Mid-century Modern living room

"What Works Good" — A Brief Overview of Mid-Century Modern Design

A design movement that has transcended time despite its title being based off of a specific time period: Mid-Century Modern design has remained a classic style in both interior and graphic design for decades. Referring to the middle of the 20th century, this design style is difficult to place into a tidy box. Let’s explore how it has transformed and evolved yet stayed true to its core values over time, and how it inspired some of our product designs at the IN Store!



The Mid-Century Modern style developed and flourished in America somewhere between the early 1940s to the late 1960s (depending on who you talk to). The style grew from the foundations of Bauhaus in Germany and the International style. After World War II, German architects and designers mobilized to America to escape the tense political, social, and economic climate in Germany, bringing their design ideologies with them. Social and technological advances after the war gave rise to using new materials and textures that weren’t possible before, developing an entirely new aesthetic that is highly coveted even today.


“What works good is better than what looks good, because what works good lasts.” 

Ray Eames


Essential Elements

Mid-Century design is generally characterized by a distillation of aesthetic where form follows function and in which clean lines, simple shapes, and the utilization of new materials of the time (like plastic) were highly valued. Moreover, furniture and appliances that were designed during this period were significantly smaller so that they could fit nicely into homes and living spaces that were diminishing in size. Thanks in large part to the popularity of the HBO series Mad Men, the Mid-Century Modern design is alive and well, prompting not only an interest in incorporating vintage pieces into interior design but also inspiring current designers and architects to adopt the design sensibilities at the core of this style. Notable Mid-Century Modern design heroes include the likes of Charles and Ray Eames (designers of the iconic Eames chair), Arne Jacobsen, Paul Rand, and Saul Bass. 

Mid Century Modern Living Room

Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

As Inspiration

Trends can be cyclical: what was popular in the past tends to go through a period of resurgence at another time with current designers and artists reimagining the elements of the trend. We can see this today in every facet of art and design: the 1990’s aesthetic has reached max popularity in fashion, there’s been a readoption of using actual film for cinema (the new Wonder Woman for example!), and Swiss typography remains fresh and versatile in the world of graphic design. As for Mid-Century Modern design, you can see hints of it around Toronto at any given time. Poke your head into Calligaris or Drechsel Studio on King Street or watch the current Toronto Fire campaign and you'll see that Mid-Century Modern design is an inspiration that still feels contemporary.


Here at the IN Store, student designer Katie Luke pulled inspiration from Mid Century Modern design elements for some George Brown College line products that she designed last Summer (2018). “I really resonate with Mid-Century Modern design and pull from it for my own personal brand. From the interior and graphic design elements of the time period, I love the retro feel and I couldn’t resist designing something that referenced the movement” Katie says.

 Katie Luke and her tote bag design

 Check out Katie's Mid-Century Modern inspired tote bag and pencil case for the GBC collection at IN!

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.