of shapes either raw, straight, angular shapes or round, (we like to call them swoopy) curving forms that give an organic appearance. Angular shapes are considered masculine, while the rounded are more feminine. Of course they can be judiciously combined, but it becomes a balancing act.
Scale and proportion are important in every style, within Modernism it is important to look at Le Corbusier’s Modulor. Like DaVinci’s Vitruvian Man, The Modulor is a system developed using human measurements, Fibonacci numbers and the golden ratio with one goal – to discover the proportions of the human body and improve architecture. Modern design revolves around humans and its main function is to serve them. Therefore modern scale and proportion have human-defined dimensions. Call it as you wish – ergonomics, functionality, comfort. Form follows function, another quote that is often paraphrased and misappropriated.
“…form ever follows function…”
Louis Sullivan – Architect
Color, well in some ways, anything goes. As long as the color is pure and strong.
In the end, to me, Modernism is about space. Soaring, hopeful and open space. Space that flows and spaces that flow from one to another. Space filled with details, just the right details, of course.
The simplest and cleanest chair in the world is lost in a junk store and framed like a work of art, in the right space.
So, Modernism is elegance both as ‘pleasingly graceful and attractive’ and in the engineering sense of ‘proper’ design, not too much, not too little.