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Influence Of The Bauhaus On Design Cultural Studies Essay

Published: 23rd March, 2015 Last Edited: 23rd March, 2015

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The Bauhaus was an art school in Germany which emerged in 1919. It was famous for its unique approach to design and its massive influence on the modern western culture. It was also considered to be the greatest design institution of the 20th century.

Many groups and individuals have influenced design in the world of Advertising, from William Morris and his Arts and Crafts style to Jules Cheret and Art Nouveau. However, arguably no entity has been as influential to modern design as the collective known as the Bauhaus.

Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in 1919. Gropius was a German architect who served in the Great War and dreamed about a school of art and design which would help change the world. The roots of such would be drawn from the arts and crafts school founded by the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach in 1906 and directed by Henry van de Velde, a Belgian Art Nouveau. This was due to van de Velde’s forced resignation in 1915 which led him to suggest Gropius as part of three possible successors. Gropius’ dream came into fruition early in 1919 when he was asked to found the school along with expressing his revolutionary ideas in a manifesto. This was done in Weimar which was regarded as the cultural heart of the nation and was less troubled by rioting. It was also the place where politicians held their meetings due to this. Upon completion the school was named the ‘Bauhaus’ which when translated means building house and it was supported by public funds. The Bauhaus also inspired soviet revolutions and German mutinies which helped end the war. This was followed by an abortive communist revolution in Germany and a declaration of a republic from the balcony of the royal palace in Berlin.

The Bauhaus was formed in 1919 by German architect Walter Gropius with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier in Weimar, Germany (Barringer, 2009). Although the Bauhaus was founded by an architect, it did not actually have architecture department during its early years.

Upon moving the Bauhaus to Dessau in 1925, Gropius decided to alter if not completely change the initial design for its facilities. He did this by returning to the more futuristic design ideas he once looked into and considered back in 1914. It had more in common with the International style lines of the Fagus Factory rather than the stripped down Neo-classical of the Werkbund pavilion or the Völkisch Sommerfeld House. Due to this idea the following years in Dessau saw a vivid change in the direction of the school. Going by the account given by Elaine Hoffman, Meyer wasn’t the first person Gropius considered for running the newly-founded architecture program. His first choice was Mart Stam who declined the position leaving Gropius to instead turn to his friend and colleague in the ABC group, Hannes Meyer.

Instead, Gropius wanted to focus on a study of art that would eventually encompass many different aspects of design, tying them together in harmony (DesignHistoryorg, 2010). Over the course of its time in Germany, the school had three phases/locations.
In contrast to this Meyer unfortunately generated a great deal of conflict because of his bad decisions. Firstly, as a radical functionalist he felt the need to force Herbert Bayer, Marcel Breuer and other long-time instructors to resign due to his impatience with the aesthetic program. As a vocal Communist he encouraged the formation of communist student organizations which under the increasingly dangerous political atmosphere became a threat to the existence of the Dessau school. This led to Meyer getting fired by Gropius in the summer of 1930.

They had a school Weimar, one in Dessau and one in Berlin. The schools were shut down by Hitler when he came into power in 1933 (Evans, 2004).

The schools formation came during a time of revolution in Germany, after the fall of the German Monarchy which followed World War I. Prior to the fall of the monarchy the German people were subject to much stricter censorship rules which limited the creative freedom of German designers such as Walter Gropius (Evans, 2004).

Changing location from Dessau to Berlin in 1932, the Bauhaus made its third and final attempt to resume function in Germany. Unfortunately this ended in failure based on various issues. First of all despite Hitler and the Nazi Party having no cohesive architectural policy until 1933, writers like Wilhelm Frick and Alfred Rosenberg had already labelled the Bauhaus ‘un-German’ and deliberately made their critiques with the sole purpose of causing controversy which further discredited the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus was often denounced for its ‘degenerate art’ by the Nazi movement and was viewed as the foreign, probably Jewish influences of ‘cosmopolitan modernism’. This negative attitude increased the political pressure on the school. Due to the Nazi regime’s inability to see things differently the protests by Gropius against their accusations fell on deaf ears. He stated that as a war veteran and a patriot his work had no subversive political intent but despite him doing so the Berlin Bauhaus was still pressured to close down in April 1933.

