Blurring the lines between art and invention, Steampunk is where Victorian Style meets Fictional Technology.
Steampunk is a design style that exudes a “retro-futuristic” feel. There are a lot of differing opinions as to the exact definition of what it is and where it began – but basically, it was inspired by the inventive and daring spirit of the Age of Steam.
This was the period of industrialization that took place approximately between 1770 and 1914. When this technology was perfected, it allowed for factories to produce at a pace never before seen. Steam power found its way into everything such as mining, factories, steam boats, locomotives and even farms. [from source + source]
The “Steampunk” Term
The term “Steampunk” became popular in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s when it was coined by author K. W. Jeter to describe a series of stories he had written. Jules Verne and H. G. Wells also often wrote science fiction stories often based in the Victorian era which may have been the kick-start to where sci-fi meets the Victorian era. [from source + source]
Steampunk, at its core, is a design style which utilizes mechanical parts, metal and historical dress directly inspired by the machines and workers of the industrial revolution. It presents a vision, in which life is characterized by modernization and dreams of a better future through the advancement of steam powered technology.
Unlike Cyberpunk, It does not usually convey negative conditions such as disease, war, poverty or nuclear fallout. Steampunk’s handmade appearance hearkens back to an adventurous age that offers a kind of nostalgic appeal for its fans.
The Design Style
Generally it consists of Victorian style brassy metals often with an oxidized, hand-beaten look. In fashion, goggles have often become the iconic symbol for the Steampunk sub-culture. When creating a Steampunk design you might want to include items such as: gears, switches, pulleys, dials, meters, buttons, knobs, old-fashioned light bulbs, decorative brackets, cogs, springs, watch parts, hinges, or keys.
Taking a look around the web, you will find an abundance of examples that utilize the Steampunk aesthetic. Below are several diverse examples to help kick start your creative steam engine.
1. Steampunk and Lego
On Flickr you can explore a group pool where over 600 members share their Lego creations inspired by Steampunk. Here are a few of my favorites.
2. Steampunk in Movies
Steampunk can also be found in some pretty popular films. All of these movies feature some pretty amazing mechanical contraptions.
Wild Wild West (1999)
City of Lost Children (1994)
Van Helsing (2004)
3. Steampunk on the iPhone
Even the famous iPhone has seen some Steampunk fun. Below are a few iPhone apps that feel very Victorian.
Steampunk Tales – Emulating the style of the pulp adventure magazines of the 1920s and ’30s, Steampunk Tales contains first-run, original fiction written by an A+ list of award-winning authors. Issue #3 contains 10 stories, most running between 4,300 to 11,000 words, for an unbelievable price. [from source]
Rotary Dial – Just in case you wanted that old school feel for your iPhone, you can download a rotary dial fashioned in the Steampunk style.
4. Steampunk Sculptures
5. Steampunk in Design
- Brass Goggles – a blog dedicated to all things Steampunk
- Wikipedia – an article about Steampunk
- NPR - Steampunk Brings Victorian Flair to the 21st Century
- Tor.com – Steampunk as a Subculture
- Steampunk Lab – a central repository for Steampunk projects
- Wired - Documenting The Steampunk Generation
What do you think of the Steampunk culture? Is it just a fad or here to stay?