Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late-20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism and that marked a departure from modernism. The term has also more generally been applied to the historical era following modernity and the tendencies of this era.
While encompassing a wide variety of approaches, postmodernism is generally defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony, or rejection toward the meta-narratives and ideologies of modernism, often calling into question various assumptions of Enlightenment rationality. Consequently, common targets of postmodern critique include universalist notions of objective reality, morality, truth, human nature, reason, language, and social progress. Postmodern thinkers frequently call attention to the contingent or socially-conditioned nature of knowledge claims and value systems, situating them as products of particular political, historical, or cultural discourses and hierarchies. Accordingly, postmodern thought is broadly characterized by tendencies to self-referentiality, epistemological and moral relativism, pluralism, subjectivism, and irreverence.
Postmodern critical approaches gained purchase in the 1980s and 1990s, and have been adopted in a variety of academic and theoretical disciplines, including cultural studies, philosophy of science, economics, linguistics, architecture, feminist theory, and literary criticism, as well as art movements in fields such as literature and music. Postmodernism is often associated with schools of thought such as deconstruction and post-structuralism, as well as philosophers such as Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Derrida, and Fredric Jameson, though many so-labeled thinkers have criticized the term.
Postmodernism arose after World War II as a reaction to the perceived failings of modernism, whose radical artistic projects had come to be associated with totalitarianism or had been assimilated into mainstream culture. The basic features of what is now called postmodernism can be found as early as the 1940s, most notably in the work of artists such as Jorge Luis Borges. However, most scholars today would agree that postmodernism began to compete with modernism in the late 1950s and gained ascendancy over it in the 1960s. Since then, postmodernism has been a dominant, though not undisputed, force in art, literature, film, music, drama, architecture, history, and continental philosophy.
Salient features of postmodernism are normally thought to include the ironic play with styles, citations and narrative levels, a metaphysical skepticism or nihilism towards a “grand narrative” of Western culture, a preference for the virtual at the expense of the Real (or more accurately, a fundamental questioning of what ‘the real’ constitutes) and a “waning of affect” on the part of the subject, who is caught up in the free interplay of virtual, endlessly reproducible signs inducing a state of consciousness similar to schizophrenia.
Since the late 1990s there has been a small but growing feeling both in popular culture and in academia that postmodernism “has gone out of fashion.”
Postmodernism and structuralism
Structuralism was a philosophical movement developed by French academics in the 1950s, partly in response to French Existentialism. It has been seen variously as an expression of Modernism, High modernism, or postmodernism[by whom?]. “Post-structuralists” were thinkers who moved away from the strict interpretations and applications of structuralist ideas. Many American academics consider post-structuralism to be part of the broader, less well-defined postmodernist movement, even though many post-structuralists insisted it was not. Thinkers who have been called structuralists include the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, the linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, and the semiotician Algirdas Greimas. The early writings of the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan and the literary theorist Roland Barthes have also been called structuralist. Those who began as structuralists but became post-structuralists include Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze. Other post-structuralists include Jacques Derrida, Pierre Bourdieu, Jean-François Lyotard, Julia Kristeva, Hélène Cixous, and Luce Irigaray. The American cultural theorists, critics and intellectuals whom they influenced include Judith Butler, John Fiske, Rosalind Krauss, Avital Ronell, and Hayden White.
Post-structuralism is not defined by a set of shared axioms or methodologies, but by an emphasis on how various aspects of a particular culture, from its most ordinary, everyday material details to its most abstract theories and beliefs, determine one another. Post-structuralist thinkers reject Reductionism and Epiphenomenalism and the idea that cause-and-effect relationships are top-down or bottom-up. Like structuralists, they start from the assumption that people’s identities, values and economic conditions determine each other rather than having intrinsic properties that can be understood in isolation. Thus the French structuralists considered themselves to be espousing Relativism and Constructionism. But they nevertheless tended to explore how the subjects of their study might be described, reductively, as a set of essential relationships, schematics, or mathematical symbols. (An example is Claude Lévi-Strauss’s algebraic formulation of mythological transformation in “The Structural Study of Myth”). Post-structuralists thinkers went further, questioning the existence of any distinction between the nature of a thing and its relationship to other things.
