General name for a large family of materials used widely in product manufacturing this century. Examples from before 1939 include the familiar celluloid and Bakelite but after 1945 plastics proliferated to such an extent that it became increasingly difficult to recognize them. Polyethylene, vinyl, acrylic, and many others were among the new materials that provided designers with new challenges.
For the most part plastics design has been considered to be “cheap and nasty”, as price and quantity have tended to dominate over quality, but, nonetheless, a number of designers —among them, Vico Magistretti in Italy, Charles Eames in the us, and Eero Aarnio (1932– ) in Finland—have attempted to develop a new identity for the plastic object. Since the 1960s, however, concern for the environment has turned plastics back into an undesirable group of materials.Generic name for certain synthetic or semisynthetic materials that can be molded or extruded into objects or films or filaments or used for making e.g. coatings and adhesives.