The Evolution of Design in California

Consider California a design mecca? The Golden State is most commonly known for its mid-century modernism, Apple products, and Silicon Valley founded and funded apps. The designers and the ideals that have informed some of the most ubiquitous products we use today are examined closely at the Design Museum’s Designing Freedom exhibit.

California is the home to counterculture ideals and designs from the 1960s all the way through to Apple’s prolific computers that were born from the hippie culture in San Francisco and eventually trickled down the peninsula to Silicon Valley. California is home to the prevailing creative companies of the 21st century. While the entertainment industry still thrives in Hollywood, Disney’s Bay Area-based Pixar and Apple’s sprawling headquarters in Cupertino pump out products exclusively “designed in California” which perpetuate the idea that Californian designs have reached the upper echelon that other global cities “own”, such as Parisian fashion design or Copenhagen’s furniture design.

Some of the most disruptive technologies and inventions have originated in California. Inventor savant Elon Musk, entrepreneur and activist Peter Thiel, and entrepreneur and philanthropist Sean Parker have founded lasting companies and inventions in California, from PayPal to Facebook all the way to Musk’s Tesla, SpaceX, and Hyperloop. Musk has a clear vision for a sustainable future by reducing global warming which he strives to achieve through his futuristic transportation ventures. Hyperloop seeks to provide high-speed transport from Los Angeles to San Francisco, transforming what would be a 6-hour drive down to 30 minutes in solar-powered pods. He calls the train a “cross between a Concorde, a rail gun, and an air-hockey table”. He fascinates with his seemingly outlandish and technological plans for the future.

Social media apps have become the most universal inventions of the 21st century. They’ve altered a generation’s upbringing, creating the “digital natives”, they’ve transformed the ways in which companies connect with consumers and have defined the ways in which we communicate with one another. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat have catapulted pithy 140-character and pictorial communications to the forefront of our culture. These California-based inventions have made us hyper-connected- about 50% of Generation Z spends about 10 hours a day online and boasts an attention span of about 8 seconds.

While the designs originating from California in the 1960s had sought to expand consciousness and heighten personal liberation through music and poster designs, the designs of today continue to further personal expression and physical freedom.