As a result, many designers began experimenting with what were considered very radical ideas at the time.

One of the major contributions of the Bauhaus was to the modernist movement. They were influenced by the modernist movement which was developing in the West at the time.

Among the emigrants who decided to take on the task of spreading the Bauhaus influence was Mies van der Rohe. He immigrated to the United States for the directorship of the School of Architecture at the Armour Institute in Chicago whilst also seeking building commissions. Van der Rohe’s actions as well as those by the many other individuals from the Bauhaus, led to its wide spread influence all over the world.

The modernism movement started in the late 19th century in the United States with the help of architect Frank Lloyd Wright (Gentry, 2010). The Bauhaus would later go on to become the most influential force of the era in modern design.
Metalworking was another popular workshop at the Bauhaus and, along with the cabinetmaking studio, was the most successful in developing design prototypes for mass production. In this studio, designers such as Marianne Brandt, Wilhelm Wagenfeld, and Christian Dell (1893-1974) created beautiful, modern items such as lighting fixtures and tableware. Occasionally, these objects were used in the Bauhaus campus itself; light fixtures designed in the metalwork shop illuminated the Bauhaus building and some faculty housing. Brandt was the first woman to attend the metalworking studio, and replaced László Moholy-Nagy as studio director in 1928. Many of her designs became iconic expressions of the Bauhaus aesthetic. Her sculptural and geometric silver and ebony teapot, while never mass-produced, reflects both the influence of her mentor, Moholy-Nagy, and the Bauhaus emphasis on industrial forms. It was designed with careful attention to functionality and ease of use, from the nondrip spout to the heat-resistant ebony handle.

Modernism moved away from the ornate and complex styles of Victorian art and other styles, to a simpler and cleaner look which is popular in the corporate world today. It rejected conservative ideals of realism which were dominant before.

During the turbulent and often dangerous years of World War II, many of the key figures of the Bauhaus emigrated to the United States, where their work and their teaching philosophies influenced generations of young architects and designers. Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius taught at Harvard. Josef Albers and his wife Anni Albers taught at Black Mountain College, and later Josef taught at Yale. Moholy-Nagy established the New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937. Mies van der Rohe designed the campus and taught at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Creatively, before this time designers and artists focused on creating images which were accurate and realistic in nature, confined by the perceptions of reality.

The Bauhaus name is often associated with the saying "less is more" (Time Magazine, 1954), which contrasts heavily with early print advertising style, as early print ads often featured little to no white space and with often too much information or imagery. Functionality is critical in Bauhaus design, and their school did not believe in including imagery without reason (DesignHistoryorg, 2010).

Gropius stepped down as director of the Bauhaus in 1928, succeeded by the architect Hannes Meyer (1889-1954). Meyer maintained the emphasis on mass-producible design and eliminated parts of the curriculum he felt were overly formalist in nature. Additionally, he stressed the social function of architecture and design, favoring concern for the public good rather than private luxury. Advertising and photography continued to gain prominence under his leadership.

It is noted that prior to the introduction of the Bauhaus, there was really no real concept of graphic design, only layout. People did not necessarily view type as an element of design, and type was often viewed as secondary to the imagery.

The Bauhaus was founded in 1919 in the city of Weimar by German architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969). Its core objective was a radical concept: to reimagine the material world to reflect the unity of all the arts. Gropius explained this vision for a union of art and design in the Proclamation of the Bauhaus (1919), which described a utopian craft guild combining architecture, sculpture, and painting into a single creative expression. Gropius developed a craft-based curriculum that would turn out artisans and designers capable of creating useful and beautiful objects appropriate to this new system of living.

