Audacious Memphis

The current Memphis revival may yet be as short-lived as the original phenomenon but again it continues to stamp its eccentric optimism onto the pattern and colour palette. It certainly earns its place as one of the four inspirations underpinning the Newhey production development projects.

It is everything that pared back minimalism is not, yet somehow, they are managing to blend perfectly together.

In the 1980s, Memphis design celebrated an unrestricted creative exploration. It was a break with convention and routine – a refreshing banquet of colour.

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 shapes from Art Deco the colours of Pop Art and 1950s kitsch inspired their eccentric aesthetic. This second time around, designers are finding ways to blend the expected minimalism with the playful and optimistic.

Sottsass and The Memphis Group, established in Milan in 1981, questioned why things had to look a certain way. They expressed their style in radical, funny and outrageous design using unusual choices of colours, textures and materials.

In revisiting the style; the materials, originally a combination of natural and plastic, are now higher quality metals and marble making the look less kitsch. More technical production methods and higher-end materials have also increased the quality of the products themselves – but the retro appeal and rebellious spirit remains strong.

While the patterns and shapes can be recognised as the same handwriting, “Modern Memphis” has a more contemporary colour palette, where the brights are paired with pastels or earthy colours. Bold primary colours are tamed by earthy teals and soft pinks, tinted greys as well as the trademark graphic black-and-white.

Memphis-inspired vector patterns are a refreshing alter-ego to the textured and organic patterns which our other development stories of Tribe, Paint and Art will lead us to.

Younger designers that belong to a generation that didn’t live through it have come to the “Memphis style” as a point of inspiration. It has injected a freshness and fun into interiors… and we are ready for that.

The Memphis movement was a visual feast but also a way of thinking and collaborating. We can take more from the movement than just the “fad”. Rebellious thinkers encourage us all to take a little risk.
Let’s all be a little braver!