Postmodernist ideas in philosophy and the analysis of culture and society expanded the importance of critical theory and has been the point of departure for works of literature, architecture, and design, as well as being visible in marketing/business and the interpretation of history, law and culture, starting in the late 20th century. These developments—re-evaluation of the entire Western value system (love, marriage, popular culture, shift from industrial to service economy) that took place since the 1950s and 1960s, with a peak in the Social Revolution of 1968—are described with the term “postmodernity”, as opposed to Postmodernism, a term referring to an opinion or movement. Postmodernism has also been used interchangeably with the term post-structuralism out of which postmodernism grew; a proper understanding of postmodernism or doing justice to the postmodernist concept demands an understanding of the post-structuralist movement and the ideas of its advocates. Post-structuralism resulted similarly to postmodernism by following a time of structuralism. It is characterized by new ways of thinking through structuralism, contrary to the original form. “Postmodernist” describes part of a movement; “Postmodern” places it in the period of time since the 1950s, making it a part of contemporary history.
One of the most well-known postmodernist concerns is “deconstruction,” a theory for philosophy, literary criticism, and textual analysis developed by Jacques Derrida. The notion of a “deconstructive” approach implies an analysis that questions the already evident understanding of a text in terms of presuppositions, ideological underpinnings, hierarchical values, and frames of reference. A deconstructive approach further depends on the techniques of close reading without reference to cultural, ideological, moral opinions or information derived from an authority over the text such as the author. At the same time Derrida famously writes: “Il n’y a pas d’hors-texte (there is no such thing as outside-of-the-text).” Derrida implies that the world follows the grammar of a text undergoing its own deconstruction. Derrida’s method frequently involves recognizing and spelling out the different, yet similar interpretations of the meaning of a given text and the problematic implications of binary oppositions within the meaning of a text. Derrida’s philosophy inspired a postmodern movement called deconstructivism among architects, characterized by the intentional fragmentation, distortion, and dislocation of architectural elements in designing a building. Derrida discontinued his involvement with the movement after the publication of his collaborative project with architect Peter Eisenman in Chora L Works: Jacques Derrida and Peter Eisenman.
The connection between postmodernism, posthumanism, and cyborgism has led to a challenge of postmodernism, for which the terms “postpostmodernism” and “postpoststructuralism” were first coined in 2003:
In some sense, we may regard postmodernism, posthumanism, poststructuralism, etc., as being of the ‘cyborg age’ of mind over body. Deconference was an exploration in post-cyborgism (i.e. what comes after the postcorporeal era), and thus explored issues of postpostmodernism, postpoststructuralism, and the like. To understand this transition from ‘pomo’ (cyborgism) to ‘popo’ (postcyborgism) we must first understand the cyborg era itself.
More recently metamodernism, post-postmodernism and the “death of postmodernism” have been widely debated: in 2007 Andrew Hoberek noted in his introduction to a special issue of the journal Twentieth Century Literature titled “After Postmodernism” that “declarations of postmodernism’s demise have become a critical commonplace”. A small group of critics has put forth a range of theories that aim to describe culture or society in the alleged aftermath of postmodernism, most notably Raoul Eshelman (performatism), Gilles Lipovetsky (hypermodernity), Nicolas Bourriaud (altermodern), and Alan Kirby (digimodernism, formerly called pseudo-modernism). None of these new theories and labels have so far gained very widespread acceptance. Sociocultural anthropologist Nina Müller-Schwarze offers neostructuralism as a possible direction. The exhibition Postmodernism – Style and Subversion 1970–1990 at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, 24 September 2011 – 15 January 2012) was billed as the first show to document postmodernism as a historical movement.
Origins of term
The term postmodern was first used around the 1880s. John Watkins Chapman suggested “a Postmodern style of painting” as a way to depart from French Impressionism. J. M. Thompson, in his 1914 article in The Hibbert Journal (a quarterly philosophical review), used it to describe changes in attitudes and beliefs in the critique of religion, writing: “The raison d’être of Post-Modernism is to escape from the double-mindedness of Modernism by being thorough in its criticism by extending it to religion as well as theology, to Catholic feeling as well as to Catholic tradition.”
In 1921 and 1925, postmodernism had been used to describe new forms of art and music. In 1942 H. R. Hays described it as a new literary form. However, as a general theory for a historical movement it was first used in 1939 by Arnold J. Toynbee: “Our own Post-Modern Age has been inaugurated by the general war of 1914–1918”.