This is evident in many Victorian style adverts that feature vivid imagery, but small text often in scripted or old English fonts. The Bauhaus began to utilize type as an element of design, and not just an afterthought (DesignHistoryorg, 2010).
The cabinetmaking workshop was one of the most popular at the Bauhaus. Under the direction of Marcel Breuer from 1924 to 1928, this studio reconceived the very essence of furniture, often seeking to dematerialize conventional forms such as chairs to their minimal existence. Breuer theorized that eventually chairs would become obsolete, replaced by supportive columns or air. Inspired by the extruded steel tubes of his bicycle, he experimented with metal furniture, ultimately creating lightweight, mass-producible metal chairs. Some of these chairs were deployed in the theater of the Dessau building.

One of the major innovations the Bauhaus was responsible for was the utilization of sans serif fonts. Prior to the Bauhaus, san serif fonts were not widely used and type was usually only utilized as copy and not respected as a design element.

First established in the old city of Weimar where the new German constitution was also devised, the Bauhaus moved to Dessau in 1925 where they carried on for another seven years. In 1932 the school was moved again to Berlin but were quickly shut down permanently by the Nazi Regime a year later in 1933. This was all due to the fact that the Nazi party opposed the Bauhaus for many years, because they saw it as something closely related to communism since many members of the school were Russian.

A typographer who was part of the Bauhaus by the name of Herbert Bayers was one of the most important figures in the development of this new iconic style. He developed many of the famous san serif typefaces that came out of the era (DesignHistoryorg, 2010). In 1927 he created the famous Universal typeface (seen to the right) which combines uppercase and lowercase letters without the use of serifs anywhere in the typeface.
In February 1928 Gropius resigned, making Meyer the director and as the new director he made some good choices however a lot of his decisions were viewed as destructive and quite unnecessary. On the bright side he brought the Bauhaus its two most significant building commissions which were five apartment buildings in the city of Dessau and the headquarters of the Federal School of the German Trade Unions in Bernau. Meyer also used an approach which proved to be quite attractive to potential clients. In plain sight it revolved around his presentations to them in which he favoured measurements and calculations, along with the use of off-the-shelf architectural components which reduced costs. In 1929 the school turned its first profit under his leadership.

San serif fonts are often used today in advertising as they are visually appealing.

San serif fonts are also considered easier to read by many experts (Gregory, 2009). This is just one of the innovations which the Bauhaus helped usher in. San serif fonts are also the standard for web design because of this fact. Herbert Bayer believed that serifs were unnecessary and also believed that there was no need for upper and lower case letters (DesignHistoryorg, 2010).

Laszlo Moholy Nagy who was a Hungarian painter and professor at the Bauhaus beginning in 1923. He stated that the goal of type was "clarity of the message in its most emphatic form (DesignHistoryorg, 2010)". This rings true in today's advertising as the copy has moved far away from the style of the late 1800s and focuses on clarity, readability, and emphasizing the overall message of the ad. Early print advertisements often used hard to read scripts and did not pay as much attention to the placement of type and its function of design.

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The artwork in Bauhaus inspired Advertising was also much different than that of the Victorian or Arts and Crafts style, as Bauhaus pieces often featured more contemporary and simple art that used unique angles to create a different style.

In the Bauhaus both designers and students broke away from tradition and focused more on developing a more modern style. They tried to find a way of dealing with life on an aesthetic level. Their main objective was to integrate art, technology and craftsmanship and generate a new design philosophy by ignoring the past precedent. They encouraged the use of innovative ideas in all practices which could range from architecture to furniture design to typography. They believed all forms of design should have been considered a high art similar to painting or sculpture.

