Graduate Research Paper Example on Tom Dixon: A Designer of the 21st Century?

“Is Tom Dixon a designer of the 21th century?” is a question that puts to test our contemporary concept of modernity. Tom Dixon is considered by many to be a living classic of industrial design. Born in 1959 Dixon produced some of memorable design artifacts, such as Pylon Chair (1991) or Jack light, a multifunctional lantern. In the beginning of the 21th century Dixon's lighting and furniture designs are still in high demand with customers. But is Dixon's design modern? Looking at some popular artifacts made by Dixon, such as Bean Sofa, Peg Chair or Peg Lounge, one may see a combination of minimalism, modernism and pragmatism that constitute a language of Dixon's style. The semiotics of Dixon's furniture belongs to modernism of Mies van Der Rohe's chairs exhibited in the early 20th century Barcelona. Minimalism of Dixon's sofas is nothing new compared to the 20th century history of this design approach. Marked practicality of Dixon's design solutions also unites him with the 20th century design with its emphasis on functionality and comfort.

It is, however, a synthesis of these strands of Dixon's style that makes him a 21th century designer. His design artifacts appear to be in the dialogue with the 20th century tradition, but in no way replicate it. Unlike tendentious establishment design of the 21th century that consciously plays out its contemporaneity, but misses it, Dixon's design continues its dialogue with tradition. This makes Dixon's design contemporary. Dixon's relevance may be seen not just in his design products, but in his philosophy of their distribution and popularization. Dixon was the first to start the practice of giving out design products to visitors of his expos. He is an opponent of out-dated large furniture sitting in shops for months before being sold. This protest against dominant design patterns in furniture business is reflected in his minimalist sofas and chairs.

Dixon is also fond of transforming traditional design forms into modern ones. This approach, which he mastered while cooperating with Habitat and Artek design houses, may be regarded as contemporary. Dixon's contemporaneity may be seen in his refusal to stick to any predetermined concept of taste and design approach. He may design things that fit establishment approaches, but also anti-Establishment and radical artifacts. This makes him a kind of postmodern designer, who chooses between styles and concepts that fit his mood of the day and desire for experimentation.