In 1949 the term was used to describe a dissatisfaction with modern architecture, and led to the postmodern architecture movement, and a response to the modernist architectural movement known as the International Style. Postmodernism in architecture was initially marked by a re-emergence of surface ornament, reference to surrounding buildings in urban settings, historical reference in decorative forms (eclecticism), and non-orthogonal angles.
Peter Drucker suggested the transformation into a post-modern world happened between 1937 and 1957 (when he was writing). He described an as yet “nameless era” which he characterized as a shift to conceptual world based on pattern, purpose, and process rather than mechanical cause, outlined by four new realities: the emergence of Educated Society, the importance of international development, the decline of the nation state, and the collapse of the viability of non-Western cultures.
In 1971, in a lecture delivered at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, Mel Bochner described “post-modernism” in art as having started with Jasper Johns, “who first rejected sense-data and the singular point-of-view as the basis for his art, and treated art as a critical investigation.”
In 1996, Walter Truett Anderson described postmodernism as belonging to one of four typological world views, which he identifies as either (a) Postmodern-ironist, which sees truth as socially constructed, (b) Scientific-rational, in which truth is found through methodical, disciplined inquiry, (c) Social-traditional, in which truth is found in the heritage of American and Western civilization, or (d) Neo-Romantic, in which truth is found through attaining harmony with nature and/or spiritual exploration of the inner self.
Influential postmodern thinkers
Martin Heidegger rejected the philosophical basis of the concepts of “subjectivity” and “objectivity” and asserted that similar grounding oppositions in logic ultimately refer to one another. Instead of resisting the admission of this paradox in the search for understanding, Heidegger requires that we embrace it through an active process of elucidation he called the “hermeneutic circle”.
Jacques Derrida re-examined the fundamentals of writing and its consequences on philosophy in general; sought to undermine the language of “presence” or metaphysics in an analytical technique which, beginning as a point of departure from Heidegger’s notion of Destruktion, came to be known as Deconstruction. Derrida used, like Heidegger, references to Greek philosophical notions associated with the Skeptics and the Presocratics, such as Epoché and Aporia to articulate his notion of implicit circularity between premises and conclusions, origins and manifestations, but—in a manner analogous in certain respects to Gilles Deleuze—presented a radical re-reading of canonical philosophical figures such as Plato, Aristotle, and Descartes as themselves being informed by such “destabilizing” notions.
Michel Foucault introduced concepts such as ‘discursive regime’, or re-invoked those of older philosophers like ‘episteme’ and ‘genealogy’ in order to explain the relationship between meaning, power, and social behavior within social orders (see The Order of Things, The Archaeology of Knowledge, Discipline and Punish, and The History of Sexuality). In direct contradiction to what have been typified as modernist perspectives on epistemology, Foucault asserted that rational judgment, social practice, and what he called “biopower” are not only inseparable but co-determinant. While Foucault himself was deeply involved in a number of progressive political causes and maintained close personal ties with members of the far-left, he was also controversial with leftist thinkers of his day, including those associated with various Marxist tendencies, proponents of left-libertarianism (such as Noam Chomsky), and supporters of humanism (like Jürgen Habermas), for his rejection of what he deemed to be Enlightenment concepts of freedom, liberation, self-determination, and human nature. Instead, Foucault focused on the ways in which such constructs can foster cultural hegemony, violence, and exclusion.
Jean-François Lyotard identified in The Postmodern Condition a crisis in the “discourses of the human sciences” latent in modernism but catapulted to the fore by the advent of the “computerized” or “telematic” era (see information revolution). This crisis, insofar as it pertains to academia, concerns both the motivations and justification procedures for making research claims: unstated givens or values that have validated the basic efforts of academic research since the late 18th century might no longer be valid—particularly, in social science and humanities research, though examples from mathematics are given by Lyotard as well. As formal conjecture about real-world issues becomes inextricably linked to automated calculation, information storage, and retrieval, such knowledge becomes increasingly “exteriorised” from its knowers in the form of information. Knowledge thus becomes materialized and made into a commodity exchanged between producers and consumers; it ceases to be either an idealistic end-in-itself or a tool capable of bringing about liberty or social benefit; it is stripped of its humanistic and spiritual associations, its connection with education, teaching, and human development, being simply rendered as “data”—omnipresent, material, unending, and without any contexts or pre-requisites. Furthermore, the “diversity” of claims made by various disciplines begins to lack any unifying principle or intuition as objects of study become more and more specialized due to the emphasis on specificity, precision, and uniformity of reference that competitive, database-oriented research implies.
