Design Trend Report: Dadaism
The effects of Dadaism were long-lasting, as its design principles would go on to shape the aesthetics of other design trends like Surrealism and Pop Art. Explore its unique visual styles in this trend report.
The Origins of DadaThe Dadaist movement has its roots firmly in the pre-World War I idea of anti-art. As the name implies, anti-art is an ideology that not only questions art but defies the conventions of what we call art —doing so from the standpoint of art. This contradiction, though, is what exists at the essence of avant-garde movements like Dadaism: the unorthodox. As a word, anti-art was coined in 1913 by Marcel Duchamp, who was one of the big names associated with Cubism. However, by the time World War I was raging, Dada was growing in influence and reach, a reaction to the perceived nationalist, capitalist and colonialist causes that were thought to be contributing factors to the war’s outbreak. Applying this radical, far-left ideology to art, Dadaists defied the conventions in art at the time since they believed that societal and cultural conformity were also to blame for the war. Thanks to this political outlook, the artists of this movement were motivated to produce some of the most memorable and thought-provoking designs that the 20th century had seen. As a design movement, it was an informal network at best, without much intentional coordination. Nonetheless, that this ideal was active on both sides of the Atlantic during and after the war suggests that it enjoyed popular appeal. Early centers of growth for the Dadaists included:
- New York in 1915
- Switzerland in 1916
- Paris in 1920 and beyond
- New York
- The Netherlands
The Design Characteristics of DadaismBecause the Dadaists were active at a time when there were so many design trends popping up—as well as the tumult of worldwide war—their design principles tended to be highly eclectic. Put that together with the fact that they rejected design conventions, and you have the perfect recipe for a philosophy that was brutally unique and something to behold. You should keep in mind first and foremost that it borrowed heavily from aesthetics like:
Regular CollageThe basis of many artworks in Dadaism was the collage. Borrowing heavily from Cubism in order to recreate new pieces from disassembled, existing concepts, collage allowed them to be as defiant and anti-establishment as they wanted, as far as design was concerned. A collage’s objective of making something new from something old was the perfect technique to symbolize their displeasure with and aggression against much of the design and art standards of their day. Dadaists would take the concept of collage further than had been known in the early 20th century. Instead of just sticking to newspapers, they would use a slew of everyday objects like:
- Plastic wrappers
- Transit or travel tickets
Cut-up MethodAnother unique and unorthodox technique from the Dadaists, the cut-up method is a play on collage by extending the concept to the written word, exclusively. With this technique, the artists worked with cut-up words from print articles they cut out. The process involved artists cutting out each word of a newspaper article, putting the contents into a bag, shaking said bag, and then removing each word individually. They would create a new “poem” from the words in the order in which they were removed from the bag.
PhotomontageThe photomontage is a technique characterized by the use of actual or recreated photographs taken from media materials like newspapers and magazines. Dadaism emphasized basic tools like glues and scissors to assemble these photomontages. A spin on the collage method of artwork, the photomontage was a blatant rejection of the conventional paintbrush and canvas to communicate the artist’s views of modern life.
ReadymadesMarcel Duchamp single-handedly pioneered this technique in the Dadaist arsenal. Born out of his philosophy that the manmade objects of his artworks were actually objects of art, these so-called readymades were a direct rebuke to what we commonly associate with visual art. By readymades, Duchamp meant everyday, manmade objects that he modified. These objects were selected by him—and then once modified—were elevated to art status. Called found objects, this philosophy was based on the French idea of the “objet trouve,” which referred to everyday objects that had non-art functions, but were modified to become artworks. This technique produced some of the more head-scratching, though memorable, designs in Dadaism.
AssemblageAnother take on the collage, the assemblage was a three-dimensional version of collage. Think of this technique as the assembly of mundane objects that had non-art functions to create meaningful artworks. The Dadaists would screw, nail or otherwise put together these artworks in various forms. An assemblage could either be freestanding or hung on the wall.
