Monday, June 09, 2008

Is it over yet?

Maybe it's just me, but I think we've been going through a bad stretch design-wise in our culture. I'm not sure where it came from, but for the last several years we've been in this kind of bad deja vu of the worst of the '70s combined with something that is just sort of pseudo vintage-esque. I don't get it.

The first thing I started noticing was "the swirly thing." A kind of stylized vine showing up everywhere.

You've seen it, right? Not so bad at first, until it took over the world.

And then the owls. Back in the '60s I used to collect owls. Then people started giving them to me—lots and lots of them. I confess I got so tired of looking at them that I may not be impartial about these. These look just like the ones from my collection that I liked the least. Cheap. Cartoony. Except these are "new".

And, the best of all—owl with swirly thing
Could it be that the owls opened the door to other forest creatures, begetting the ubiquitous "silhouetted deer" motif?

(Okay, I like this chair, except for the triteness of the deer on the pillow.)
Leading, inevitably, to the silhouetted deer with swirly thing. That faux woodgrain background is another trendy motif. Ugh.

Then there is this kind of stuff, which is—what? Ironic?

There was actually some pretty great design going on in the '70s, but this isn't it.
added note: I should really let you know that I find all this stuff on a couple of design blogs, like this one and this one. They are fun to look at even if I find the majority of current design either "been there, done that" '70s style or really overly cute. The cuteness quotient seems to be increasing. Ack.


  1. Chances are pretty good that these young designers were not even born yet in the 70's so it's all new to them. I remember in the 60's trying to breathe new life into art deco and such from the 20's. Some things never change. It looks like 40 years is the Turnaround time

  2. I'm not much of a consumer these days, but I am always a little discombobulated when I have to go shopping and I see what is in the stores. Maybe I didn't grow older, maybe time stopped and I didn't realize it. Everything new looks old again! The owls are the worst.

  3. Just stopping by on my way out the door. I had begun to think it was just me that disliked that stuff.I think bad design evolves from pure laziness. It reminds me of the so-called movie writers who are clearly thinking "Lets not bother thinking of anything new lets just re-cycle and re-make bad movies from the 70s. It implies that we are all too stupid to notice that movies lately, in general, suck. By the way-owl collection here(raising hand)must have had 30 or more. I was in a really bad place back in those days so the re-emergence of all that stuff just makes my skin crawl and floods me with memories of cheaply-made plastic go-go boots, cheaply-made plastic- feeling polyester fabric-crappy faux hippie looking clothing...with owls. Love ya. See you in a couple of weeks.

  4. Wait, you forgot the "bird on a branch" which I think is a precursor to the owl, and still seemingly going strong -- especially when combined with the swirly thing.

    I have to admit a bit of a soft spot for that deer pillow, but only because the grass reminds me of the german scherenschnitte I like. Now, show me an avocado green bathroom suite and I'll scream for sure! (I suspect it's not far off as I recently saw the matching lycra body suit and wrap skirt outfit that I had in the late 70s. Yiiiiiiiikes!

  5. Everything old is new, again, as they say. Hey, you are getting pretty close to dissing my daughter's work! VBG I have to admit to not getting it. I think most art in the 70's was pretty hokey, too.

    I'm waiting for the macrame owl to make a comeback.

  6. As a child of the (early) 70's, who looks back on her school pictures and cringes (feathered hair anyone?) my personal 70's pet peeve is anything avocado green... except avocados of course. It is so refreshing to know I'm not the only one who finds this little trip in the wayback machine not exactly welcome. As a friend said, the latest fabrics "don't play well with others." Sure don't. Ick.

  7. When I read the title of this post, I thought it was going to be about politics.

    I guess it's a sign of age that what looks deja vu and trite to us seems fresh to people in their 20s and 30s. I was saying something to a young neighbor about Tilde, a shop in Sellwood with a strong retro aesthetic; she had no idea that there was anything "retro" about it.

    Jeez, I used to make macrame' owls. I'm cringing now.

  8. thanks for the laugh! and i agree, way too much cuteness....

  9. This post is a hoot!(big groan). The problem is that we are drowning in bad taste and most people don't even know the difference. Am I a snob? You bet!

  10. I am going to look around my house and see how many decorative items I bought in the 1970s are still with me.

  11. Anonymous11:40 AM

    Awww...I love swirls! I like Art Nouveau stuff. I'm completely attracted to anything curvy. Don't mind a bit of a flashback if it can be done in a fresh way.

    Ditch the owls and deer, though!

  12. I agree! I've been feeling the same way about the omnipresent bird on a branch/fey girls with big eyes/collage with 1930's kid's photos wearing crowns. Where is the originality??