The Memphis artists group was founded in 1980 in Milan. Aged 63, Ettore Sottsass was the oldest member and something like the group’s leader. He designed the Carlton bookcase, which is typical of Memphis design: the basic idea is ‘anti-design’, referring to objects where the primary consideration is not usefulness but cheerfulness and imaginative design. “Why should the look of an object be subordinate to its function?” is one of the questions the designers of this group asked themselves.
Colourful, loud, cheerful and shapes consisting of cones, spheres, pyramids and cubes – these were the group’s signature styles. Another typical element is the black and white speckled base of the Carlton bookshelf.
The pattern was called ‘Bacterio’ because it looks a little like greatly enlarged bacteria under a microscope.
Although it was expensive to produce Memphis design and therefore not everyone could afford to buy these products, their look nonetheless defined the 1980s because the fashion world also drew inspiration from the Memphis style.