BauhausThe Bauhaus movement as I believe it was the turning point in the history of Art and design where‘design’ is of importance. My strategy is to demonstrate that for a product to function well thedesign is key.The first decades of the 20th century was characterised by enormous social and political changeswith a radically changing lifestyle. Technology, manufacturing, science and art was the drivingforce.The Bauhaus was founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany and was a school for combined ‘fine’ artsand applied’ arts, to teach design principles for life.The most symbolic Bauhaus building was in Dessau, illustration 1, which was designed by WalterGropius himself in 1925, including the mechanically opening windows shown in illustration 2. Theaesthetics of the building was industrial yet it was for academic learning of the arts and crafts.Already he was combining art & industry.Illustration 1 Illustration 2The typography for the signage on the Bauhaus in Dessau, illustration 2, was designed by HerbertBayer in 1925 who was both a student and teacher at The Bauhaus. A simple, geometric sans-serif font inspired by his views of modern typography.
The Bauhaus was influential in the Modernist movement. For designers and architects the modernworld gave a new and better way to do things ‘new ways of thinking’ The Bauhaus was a schoolwhere people were trained to use their ability to get the maximum out of their skills. Gropiusproclaimed his goal as being “to create a new guild of craftsmen”. (Anon. designhistory.org. 2010)Many great Figures studied and taught at the Bauhaus. In the beginning along with Gropius wasJohannes Itten, Lyonel Feininger and Gerhard Marcks and later came architects Ludwig Mies vander Rohe, Marcel Breur, Hannes Meyer and Artists, Paul Klee and László Moholy-Nagy. TheBauhaus movement created a magnitude of classic pieces and inspirational work in Europe andaround the world as many of these great figures had to emigrate after the Bauhaus was forced toclose in 1933 due to the political pressure from the Nazi movement.Wassily Kandinsky taught basic design theory at the Bauhaus with association to form and colour.Influenced by theosophy, his abstract artwork, illustration 3 and 4, shows his fascination for theprimary colours red, yellow and blue and the geometrical elements such as circles, half circles,triangles, squares and simple lines. He believed these certain colours in relationship to a certainshape represented how the reader would feel, making them have an emotional connection. Ibelieve he influenced colour psychology in design today. Illustration 3. On White II, 1923 Illustration 4. Yellow, Red, Blue,1925
It can be said that the Bauhaus was the first modern art school. Art schools have been stronglyinfluenced by their teaching of design and still. The Bauhaus curriculum model, illustration 5 is stillused in education today. I know this because I am studying these basic design principles. Bauhaus Curriculum Model, 1922 in German Translated into English.Illustration 5 “The Bauhaus curriculum combined theoreticeducation and practical training in the educationalworkshops. It drew inspiration from the ideals of therevolutionary art movements and design experiments ofthe early 20th century. A woodcut [Illustration 6]depicted the idealized vision of Walter Gropius, a"cathedral" of design. ”(Anon. designhistory.org. 2010) Lyonel Feininger, Cathedral, woodcut, Cover of 1st program of Bauhaus April 1919 Illustration 6.
When the School was initially opened Walter Gropius had a utopian vision, a perfect and idealunity. His aim of the Bauhaus was to bridge the gap in art and industry after world war I, bycreating quality products for mass production without losing style. “The artist” Walter Gropiusdeclared “possesses the ability to breathe soul into the lifeless product of the machine”. (Weber,2009).I believe that the ideals of William Morris within the Art & Crafts movement influenced WalterGropius. Morris imposed that creativity had a function and was to be done by a craftsman orartisan who would be multi-skilled. Morris was the first to set up small factories with craftsman, oneperson sitting down and creating. However, he rejected mass production in the midst of anincreasing industrialisation and continued with his handcrafted work. Inspired by nature, it wasvery ornate and organic. The Art Nouveau movement that followed shared the same similarities,but acknowledged the usefulness of mass production.Gropius wanted the Bauhaus to build on Morris’s beliefs whilst embracing new technologies andmaterials as he recognised their benefits for society. Gropius acknowledged that such a differentway of living needed a new design vocabulary that was appropriate to the modern world ofadvancing technology. In Contrast to the Art Nouveau movement, the Bauhaus concentrated onmore simplistic forms with very little detail. By removing the ornate decoration on objects, theycould be made quickly and efficiently for less cost.The Bauhaus changed their program in 1923 "art and technology - a new unity". (Anon.Bauhaus.de. 2012)This brought about the ‘idea of design’ that Form – Follows – Function. “Industrial potentials wereto be applied to satisfactory design, regarding both functional and aesthetic aspects. The Bauhausworkshops produced prototypes for mass production: from lamps to a complete dwelling.” (Anon.Bauhaus.de. 2012)The Bauhaus creatives’ took all these concepts into consideration when creating their designs. Adesigner’s best test bed for all new technologies is the ‘chair’.Marcel Breuer a former student who returned to teach at the Bauhaus designed the ‘WassilyChair’ in 1925, illustration 7. The stylish design and innovative use of material ‘tubular steel’ wasrevolutionary. Breuer adopted the ‘new way of thinking’ by means of design and acknowledgedform-follows-function. The steel was extremely lightweight and extensively stronger than wood.Suddenly you had a good light weight material that could be moved and mass produced easily yetwas visually very exciting.
