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What does our recent movement towards geometry in art and fashion mean?

I thought on this as reading Ellen Lupton’s Thinking with Type. Here, Lupton points out that early typefaces were modeled after human forms of calligraphy. “Words originated as gestures of the body,” she writes.

Lupton goes on to explain that in the early 20th century, the De Stijl group of the Netherlands and the German Bauhaus revolutionized type. These groups reduced letters to the purest, most abstract forms of geometry. No longer seen were the flourishes based on calligraphy, the contrast of thin and thick strokes that modeled the natural flow of the nib of the pen. O’s became perfectly round, A’s were perfect triangles.

future typeface designed by Renner at the Bauhaus in 1927

The Futura typeface was designed by Paul Renner in Germany in 1927. (image via It is still popular in use today.

The De Stijl group was concentrated on abstraction as idealism. The Bauhaus, too, believed in the perfect union of form and function. The works of these groups in the early 20th century reflected the hope and faith of the Industrial Revolution, the hope that technology and mass production would bring us into the perfect future.  Early 20th century art movements saw our salvation in perfect forms that, before the advent of technology, were previously unattainable.

It is at the beginning of the 21st century that we are again moving towards the geometric form in art and fashion. Rather than striving towards pure form, geometry is seen in juxtaposition to the natural world. Mountains are reduced to triangles. Geologic illustrations are juxtaposed against fields of lines and shapes. Traditional Navajo patterns (for better or worse) are re-imagined.

natural by harry diaz

from the zine Natural by Harry Diaz.

pyramid by harry diaz

Pyramid by Harry Diaz

blue trees by leah tacha

Blue Trees by Leah Tacha (via Buy Some Damn Art)

untitled by louis reith

Untitled by Louis Reith (via Little Paper Planes)

nothing but dead stone by huy vu

from the zine Nothing But Dead Stone by Huy Vu (via Little Paper Planes)

wallpapers commissioned by HP by Mark Weaver

wallpaper commissioned by HP by Mark Weaver.

shaun kardinal

by Shaun Kardinal.

ring by Marmod8

ring by Marmod8 (via Etsy).

ecote cold shoulder dress by urban outfitters

Ecote Cold Shouler Dress by Urban Outfitters.

In the 21st century, we’re experiencing another revolution in technology. It could be called the Internet Revolution, with more and more people getting online, becoming comfortable with social media, and forming relationships in the virtual world.

Unlike the DeStijl group and the Bauhaus, we’re not hoping for technology to free us from the constraints of our humanity and the natural world. Rather, we’re hoping this technology will bring us closer, and help us develop more intimate connections.

Is the recent trend towards geometry juxtaposed against the natural world evidence that we’re succeeding in this regard? Perhaps it reveals a longing for intimacy, connection, and something tactile. Perhaps it reveals the need to finally turn away from the ideal form and the perfect future promised by technology, and look back towards the natural world to find the connections we seek.

What do you think about the current geometric trend in fashion/art? You can see more examples of this trend on my board at Pinterest.

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