Understanding the Bold and Playful Memphis Design Movement

Have you ever come across a piece of furniture or design that instantly caught your attention with its lively colours, graphic patterns, and bold shapes? If yes, then you may have seen the Memphis Design style at work. Inspired by the early 1980s architecture and art, Memphis Design is a versatile and unconventional approach to design that celebrates unique shapes, vivid hues, and a playful sense of humour. In this blog post, we will delve into the Memphis Design movement’s background, its key elements, and its influence on contemporary design.

The Memphis Design movement originated in Milan, Italy, in 1981, when a group of young commercial interior designers in Melbourne, led by architect and designer Ettore Sottsass, presented a collection of furniture and objects at the Salone del Mobile in Milan. The collection, named after the Bob Dylan song ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,’ was a radical departure from the then-popular minimalistic and functionalist design approach. Memphis Design embraced bold colours, unconventional patterns, and exaggerated proportions, challenging the seriousness and austerity of modernist design.

One of Memphis Design’s key elements is its use of simple geometric shapes, such as circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles. However, rather than using these basic shapes in predictable ways, Memphis Design often combined them in unexpected and playful configurations, creating unique silhouettes and forms. Another crucial aspect of Memphis Design is its vivid colour palette, which often includes bright primaries, pastels, and clashing hues in bold contrasts. Moreover, Memphis Design favours bold patterns, such as stripes, zig-zags, and dots, often arranged in asymmetric compositions that defy conventional design norms.

Memphis Design’s influence on architecture, product design, and graphic design extends far beyond its origins in the early 1980s. The Memphis Design ideas have influenced numerous contemporary designers around the world, who continue to experiment with bold colours, unconventional forms, and playful designs. Memphis Design’s legacy has also inspired various design movements, such as Postmodernism, that celebrate the freedom and creativity of design.

Memphis Design remains a relevant and daring design style even today, over four decades after its inception. Its bright colours, playful shapes, and whimsical patterns continue to captivate Melbourne interior designers and design enthusiasts worldwide, providing a refreshing and unconventional alternative to the sterile and predictable design aesthetics. If you’re looking to inject boldness, energy, and humour into your design projects, you can draw inspiration from Memphis Design’s principles and create your unique and unforgettable creations.


Memphis Design remains a bold, playful, and inspiring design movement that celebrates the freedom and creativity of design. Its unique combination of simple geometric shapes, a vivid colour palette, and bold patterns continues to influence designers worldwide and provide a refreshing alternative to the conventional design aesthetics. By exploring Memphis Design’s history, principles, and legacy, you can unlock new avenues of creativity and create designs that stand out from the crowd. So, go forth with confidence and embrace the Memphis Design principles to create designs that capture attention and spark joy.