A B C of Competing

Silicon Valley, Childhood, and Modernist Aesthetics


Natalia Cecire, University of Sussex

@ncecire | n.cecire@sussex.ac.uk

Modernist Studies Association 2016, Pasadena, CA

Marie KondoHigh Museum of Art, Atlanta

Left: Marie Kondo.
Right: The High Museum of Art, Atlanta. Richard Meier, 1983.

two Apple iMacs

[Apple] has already done more to bring the notion of clean lines, abstraction, white, and every other surface attribute of Modernism to the masses than any architect or architectural theoretician.

Aaron Betsky, Architect, 2012.

Apple store on 5th Avenue, New York

Fifth Avenue Apple Store, New York. The General Motors Building (completed 1968) is in the background at right.

Image of Steve Jobs captioned -Steve Jobs, Master of Simplicity-

"Steve’s vision, strength and charisma made him the benevolent dictator – able to align all the forces within Apple. That kind of performance doesn’t come as naturally to Tim."

Ken Segall, "Has Apple Lost Its Simplicity?," The Guardian, 2016.

Subway ad for Seamless

Advertisement for Seamless food delivery app.
"The role of your mom will be played by us."
Photograph taken in the New York Subway 25 March 2016 on a janky phone.

Adolf Loos, Villa Muller

Adolf Loos, Villa Müller. Prague, 1930.

[I]t is a crime against the national economy that [in fashioning ornaments] human labour, money, and material should thereby be ruined.

Adolf Loos, "Ornament and Crime," 1908.

screen shot of Rob Rhinehart's blog post -How I Gave Up Alternating Current-

Rob Rhinehart, "How I Gave Up Alternating Current," 2015.

With no fridge, no dishes, no microwave, no oven, no range, no dishwasher, no utensils, no pests, no cleaning products nor dirty rags, my life is considerably simpler, lighter and cleaner than before.

Rob Rhinehart, "How I Gave Up Alternating Current," 2015.

Nevermore will I bumble through endless confusing aisles like a pack-donkey searching for feed while the smell of rotting flesh fills my nostrils and fluorescent lights sear my eyeballs and sappy love songs torture my ears.

Rob Rhinehart, "How I Gave Up Alternating Current," 2015.

The show dishes of past centuries, which display all kinds of ornaments to make the peacocks, pheasants, and lobsters look more tasty, have exactly the opposite effect on me. I am horrified when I go through a cookery exhibition and think that I am meant to eat these stuffed carcasses. I eat roast beef.

Adolf Loos, "Ornament and Crime," 1908.

Google search box as of 2015

Arguably, there’s no better example of efficient web design than the Google homepage. Every little design tweak goes through rigorous A/B testing, and yet the homepage does not look fundamentally different than it did 10 years ago. In fact, it’s so simple and iconic that, back in May, lead Google homepage designer Jon Wiley told us that he wasn’t sure if the design would ever fundamentally change.

John Brownlee, FastCoDesign, 2014.

Apple 13-inch MacbookJosephine Baker

Left: A MacBook.
Right: Josephine Baker. Anne Cheng has pointed out how frequently she was photographed as a shiny surface.

Screen shot of Google blog post announcing its new holding company, Alphabet

Google announced its new holding company, Alphabet, with a blog post titled
"G is for Google."

Google doodle for 25 April 2013, depicting Ella Fitzgerald

Google doodle for 25 April 2013, commemorating Ella Fitzgerald's 96th birthday.

Ezra Pound, ABC of Readingscreen shot of Alphabet's home page, which is decorated with children's alphabet blocks

Left: Ezra Pound, A B C of Reading, 1934.
Right: Alphabet's home page, https://abc.xyz.

Princesse Tam-Tam (1935). Roses.