Cover image for Design in the fifties : when everyone went modern
Design in the fifties : when everyone went modern
Marcus, George H.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Munich ; New York : Prestel, [1998]

Physical Description:
157 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
NK1390 .M27 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



After having been reviled for decades, the 1950s has finally been reconsidered for its freshness, freedom, and oblique vision of the world. The colorful, organic style that most decisively defined the period came to be seen as eccentric and frivolous, but now 1950s design has become collectible and examples from this decade are taking their place in museums alongside other classics of the century.

Design in the Fifties: When Everyone Went Modern includes numerous full-color and black-and-white illustrations of examples of design from the period, ranging from architecture, engineering, and transport to clothing, appliances, and tableware, and from economical, good design creations to dime-store novelties. The book examines the innovative style that reflected the new optimism and consumerism of postwar culture, tracing its development not only in the context of art and design but also in terms of history. It shows a society smitten with the idea of being modern and influenced by the growing field of marketing, advertising and the powerful new medium of television. The objects gain a broader sense of context because many of them are illustrated in advertisements from the 1950s, seen from the perspective of their period.

This highly readable book analyzes and documents the interaction of a wide range of design objects and styles from the 1950s, making it of interest not only to the specialist but also to a broader public.

Author Notes

George H. Marcus is director of publications at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and teaches the history of 20th-century design at the University of Pennsylvania.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Marcus explains why and how the domestic environment evolved into the "modern" home of the '50s. His writing style is story-like and easy to read, he frequently refers to illustrations, and he also uses quotes and copies of popular advertisements to make his point. Most of the photographic examples are modern design classics, similar to those found in Design since 1945, ed. by Marcus and Kathryn B. Hiesinger (CH, Mar'84), and Landmarks of 20th Century Design: An Illustrated Handbook, by Marcus and Kathryn B. Hiesinger (CH, Mar'94). However, this book is unique in that it does not focus on "avant-garde" design. Instead, it portrays how "modern design" affected popular culture; in this way he successfully combines design history and cultural studies. There is special emphasis on how "high design" and "popular culture" intermingled in the '50s. In addition to the design classics, Marcus includes a few delightful examples of typical '50s design from his personal collection, especially poignant examples of "everyone's modern." Examples focus on home, housing, furniture, fabrics, and domestic wares. Especially interesting to designers, design historians, and those interested in cultural studies. General readers; undergraduates through faculty; two-year technical program students. S. Visser; Purdue University