Richard Rorty argues in Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature that contemporary analytic philosophy mistakenly imitates scientific methods. In addition, he denounces the traditional epistemological perspectives of representationalism and correspondence theory that rely upon the independence of knowers and observers from phenomena and the passivity of natural phenomena in relation to consciousness. As a proponent of anti-foundationalism and anti-essentialism within a pragmatist framework, he echoes the postmodern strain of conventionalism and relativism, but opposes much of postmodern thinking with his commitment to social liberalism.
Jean Baudrillard, in Simulacra and Simulation, introduced the concept that reality or the principle of “The Real” is short-circuited by the interchangeability of signs in an era whose communicative and semantic acts are dominated by electronic media and digital technologies. Baudrillard proposes the notion that, in such a state, where subjects are detached from the outcomes of events (political, literary, artistic, personal, or otherwise), events no longer hold any particular sway on the subject nor have any identifiable context; they therefore have the effect of producing widespread indifference, detachment, and passivity in industrialized populations. He claimed that a constant stream of appearances and references without any direct consequences to viewers or readers could eventually render the division between appearance and object indiscernible, resulting, ironically, in the “disappearance” of mankind in what is, in effect, a virtual or holographic state, composed only of appearances. For Baudrillard, “simulation is no longer that of a territory, a referential being or a substance. It is the generation by models of a real without origin or a reality: a hyperreal.
Fredric Jameson set forth one of the first expansive theoretical treatments of postmodernism as a historical period, intellectual trend, and social phenomenon in a series of lectures at the Whitney Museum, later expanded as Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991). Eclectic in his methodology, Jameson has continued a sustained examination of the role that periodization continues to play as a grounding assumption of critical methodologies in humanities disciplines. He has contributed extensive effort to explicating the importance of concepts of Utopia and Utopianism as driving forces in the cultural and intellectual movements of modernity, and outlining the political and existential uncertainties that may result from the decline or suspension of this trend in the theorized state of postmodernity. Like Susan Sontag, Jameson served to introduce a wide audience of American readers to key figures of the 20th century continental European intellectual left, particularly those associated with the Frankfurt School, structuralism, and post-structuralism. Thus, his importance as a “translator” of their ideas to the common vocabularies of a variety of disciplines in the Anglo-American academic complex is equally as important as his own critical engagement with them.
In Analysis of the Journey, a journal birthed from postmodernism, Douglas Kellner insists that the “assumptions and procedures of modern theory” must be forgotten. His terms defined in the depth of postmodernism are based on advancement, innovation, and adaptation. Extensively, Kellner analyzes the terms of this theory in real-life experiences and examples. Kellner used science and technology studies as a major part of his analysis; he urged that the theory is incomplete without it. The scale was larger than just postmodernism alone; it must be interpreted through cultural studies where science and technology studies play a huge role. The reality of the September 11 attacks on the United States of America is the catalyst for his explanation. This catalyst is used as a great representation due to the mere fact of the planned ambush and destruction of “symbols of globalization”, insinuating the World Trade Center.
Influence on art
The idea of Postmodernism in architecture began as a response to the perceived blandness and failed Utopianism of the Modern movement. Modern Architecture, as established and developed by Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier, was focused on the pursuit of a perceived ideal perfection, and attempted harmony of form and function, and dismissal of “frivolous ornament,” as well as arguing for an architecture that represented the spirit of the age as depicted in cutting-edge technology, be it airplanes, cars, ocean liners or even supposedly artless grain silos. Critics of modernism argued that the attributes of perfection and minimalism themselves were subjective, and pointed out anachronisms in modern thought and questioned the benefits of its philosophy. Definitive postmodern architecture such as the work of Michael Graves and Robert Venturi rejects the notion of a ‘pure’ form or ‘perfect’ architectonic detail, instead conspicuously drawing from all methods, materials, forms and colors available to architects.
Modernist Ludwig Mies van der Rohe is associated with the phrase “less is more”; in response Venturi famously said, “Less is a bore.”
