Steampunk at its Design Core


Bruce Rosenbaum, ModVic LLC


It was not until the Summer of 2008 I first heard the word ‘ Steampunk’. A friend had known about the movement and aesthetic and told me we were Steampunking. The description seemed quite odd to me. I understood the ‘steam’ referenced the steam that generated power for the machines and factories of the Victorian and Industrial Age. It was the word ‘punk’ that gave me pause. It brought to mind the more mischievous days of my youth in Marblehead, Massachusetts, but punk is a designation I thought I had outgrown a long time ago.

My wife, Melanie and I started our home restoration business, ModVic, short for Modern Victorian, in June of 2007. Our vision was to combine the best of the Victorian and Industrial ages by incorporating modern technologies and systems of today’s conveniences with Victorian elegance and design. The idea was simple. Combine opposites: old with new, the past with the present. We thought, it’s the best of both worlds.


At its essence, Steampunk infuses and synthesizes opposites to create the best of both worlds: future and past; old world craftsmanship and sleek modern design; humanism and technology; utopian and dystopian futures; art and science; self and society.


For Melanie and I, these are the core principles of Steampunk: make, create (recreate), repurpose, reuse and infuse. It’s a way to improve the quality of life for all things on the planet by re-imagining how we can repurpose materials, beginning in our own homes.

In my own projects, I’ve found that the Steampunk philosophy (at least my own take on it) offers a way to solve design problems by pushing me to think less in terms of either/or and more of ‘what if’ and ‘and’ – including both. I believe, changing our thinking patterns by focusing our energies on improvement helps us affect change in meaningful ways.


This seems to be apparent from the people that we’ve met in the Steampunk community. For the most part, Steampunkers are intellectually curious, fun, open-minded and accepting. For designers, makers, tinkerers, we now have a way to solve problems of anachronism in design by re-imagining the past and present into the present-future.

For me, the best, the most elegant, the most creative solutions and inventions combine and synthesize opposites. For example, think of a hammer. It pounds and removes nails. A pencil writes and erases. A jackknife cuts and it closes for safety. The act of blending opposites, like past and future or art and science to create and re-imagine how objects and our lives can be alive and always improving instead of static and unchanging is important for breaking though.

This manner of opening the mind to combining opposites is a core tenet of our philosophy and of Steampunk design.


Published in: on February 18, 2015 at 8:05 pm  Comments (9)  

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Reblogged this on Cogpunk Steamscribe and commented:
    A fine article on the Steampunk Aesthetic, and how people can come to Steampunk through the ‘backdoor’ so to speak.

  2. […] Bruce Rosenbaum, ModVic – Steampunk at its Design Core […]

  3. Reblogged this on Airship Flamel and commented:
    I’ve loved ModVic’s designs ever since I first saw them!

  4. I agree wholeheartedly. I think, at a deep level, human beings in general are moving away from ideas of division and separation that have shadowed us for hundreds of years.

    The genre of Steampunk continuously provides examples of the expression of taking what was disparate and making it into a new whole.

    It may look odd and different at first glance – yep, the ‘punk’ threw me too, at first…but Steampunk is evidence of how we have matured and are now re-designing ourselves.

  5. Reblogged this on The Navigatrix on Etsy and commented:
    Expressive fusion…

  6. […] Steampunk at its Design Core […]

  7. […] Steampunk at its Design Core […]

  8. […] Steampunk at its Design Core […]

  9. […] Steampunk at its Design Core […]

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