Illustration 7In conjunction with the Wessily chair in 1926, Breuer designed a series of stools and tables shownin illustration 7, he utilised the principle of a gravity defying cantilever construction by turning thetable on its side for his next chair design in 1928, illustration 8. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe anotherBauhaus master developed this design further in 1929, illustration 9. Cesca dining room chair designed by Marcel Breuer, 1928 Illustration 8
Brno chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1929 Illustration 9Ludwig Mies van der Rohe design style was very minimal having strong and simple ways tocommunicate. He is most known for his architecture combining modern materials such as glassand steel and the modernist classic ‘Barcelona’ chair in 1929. Illustration 10. Ludwig alsopopularised the aphorisms “less is more” and “god is in the detail” which we still use today. Barcelona chair designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, 1929 Illustration 10
These developments in design are what made the Bauhaus famous. By solving solutions withdesign was important to the functionality of the product. This is evident today in something we seeand use every day and what most of us take for granted; Britain’s road and motorway signagesystem, designed by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert from 1957-1967. We use these signs on adaily basis and we don’t even give a second thought to their design process, yet without them ourroads would be in utter chaos. As the design museum quoted “This was one of the most ambitiousyet effective design projects ever executed in Britain” (Anon. Designmuseum.org).Before Kinneir and Calvert, road signs were confusing and difficult to read, illustration 11. Theyhad various symbols, colours and text in the different counties throughout Britain. It made itdangerous with the increasing motorists’ on the roads. It was not about aesthetics but function.They approached the problem from an information design perspective, making them clear andsimple giving a visual understanding in an instant, Calvert stated "It required completely radicalthinking. The information wasnt there in terms of reading distance, clarity and letter spaces. Wehad to make up the signs and then test them. It was instinctive." (McClatchey, 2011)Illustration 11 Illustration 12 Illustration 13They devised two new typefaces ‘Motorway’ illustration 12 and ‘Transport’ illustration 13, was asofter and curvier sans serif font which would be seen visually more pleasing and appealing. Manysigns previously were in uppercase, as shown in illustration 11 which were hard to read. Kinneirand Calvert’s system used upper and lower case words, illustration 13, as research found thatyour brain can form the shape of the word first which makes it easier to read in that split second.That was fundamental. They were commissioned first to re-design the motorway signage whichwas mainly type. The success of these saw them commissioned to do all of Britain’s roadssignage. For these they favoured pictograms, as a visual pictorial communication was quicker tounderstand.
The illustrations in these signs were based on Calvert’s own life. The girl in the ‘School’ sign,illustration 14, is based on a photo of her as a young girl. The sign shapes were based ongeometrical shapes and colours, illustration’s 14, 15 and 16, representing different instructions soyou are instantly alerted to the possible hazards or dangers ahead. This association with theshape and colour is similar to Wassily Kandinsky theories which he taught at the Bauhaus.Illustration 14 Illustration 15 Illustration 16In conclusion the Bauhaus encouraged thought, in that the best design is invisible. The fact thatthese road signs are still in use today shows they are a success, why because of the design,because they fulfil their function so efficiently that we take them for granted, as though they areinvisible. Concluding that Design is important and that if you get form – follows – function correctyou have designed it well. Dieter Rams said it best ‘Design’ said Rams ‘should be as discrete asan English butler’. (Rams, 2010)
ReferencesAnon. (2010) History of Graphic Design: Chapter 8 Bauhaus. Last updated: 2010.http://designhistory.org/Bauhaus3.html (accessed 10 February 2012)Anon. (2010) History of Graphic Design: Chapter 8 Bauhaus. Last updated: 2010.http://designhistory.org/Bauhaus3.html (accessed 10 February 2012)Weber, N.F. (2009) The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism. First Edition. United States:Alfred. A. Knopf.Anon. (2012) Bauhaus Archiv: Museum of Design. Last updated: 23 February 2012www.bauhaus.de/bauhaus1919/index+M52087573ab0.html (accessed 24 February 2012)Anon. (2012) Bauhaus Archiv: Museum of Design. Last updated: 23 February 2012www.bauhaus.de/bauhaus1919/index+M52087573ab0.html (accessed 24 February 2012)Anon. (2006) Designing Modern Britain. Last updated: 26 November 2006.http://designmuseum.org/design/jock-kinneir-margaret-calvert (accessed 24 February 2012)McClatchey, C. (2011) The road sign as design classic. BBC News Magazine. Last updated. 9December 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15990443 (accessed 25th February 2012)Rams, D. (2010) Genius of Design: Ghosts in the machine. BBC DocumentaryIllustrations1 The Bauhaus, Dessau, Germany, second location. (1925-1932)2 Bauhaus Sign, Dessau. Typography designed by Herbert Bayer3 Wassily Kandinsky, On White II, 19234 Wassily Kandinsky, Yellow, Red, Blue,19255 Bauhaus Curriculum Modle, 1922. In German and translated into English.6 Lyonel Feininger, Cathedral, woodcut, Cover of 1st program of Bauhaus April 1919
7 Marcel Breur, Wassily Chair, 19258 Marcel Breuer. Cesca dining room chair, 19289 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Brno chair, 192910 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona chair, 192911 One of the numerous British road signs predating the Kinneir-Calvert system12 Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert, Motorway sign13 Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert, Primary road sign14 Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert, Children crossing sign, 196415 Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert, speed limit sign16 Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert, direction signBibliographyBooksWeber, N.F. (2009) The Bauhaus Group: Six Masters of Modernism. First Edition. United States:Alfred. A. KnopfDocumentariesGenius of Design: Designs for living. BBC Documentary (2010)Genius of Design: Ghosts in the machine. BBC Documentary (2010)ArticlesMcCarthy, F. (2007) The influence of Bauhaus. The Guardian. Published 17 November 2007.http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/nov/17/architecture.art (accessed 13 February 2012)McClatchey, C. (2011) The road sign as design classic. BBC News Magazine. Last updated. 9December 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15990443 (accessed 25 February 2012)Ross, S. (2009) Bauhaus: Ninety Years of Inspiration. Smashing Magazine. Published 2 August2009. http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2009/08/02/bauhaus-ninety-years-of-inspiration/(accessed 10 February 2012)