The intellectual scholarship regarding postmodernism and architecture is closely linked with the writings of critic-turned-architect Charles Jencks, beginning with lectures in the early 1970s and his essay “The rise of post-modern architecture” from 1975. His magnum opus, however, is the book The Language of Post-Modern Architecture, first published in 1977, and since running to seven editions. Jencks makes the point that Post-Modernism (like Modernism) varies for each field of art, and that for architecture it is not just a reaction to Modernism but what he terms double coding: “Double Coding: the combination of Modern techniques with something else (usually traditional building) in order for architecture to communicate with the public and a concerned minority, usually other architects.” Furthermore, Post-Modern architects would for economic reasons be compelled to make use of contemporary technology, hence distinguishing such architects from mere revivalists. Among the Post-Modern architects championed by Jencks were Robert Venturi, Robert Stern, Charles Moore, Michael Graves, Leon Krier, and James Stirling.
Postmodernism is a rejection of ‘totality’, of the notion that planning could be ‘comprehensive’, widely applied regardless of context, and rational. In this sense, Postmodernism is a rejection of its predecessor: Modernism. From the 1920s onwards, the Modern movement sought to design and plan cities which followed the logic of the new model of industrial mass production; reverting to large-scale solutions, aesthetic standardisation and prefabricated design solutions (Goodchild 1990). Postmodernism also brought a break from the notion that planning and architecture could result in social reform, which was an integral dimension of the plans of Modernism (Simonsen 1990). Furthermore, Modernism eroded urban living by its failure to recognise differences and aim towards homogenous landscapes (Simonsen 1990, 57). Within Modernism, urban planning represented a 20th-century move towards establishing something stable, structured, and rationalised within what had become a world of chaos, flux and change (Irving 1993, 475). The role of planners predating Postmodernism was one of the ‘qualified professional’ who believed they could find and implement one single ‘right way’ of planning new urban establishments (Irving 1993). In fact, after 1945, urban planning became one of the methods through which capitalism could be managed and the interests of developers and corporations could be administered (Irving 1993, 479).
Considering Modernism inclined urban planning to treat buildings and developments as isolated, unrelated parts of the overall urban ecosystems created fragmented, isolated, and homogeneous urban landscapes (Goodchild, 1990). One of the greater problems with Modernist-style of planning was the disregard of resident or public opinion, which resulted in planning being forced upon the majority by a minority consisting of affluent professionals with little to no knowledge of real ‘urban’ problems characteristic of post-Second World War urban environments: slums, overcrowding, deteriorated infrastructure, pollution and disease, among others (Irving 1993). These were precisely the ‘urban ills’ Modernism was meant to ‘solve’, but more often than not, the types of ‘comprehensive’, ‘one size fits all’ approaches to planning made things worse., and residents began to show interest in becoming involved in decisions which had once been solely entrusted to professionals of the built environment. Advocacy planning and participatory models of planning emerged in the 1960s to counter these traditional elitist and technocratic approaches to urban planning (Irving 1993; Hatuka & D’Hooghe 2007). Furthermore, an assessment of the ‘ills’ of Modernism among planners during the 1960s, fuelled development of a participatory model that aimed to expand the range of participants in urban interventions (Hatuka & D’Hooghe 2007, 21).
Jane Jacobs’ 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities was a sustained critique of urban planning as it had developed within Modernism and marked a transition from modernity to postmodernity in thinking about urban planning (Irving 1993, 479). However, the transition from Modernism to Postmodernism is often said to have happened at 3:32pm on 15 July in 1972, when Pruitt Igoe; a housing development for low-income people in St. Louis designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki, which had been a prize-winning version of Le Corbusier’s ‘machine for modern living’ was deemed uninhabitable and was torn down (Irving 1993, 480). Since then, Postmodernism has involved theories that embrace and aim to create diversity, and it exalts uncertainty, flexibility and change (Hatuka & D’Hooghe 2007). Postmodern planning aims to accept pluralism and heighten awareness of social differences in order to accept and bring to light the claims of minority and disadvantaged groups (Goodchild 1990).
Literary postmodernism was officially inaugurated in the United States with the first issue of boundary, subtitled “Journal of Postmodern Literature and Culture”, which appeared in 1972. David Antin, Charles Olson, John Cage, and the Black Mountain College school of poetry and the arts were integral figures in the intellectual and artistic exposition of postmodernism at the time. boundary 2 remains an influential journal in postmodernist circles today.
