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Metamodern Design : Chapter 10 MMXD The Metamodern Ex Designer

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When we recognize our role in the global and local landscape of design. Where we choose to understand our individual self applied to the greater global landscape while recognizing the insignificance and importance related to our local impact simultaneously. Culturally we must be hyper-observant of the local and global constructs in which society functions. Recognizing the value and risks of emerging tech that have both local and global positive and negative impacts. We must understand our individual role within these constructs and look through a lens where both the macro and micro observations help to guide our understanding of how we go about solving these challenges in the future.

A call to become the “Ex-Designer”

As the practice of design has become a commodity, I believe there will be a new iteration of design to emerge. Rooted in the self-awareness of the Designer within society, design will exist as a role which combines the practice and discipline of design mixed with the ability to observe and lead efforts through our changing globalization of culture. Understanding that design must be non-partisan, unbiased and focused on the core needs and desires of humanity at a level deeper than the current state of the design industry.

The discipline of design exists as a practice. However, in classical design, this practice existed in forms of letterpress, type, graphic design and print design. Along came the internet and computing and design transitioned to digital mediums. From here, we have seen a surge of design and availability of design tools to drive business and brands. But this over-saturation has diminished the value of design from a Classical Design era or the early days of digital design. And so designers who practice design must find new ways to add additional value to their work beyond the practice of design by moving pixels and creating an influx of digital work through platforms, ux, ui, social media, marketing and interactions. Designers have a higher calling to implement greater value to their work, but the current landscape of design doesn’t not offer or support these efforts.

And so I call upon designers to reconsider their roles, their titles and their evolution of design. Recognizing that the world exists in a oscillating pendulum swinging back and forth between sincerity and irony, the design now holds a different responsibility. That responsibility to to tie themselves to neither modernism or post-modernist ideals. But to exist between the two. To recognize that their is value and obsurdity in both movements. And from this place we can design between both/and where our work and output and discipline of design creates a new sensibility and value for the world. Where we put the audience first and at the forefront by allowing them to feel a sense of tension, confusing, uncertainty within the familiarity and security of our work. We then create a sense of discovery and meaning for the audience beyond our own desires. Where our work exists beyond a modernist or post-modern sentiment and is rooted in the both/and.

Considering this approach, the landscape of design is rooted in biased ideologies currently. Subscribing to either a modern or post-modern grand narrative within the design community, within our work, and also within the identity of Designers. My thinking here is that we need a new form of Designer I like to call the “Ex-Designer”.

The idea of the “Ex-Designer” being an outcast to the old world way of thinking about design, but also encompassing the overall “Experience” of design by any means necessary and exploring those means through the work. “Ex” represents both the deconstruction of the designer and the reconstruction of a shift to focus on the experience of design for themselves and for the audience intended. It also represents the intentional effort to detach ourselves from either a “modernist” or “postmodern” sensibility of our work, approach, and identity. So that we can exist within both through a Metamodern lens in which we can build and design the future being self-aware through our work and the intentions in which our work exists.

Ex-Design means that we are thinking deeply about our future. We are considering the next evolution of design beyond a title. Beyond an unregulated industry. Beyond cultural bias. Beyond politics. Beyond the current landscape of culture. We are considering the evolution of our discipline to not only being rooted in the work and practice of design, but the intention in which our work and practice takes place. The framework in which we approach our work does not exist within an old-world perspective of either/or, of “modernism” or “post-modernism”, but our discipline and practice now emerges from a place where we can observe, evaluate and design holding values and recognizing weaknesses from both “modern” and “post-modern” sensibilities.

In practice, this means that we must have a firm understanding of how “modernism” and “postmodernism” is articulated through our work, creative direction, strategy, deliverables, intentions and put into existence.

I have broken these down into attributes in which we might initially approach design and creative direction to “Look and Feel” and “Messaging and Tone”. With these attributes making up a large majority of our work and our direction, by recognizing the tonality and then flipping it on it’s head, we can approach our work from a Metamodern lens with new set of creative directions.

Look and Feel Examples:


  • Bold
  • Bright
  • Calm
  • Chic
  • Classic
  • Clean
  • Confident
  • Elegant
  • Formal
  • Genuine
  • Glamorous
  • Hand-Crafter
  • Historic
  • Industrial
  • Intellectual
  • Inviting
  • Masculine
  • Minimal
  • Modern
  • Natural
  • Nostalgic
  • Organic
  • Outdoorsy
  • Polished
  • Preppy
  • Refined
  • Relatable
  • Relaxed
  • Retro
  • Rich
  • Romantic
  • Rustic
  • Serene
  • Serious
  • Sleek
  • Soft
  • Sophisticated
  • Southern
  • Strong
  • Structured
  • Subtle
  • Traditional
  • Tribal
  • Vibrant
  • Warm