Dadaism in Graphic DesignThough this design trend was a flash in the pan in the early part of the 20th century, its legacy lives on today through the impact of graphic design. Here are our choices of some of the best examples of Dadaist-influenced graphic design.
Abstract Photo Collage WarThe beautiful disorder of Dada is captured in this digital asset that’s ideal for use on your next project. Boasting 210 core photo effects, this collection exponentially boosts the sheer amount of effects you can create by you simply toggling on or off the numerous color and layer combinations within this collection. Use these assets for the following types of projects:
- Photography displays
- 21 PSD files
- 3 light leaks
- 8 color tones
- 4 color splashes
- 10 layer compositions
Abstract Collage PatternsStraight from the influence of Dadaism comes this group of avant-garde collage patterns. With these designs, you can infuse the backgrounds of your various projects with the sort of Dada sensibilities that artists like Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst to everyone in between was using in the early 20th century. Use these collage patterns for a multitude of design projects like:
- Logo design
- Packaging design
- Web images
- Poster design
- Textured patterns (splatter, gray paint, pink paint, stripe, scribble)
- Unique papers (vellum, cut, smooth, torn)
- Distinct paints (spray paint, textured gray, pink)
Collage and Cutout Elements BundleLook no farther than this comprehensive set to help you create all the Dada-inspired digital collages you could want. This mega bundle features a whopping 500+ graphic elements that span a broad range of influences. Choose from assets like:
- Hand-drawn crayon elements
- Doodle sketch elements
- Gold doodles
- Glitter doodles
- Tape bits
- Paper tears
- Cutout alphabet letters
- Magazine rips
- Paper shapes
- Ink patterns
Dadaism in Web DesignThere are quite a few homages to this design trend alive and well on the web today, in spite of the fact that it’s been 100 years since the Dadaists were active. A testament to its longevity and ability to influence, Dada’s best websites include the following.
Image Credit: Dada DataThe website’s smooth user experience and easy-to-use interface mean you can quickly navigate from one technique or example of Dada to the next. Learn all about Duchamp’s readymades in a dedicated section of the website, or have your fill of the 21st-century’s digital version of the Dada Manifesto on another webpage.
Image Credit: DADA AgencyFor starters, the website’s color scheme jumps out at you with vibrant purples that balance the monochromatic, neutral colors in the design. Oh, yeah: And your cursor’s a yellow banana instead of the boring, usual arrow, which epitomizes the way the web design here rejects the traditional “best practices”—just like Dada rejected the conventions of the early 20th-century art world. The way the purple, swirling effect traces the path of your cursor is also a neat design touch. one-page design. The skillful web design becomes more apparent as you scroll down the long page because the company has expertly woven a collage aesthetic into its presentation.
Image Credit: Dada – Video ProductionEach section of the page—whether it’s the services, team or work section—looks as if it was thrown together from a different element, thereby creating that unmistakable Dadaist feel to the entire website. The use of various geometric shapes, sometimes at odd angles to the backgrounds, further contributes to this great Dada aesthetic and demonstrates how the web designer understands Dadaism well. The website’s use of vibrant, multi-colored backgrounds in this parallax-scrolling presentation also adds beautiful color contrast to the overall web design.
Defiance of Accepted Design ConventionsDadaism is rebellion, simply put. Of course, for our purposes in the 21st century, its flouting of convention seems relatively tame now, by comparison. Back then, the Dadaists created a massive uproar, impact and even outrage, with some art critics branding them as destructive and sick. Clearly, the Dadaists attempt to turn the design and art world on its head proved to be successful. It has to be mentioned, however, that, in the annals of art history, it was quite common for the prevailing elites of their day (read: critics) to lambast a new design trend as somehow corrupt, whether destructive or just stupid. The same thing happened with the Impressionists, although they were more ridiculed during their heyday in the late 19th century, rather than feared, as with this trend. History now looks at Dadaism as a highly impactful design trend. When you consider how briefly it lasted, between World Wars I and II, that makes its achievement even more remarkable.
Products Seen In This Post: