Functionalism is the idea that form should follow function; objects should be designed simply, honestly, and directly. [1] It should be immediately clear to a viewer and a user what the object is and how to use it. Functionalist objects are primarily domestic objects, which makes this milk jug an example of Functionalism in inter-war Czechoslovakia.

This teapot is part of the Krásná jizba, or Beautiful Household, collection, which was designed by Ladislav Sutnar, known for his later graphic designs, who was the art director of the Krásná jizba line starting in 1930.[2] Functionalism became especially popular in Czechoslovakia as a way to replace traditional handicrafts with mass produced industrial objects. These types of housewares were seen as democratic, as they made modern and quality products available to the general public. The spread of these wares within Czechoslovakia was different than its spread in other countries as it was more accessible to the middle classes, who ran the country, making it a symbol of the modern Czech lifestyle.

Sutnar’s preference for functionalist designs came from his belief that design should communicate clearly and that information should be the medium. He was influenced by the Werkbund and its idea of creating machine-made products of the appropriate materials and form for its function while still creating a work of art.[3] Sutnar used progressive advertisement and photography methods to make the line popular. The use of the diagonal in promotional images helped to make the objects represent social progress, thus making them a symbol of Czechoslovakia’s modern future.

[1] George H. Marcus, Functionalist Design: An Ongoing History (New York: Prestel, 1995): 9.

[2]Museum of Decorative Arts in Prague, Ladislav Sutnar – Prague, New York: Design in Action (Prague: Argo Publishers, 2003): 310.

[3] Marcus, Functionalist Design: 54.

Audrey Sutton is a graduate student in the History of Design and Curatorial Studies program at the Cooper Hewitt and a Fellow in the Product Design and Decorate Arts Department.

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