  • Adventurous
  • Airy
  • Artistic
  • Breezy
  • Bohemian
  • Casual
  • Coastal
  • Comfortable
  • Cool
  • Cozy
  • Cute
  • Dreamy
  • Earthy
  • Ecclectic
  • Edgy
  • Energetic
  • Ethereal
  • Feminine
  • Fresh
  • Friendly
  • Fun
  • Funky
  • Happy
  • Irreverant
  • Laid back
  • Ladylike
  • Loud
  • Nautical
  • Playful
  • Quirky
  • Sexy
  • Unexpected
  • Urban
  • Whimsical
  • Youthful

Looking at both of these lists, we can then build new visual creative directions by combining modern and postmodern attributes to build new directions in our creative work. The list serves as a rough starting point in how we might consider the intentions behind our work through a meta modern lens, where we actively try to capture and imagine the sensibilities of both the modern and the postmodern. As time moves forward, this list will grow, evolve and change over time. The mapping of these attributes will be experimented, explored and created as we move beyond the postmodern world.

For example, we might choose “Bold” and “Industrial” from the Modernism list and “Edgy” and “Irreverent” from the Post-Modernism list. Before beginning any design, we might consider how the attributes of the brand and business related to the audience might create new sensibilities and tensions within the work. Where the experience, aesthetic, messaging, art direction, visual, user experience and interactions encompass oscillating attributes from the above list where we can begin to explore new creative avenues for building a pendulum within our work.

The outcome creates an opportunity for our work to exist between both modern and postmodern attributes where the tension and uncertainty within the work creates an emotional space and new sensibility for the audience to experience the oscillation and allow them to sift through the pendulum and oscillating emotions for themselves. This approach goes beyond the traditional media, marketing, advertising, branding and current digital experiences and expectations – in which the business or brand sets out to determine the response from the audience or selling an idea or belief through positioning, messaging and clever tactics. The inverse of this approach puts the decision making process on the audience in which they get to first experience, feel the tension of metamodernism, and then decide for themselves what they believe to be true or not true about the work. This forces the business and brand to share a deeper respect for their audience and it allows the audience feel as if the business or brand allows them to decide for themselves how they should feel about the world. As audience and consumers have become immune to the old world ways of media and advertising tactics, our propensity for detecting hidden sales agendas, clever marketing tactics and convincing us to buy and consume has become more evolved in the technological era.

From here, our metamodern approach to creating new ideas for a “Look and Feel” might emerge from creating and combining visuals related to:

Bold and Edgy and/or Industrial and Irreverent

Bold – Bright colors, heavy type, all caps, modern and corporate layouts

Edgy – Grunge textures, obnoxious colors, scratches, moving the layouts off-grid

Industrial – Masculine and mechanical typography, palettes of gray and slate colors

Irreverent – Imagery of feminine bodies, young angst, aggression and post-modern ideals

From these directions we can create a balance between the two attributes from Modernism and Post-Modernism and explore those ideas around look and feel. This creates a sense of tension at first, but then the audience gets to sift through those initial reactions and make some sort of meaning for themselves – beyond our own approach in either a modern or post-modern perspective.

We take a different approach to our creative work. We look at design through a lens of creating an emotional platform. We approach the work to present it as a place where the audience can come to experience and explore in a way where the interpretation, feeling and understanding differs from person to person while allowing the heightened sensibility of feeling through a metamodern lens becomes intentionally designed, without bias from designer.

Messaging and Tone Examples:


  • Authoritative
  • Trustworthy
  • Sympathetic
  • Serious
  • Romantic
  • Respectful
  • Professional
  • Passionate
  • Nostalgic
  • Matter-of-fact
  • Informative
  • Friendly
  • Frank
  • Formal
  • Casual
  • Dry
  • Conservative
  • Caring


  • Cheerful
  • Coarse
  • Conversational
  • Edgy
  • Enthusiastic
  • Fun
  • Funny
  • Humorous
  • Irreverent
  • Playful
  • Quirky
  • Provocative
  • Sarcastic
  • Smart
  • Snarky
  • Trendy
  • Upbeat
  • Unapologetic
  • Witty

From these lists, we can begin to create new paths for Messaging and Tone in our work. Related to copywriting, we can then use these to combine with the above visuals to build new sensibility in our design.

For example, we might use “Authoritative” and “Serious” from the Modernism list

Combined with using “Playful” and “Snarky” from the Post-Modernism list

We can create new ideas and directions for tagline, copy and messaging born our these attributes

Authoritative and Serious – Professional, concise, straightforward, leader

Playful and Snarky – Edgy, aggressive, witty, nonchalant

Let’s take a brand example tagline. Home Depot. “More Saving. More Doing”

And let’s play with it.

Maybe it becomes something like the following:

“Get it done. Whenever you get around to it.”

“For those “Maybe this weekend” projects.”

“Consider it done, probably, tomorrow.”

By playing with tonality from both modernism and post-modernism, we can start to create new ideas and directions in which culture moves in modern and post-modern movements.


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