What is Modern Design? A Guide to Its Types and Historical Evolution

what is modern design_

Design is a vast and multifaceted concept that encompasses the creation of everything, from physical objects to abstract systems. It influences how people interact with their surroundings, shaping their experiences and visual perceptions. 

This article explores the various types of design and traces its evolution through different eras. We will particularly delve into modern design, which emerged in the late 19th century and has since fundamentally reshaped the aesthetic landscape. Read on!

design brainstorming

What are the different types of design?

Design comprises a wide range of types and specific niches. While each type of design is constantly evolving, some general design trends emerge over time and influence the industry, e.g., the recent rise of modern nostalgia and “core” aesthetics.

Here are some of the most common types of design:

  • Graphic design is a visual communication discipline that combines images, text, and other elements to convey a message or evoke a specific reaction. The rise of digital media has expanded the reach of this design type, making it an essential part of web and app development, social media marketing, and motion graphics. Moreover, the graphic design market is predicted to grow, reaching $75.8 billion by 2029.
  • Web design focuses on creating websites that are easy to use, intuitive, and visually appealing. It is significant in digital environments, as 94% of users will reject a web page due to poor graphic elements, especially on health-related platforms.

Other types of design

  • Product design is about crafting innovative, user-friendly products that meet customer needs and desires. This can be achieved by considering aesthetics, ergonomics, functionality, and production processes. A prominent example of good product design is the Coca-Cola bottle, recognizable by its curved shape.
  • Interior design transforms spaces into functional and aesthetically pleasing environments—from cozy living rooms to bustling office spaces. Designers use their knowledge of order planning, color theory, and furniture selection to create desired atmospheres. An example of a memorable interior design is the Fifth Avenue lobby of the Empire State Building, which includes rich materials, geometric patterns, and ornate details.
  • Fashion design is creating clothing, accessories, and footwear. Professionals in this field work with textiles, patterns, and construction techniques based on trends, cultural influences, and style. This allows them to produce clothing that resonates with the target audience. Coco Chanel’s Little Black Dress is an example of an iconic, timeless item in fashion design.
  • User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) designs are closely related disciplines that enhance user interaction and digital interfaces. UX designers concentrate on improving the usability of websites, mobile applications, software, and online platforms. On the other hand, UI designers focus on the visual elements of an interface, such as buttons, icons, and navigation menus. Both types play critical roles in creating intuitive and engaging digital experiences across websites, applications, and other interactive platforms.

FAQ: When did modern design history begin?

While it is difficult to pinpoint an exact date, design in its modern sense emerged in the late 19th century, with movements such as Arts & Crafts and Art Nouveau, challenging traditional styles and embracing new materials and philosophies. It evolved further in the early 20th century, with the rise of influential eras like Modernism and Bauhaus that solidified the core principles of modern design.

FAQ: Who created design?

Design, as a concept, is not attributed to a single individual. It has been formed and changed by the collective efforts and creativity of different cultures and individuals throughout history. From ancient times to nowadays, design has been a way people express their creativity, respond to societal changes, and make things look good or work well.

What are the main eras of modern design?

While the categorization may vary depending on the specific discipline, here is a general overview of the main eras in modern design:

  1. The Arts and Crafts Movement (1850–1914) emerged as a response to the Industrial Revolution. It aimed to revive traditional craftsmanship and reject mass-produced goods. Figures like William Morris led this movement, emphasizing handmade products, simplicity, and a connection to nature. The focus was on furniture, textiles, and decorative arts.
  2. Art Nouveau (1880–1910) embraced nature’s curves and organic forms. From Alphonse Mucha’s flowing posters to Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia, it featured asymmetry, floral motifs, and whiplash curves. It celebrated artistic freedom and opposed industrial uniformity.
  3. Modernism (1880–1940) departed from traditional styles and embraced simplicity, functionality, and new materials. Figures like Le Corbusier influenced architecture and furniture design, aiming for a clean and uncluttered aesthetic.
  4. Art Deco (1910–1940) emerged in the post-World War I era, characterized by geometric shapes, bold colors, and luxurious materials. This design style exuded glamor and sophistication and influenced architecture, fashion, and the decorative arts. Iconic examples of this movement include the Chrysler Building in New York City and the works of Erté.

Other types of modern design

  1. Bauhaus (1919–1933), founded by Walter Gropius, integrated art, craft, and technology, emphasizing functionality and a blend of form and function. Bauhaus had a profound influence on modern design principles. Its legacy is evident in sleek designs like the Wassily chair by Marcel Breuer.
  2. Mid-Century Modern (1933–1965) became full-fledged after World War II, emphasizing clean lines, organic forms, and natural materials. Influential designers such as Charles and Ray Eames and Eero Saarinen created iconic furniture pieces like the Eames Lounge Chair, Ottoman, and the Tulip Table. Scandinavian design is a striking example of Mid-Century Modern, which is still widely used today. Its popularity is reflected in the consistent growth of the Swedish furniture retailer IKEA.
  3. Postmodernism (1978–present) challenged modernism by reintroducing historical references, ornamentation, and diverse aesthetics. Architects like Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown played key roles in promoting postmodern design, breaking away from perceived modernist monotony. Postmodernism continues to evolve and influence contemporary aesthetics.
  4. The Digital Age (1980s–present) brought a significant shift in design with the widespread use of computers and digital technology. This era is characterized by its focus on interactivity, dynamic visuals, and a departure from traditional design methods. Some examples of digital design include visually striking websites, engaging mobile apps, and intricately crafted user interfaces that efficiently blend form and function.

FAQ: Who is the father of design?

Because design encompasses various disciplines with various historical figures, no singular person can be considered the sole father of design. Industrial design’s streamlined forms owe much to Raymond Loewy, while Paul Rand’s iconic logos paved the way for graphic design. In the human-centered problem-solving world, Larry Leifer played a key role in shaping design thinking. 


Design is everywhere, from the clothes you wear to the websites you browse and the buildings you inhabit. It profoundly influences your daily life, changing how you interact with products, services, and the built environment. Knowing the different types of design, like graphic, product, interior, and UX/UI helps you identify and appreciate the deliberate choices made in each. Furthermore, by studying visual style movements, you can identify recurring patterns and influences that continue to shape modern aesthetics.