Jorge Luis Borges’ (1939) short story Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, is often considered as predicting postmodernism and conceiving the ideal of the ultimate parody. Samuel Beckett is sometimes seen as an important precursor and influence. Novelists who are commonly connected with postmodern literature include Vladimir Nabokov, William Gaddis, Umberto Eco, John Hawkes, William S. Burroughs, Giannina Braschi, Kurt Vonnegut, John Barth, Jean Rhys, Donald Barthelme, E.L. Doctorow, Richard Kalich, Jerzy Kosinski, Don DeLillo, Thomas Pynchon (Pynchon’s work has also been described as “high modern”), Ishmael Reed, Kathy Acker, Ana Lydia Vega, Jachym Topol and Paul Auster.
In 1971, the Arab-American scholar Ihab Hassan published The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Toward a Postmodern Literature, an early work of literary criticism from a postmodern perspective, in which the author traces the development of what he calls “literature of silence” through Marquis de Sade, Franz Kafka, Ernest Hemingway, Beckett, and many others, including developments such as the Theatre of the Absurd and the nouveau roman. In ‘Postmodernist Fiction’ (1987), Brian McHale details the shift from modernism to postmodernism, arguing that the former is characterized by an epistemological dominant, and that postmodern works have developed out of modernism and are primarily concerned with questions of ontology. In Constructing Postmodernism (1992), McHale’s second book, he provides readings of postmodern fiction and of some of the contemporary writers who go under the label of cyberpunk. McHale’s “What Was Postmodernism?” (2007), follows Raymond Federman’s lead in now using the past tense when discussing postmodernism.
Postmodern music is either music of the postmodern era, or music that follows aesthetic and philosophical trends of postmodernism. As the name suggests, the postmodernist movement formed partly in reaction to the ideals of the modernist. Because of this, postmodern music is mostly defined in opposition to modernist music, and a work can either be modernist, or postmodern, but not both. Jonathan Kramer posits the idea (following Umberto Eco and Jean-François Lyotard) that postmodernism (including musical postmodernism) is less a surface style or historical period (i.e., condition) than an attitude.
The postmodern impulse in classical music arose in the 1960s with the advent of musical minimalism. Composers such as Terry Riley, Henryk Górecki, Bradley Joseph, John Adams, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, and Lou Harrison reacted to the perceived elitism and dissonant sound of atonal academic modernism by producing music with simple textures and relatively consonant harmonies, whilst others, most notably John Cage challenged the prevailing narratives of beauty and objectivity common to Modernism. Some composers have been openly influenced by popular music and world ethnic musical traditions.
Postmodern classical music as well is not a musical style, but rather refers to music of the postmodern era. It bears the same relationship to postmodernist music that postmodernity bears to postmodernism. Postmodern music, on the other hand, shares characteristics with postmodernist art—that is, art that comes after and reacts against modernism.
Though representing a general return to certain notions of music-making that are often considered to be classical or romantic, not all postmodern composers have eschewed the experimentalist or academic tenets of modernism. The works of Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, for example, exhibit experimentalist preoccupation that is decidedly anti-romantic. Eclecticism and freedom of expression, in reaction to the rigidity and aesthetic limitations of modernism, are the hallmarks of the postmodern influence in musical composition.
Graphic design in the postmodern age brought forth ideas that challenged the orderly feel of modernism. Graphic designers created works beginning in the 1970s without any set adherence to rational order and formal organization. Designers began experimenting with how shapes, forms and typography could react with one another effectively and interestingly in a less rigid way even if the design was rendered illegible. Some graphic design styles that emerged in the postmodernist era were New Wave Typography, retro and vernacular design, playful design inspired by the Italian Memphis Group, punk rock styles and explorative digital design from the late 1980’s. Another characteristic of postmodern graphic design is that “retro, techno, punk, grunge, beach, parody, and pastiche were all conspicuous trends. Each had its own sites and venues, detractors and advocates”.
Yet, while postmodern design did not consist of one unified graphic style, the movement was an expressive and playful time for designers who searched for more and more ways to go against the system. Postmodernism did not seek rules but only creative solutions and innovative ideas. The clean orderly grid-based designs of International Typographic Style were interrupted for more exploration and innovation in color, composition, visual communication, and typography. Key influential postmodern graphic designers include Wolfgang Weingart, April Greiman, Jayme Odgers, Tibor Kalman, Dan Friedman, Paula Scher, Neville Brody, Michael Vanderbyl and Jamie Reid.
Source from Wikipedia