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Ornament Design

by on April 13, 2011

Through out the article “The Decriminalization of Ornament” by Alice Twimlow, she discusses the struggle of ornament design throughout history and key points in the design world that have affected it; whether it was negative or positive there was always something to be said about decoration. Either it was done right or it looked gaudy and tacky in every way possible. She discusses a book called Grammar of Ornament and how that it discusses the appropriate uses of ornament and has 37 propositions all pertaining to the use and misuse of decoration. Owen Jones, the writer of the book, believes that ornament should be solely  geometrical and never agreed with the use of flowers or natural objects, unless of course they were portrayed in a conventional way. She then goes on to discuss the negative aspect of ornament from the point of view of author Owens Jones. through this part of the article Alice discusses the negative “kitchy” aspect to the ornament world. That because of the mass production of decoration, designs became less thought out and just pertained to the desire of mass production, mass money. This created low quality decoration with a dime a dozen effort. Meaning that it became very common to see. Before you knew it, in the 19th century, ornament was seen on everything everywhere. Another thing that i found interesting in this article is the discuss of ornament being a shift in voice and reason and thus introducing us to Modernist Manifestos. Something that really sparked a movement of ideas based off the like and dislike of something as simple, yet so complex, like decoration. Now, decoration in the 20th century is considered a little less taboo and more on the side of fascination of how long ornament has been debated as either essential or totally kitchy. With an attitude about ornament now having a side of historic curiosity , designers have lightened up to the acceptance of having fun with ornament. It is yet another changed opinion based on the technology given to us designers of the present and future. Without it, I truly believe we would not have asked the questions we have or made the statements we have. The author also questions whether or not ornament is something that we mainly see now in fashion. I believe that this is very true. If you look at cloth design, fashion is one of the biggest art subjects that looks back into the past for guidance, using highly decorative design. Through out the rest of the article, Alice goes on discussing the influence that the Art and Crafts movement had in creating a little niche place for Ornament itself. Stating that arts and crafts, decoration and ornament are all things that have a similar meaning but yet have different points about them as well. It has been because of all these movements like the arts and arafts, product design, and fashion, that ornamentation has been revived and in a sense recreated and taken away from its 19th century path towards destruction.


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