The artwork was more inspired by modern art and expressionism, with less regard for detail and more emphasis on emotion or message (Snider, 1996). The Bauhaus artists such as Josef Albers and Lyonel Feininger created pieces which are considered modern and experimental in nature.
The textile workshop, especially under the direction of designer and weaver Gunta Stölzl (1897-1983), created abstract textiles suitable for use in Bauhaus environments. Students studied color theory and design as well as the technical aspects of weaving. Stölzl encouraged experimentation with unorthodox materials, including cellophane, fiberglass, and metal. Fabrics from the weaving workshop were commercially successful, providing vital and much needed funds to the Bauhaus. The studio’s textiles, along with architectural wall painting, adorned the interiors of Bauhaus buildings, providing polychromatic yet abstract visual interest to these somewhat severe spaces. While the weaving studio was primarily comprised of women, this was in part due to the fact that they were discouraged from participating in other areas. The workshop trained a number of prominent textile artists, including Anni Albers (1899-1994), who continued to create and write about modernist textiles throughout her life.

Their art shunned realism in favor of abstract shapes and compositions.

The Bauhaus style of design often features strong visual communication which is through the use of harmony, color balance, balanced layout, and sharp geometric lines and shapes.

The Bauhaus combined elements of both fine arts and design education. The curriculum commenced with a preliminary course that immersed the students, who came from a diverse range of social and educational backgrounds, in the study of materials, color theory, and formal relationships in preparation for more specialized studies. This preliminary course was often taught by visual artists, including Paul Klee, Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944), and Josef Albers, among others.

The elements can be seen in many pieces from the era, as well as in many designs still today. One example of Bauhaus design being used today can be found in Obama's campaign in 2008. He used a Bauhaus inspired design for a poster which advertised that he would be in Germany.
The typography workshop, while not initially a priority of the Bauhaus, became increasingly important under figures like Moholy-Nagy and the graphic designer Herbert Bayer. At the Bauhaus, typography was conceived as both an empirical means of communication and an artistic expression, with visual clarity stressed above all. Concurrently, typography became increasingly connected to corporate identity and advertising. The promotional materials prepared for the Bauhaus at the workshop, with their use of sans serif typefaces and the incorporation of photography as a key graphic element, served as visual symbols of the avant-garde institution.

The poster can be seen to the right. You may notice that it contains all of the elements mentioned above to create a composition which is reminiscent of Bauhaus design.

In my opinion, the aspect of the Bauhaus that separates it from other movements and schools of thought in design is the longevity of their ideas.

Under pressure from an increasingly right-wing municipal government, Meyer resigned as director of the Bauhaus in 1930. He was replaced by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Mies once again reconfigured the curriculum, with an increased emphasis on architecture. Lily Reich (1885-1947), who collaborated with Mies on a number of his private commissions, assumed control of the new interior design department. Other departments included weaving, photography, the fine arts, and building. The increasingly unstable political situation in Germany, combined with the perilous financial condition of the Bauhaus, caused Mies to relocate the school to Berlin in 1930, where it operated on a reduced scale. He ultimately shuttered the Bauhaus in 1933.

The Bauhaus style of design is still relevant today, and it also influenced other following movements that dominate the world of advertising today. The Bauhaus was a precursor to the later Swiss styles of design which also frequently uses san serif fonts, clean and simple designs and white space to create visually appealing compositions.
In 1925, the Bauhaus moved from Weimar to Dessau, where Gropius designed a new building to house the school. This building contained many features that later became hallmarks of modernist architecture, including steel-frame construction, a glass curtain wall, and an asymmetrical, pinwheel plan, throughout which Gropius distributed studio, classroom, and administrative space for maximum efficiency and spatial logic.

The relationship between the German Bauhaus and the Swiss design movement is well documented in literature and on the web (Smearedblankinkcom, 2010). The sans serif fonts developed by the Bauhaus and specifically Herbert Bayers were part of the inspiration and idea for the geometric shapes found in later fonts such as Helvetica. These fonts are widely used in today's society and are commonly found in corporate logos, street signs, buildings and more (Meggs, 1998). You don't to go any further than the closest city to begin realizing the Bauhaus's influence on today's society from architecture to art. The Bauhaus's approach to modern design is also evident in modern advertising, in the style of typography, art direction and overall approach.

Very few design movements have had the lasting impact which the Bauhaus has had. In the modern world of advertising, the Bauhaus's emphasis on copy and type and function of the overall design is still prevalent. Designers are constantly utilizing type creatively to keep their advertisements interesting. In a world where so many things are vying for our attention, creativity and functionality are key. Advertisers must strive to create media which is not only interesting but that is also clear and serves a purpose or function. An advertisement can feature fancy artwork, but if it is not serving some key function in the message that it is trying to deliver, it could be viewed as pointless. These ideas were key in the Bauhaus school of thought.

The Bauhaus believed that they could create an almost universal design style that could be appreciated and understood based upon its functionality (Barringer, 2009), and this has been accomplished to some degree. The Bauhaus style is well appreciated in most parts of the world, and it also greatly influenced the modernism movement which is used widely used in the corporate world, for city signs, for logos, and in art.

However, not everyone loves the Bauhaus style of design. Many have criticized it for being too impersonal, corporate and even lacking a sense of humanity as seen in the recent ad from Saab seen to the left. The ad takes a slight jab at the Bauhaus by saying: "A modernist maxim was that a house is a machine for living. While efficient, this strict form-follows-function approach can lack a degree of humanity. The Saab school of design considers the emotional needs of people as well." The Bauhaus style of design is very calculated as intended by its founders, which accounts of this "lack of humanity". The Bauhaus style does not utilize organic forms and style which many people perceive as humanistic elements.

Regardless of these criticisms, the Bauhaus style of type is still very prevalent in much of today's advertising, their art direction may not be as popular today, but the major principles on which the school was formed are still as important today. Walter Gropius reflected on design in 1962 when he stated "Our guiding principle was that design is neither an intellectual nor a material affair, but simply an integral part of the stuff of life, necessary for everyone in a civilized society. (Barringer, 2009)"

To the right is another example of the Bauhaus design principles applied to a modern piece done for the new Google Android phone operating system. It further shows that the art style of the Bauhaus is still being used today. You can see vivid colors, strong lines, color balance, harmony and angles which are all characteristic of the Bauhaus style.

Another example of Bauhaus design principles being applied on a modern design is the poster to the right, which is for a modernism exhibit at a museum. The ad is from 2009 so it is a fairly recent example these principles being applied. Many ads today use either elements of Bauhaus style or other styles that were in some way influenced by them.

The Bauhaus has also had influence outside of print design as well. They also contributed to the field of architecture. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who was an architect by trade, designed the campus of the Illinois institute of technology after he and other Bauhaus members had immigrated to the United States (Evans, 2004). Many urban buildings seen in cities around North America have been influenced by Bauhaus design.

Also, certain Bauhaus artists such as Anni and Josef Albers are considered hugely influential to the creative world. Anni Albers has often been considered the best known textile artist of the 20th century and her work is well known (Jewish Virtual Library, 2010). Josef is also considered to be hugely influential to the formation of modern design curriculums (Kelly, 2010). These are just a couple of the highly influential designers and creative minds that came out of the Bauhaus.

In conclusion, it is evident that the Bauhaus has created a huge impact on the world of advertising and design. The revolutionary use of san serif typefaces, color and strong lines has greatly influenced the modernist movement and the world of modern advertising. It is almost impossible to come across a modern print ad in a magazine or newspaper which has not been influenced in some shape or form by the Bauhaus movement. The "less is more" approach introduced by the Bauhaus is still appreciated in today's society which is indicative of its truth. The Bauhaus was composed of some of the most brilliant design minds of their time. The lasting legacy of the Bauhaus after ninety years is a testament to how ahead of its time it really was.

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