Chapter 1. Design History

1.4 Bauhaus

Alex Hass

The Bauhaus philosophy has become famous for its integrated approach to design education; “it precipitated a revolution in art education whose influence is still felt today” (Whitford, 1995, p. 10). Most art colleges and universities still base much of their foundational curriculum on its fundamental ideas.

The Bauhaus school was founded with the idea of creating a ‘total’ work of art in which all arts, including architecture, would eventually be brought together. The first iteration of the school brought together instructors from all over Europe working within the latest art and design styles, manufacturing ideologies, and technologies. An example of this new teaching style can be found in its first-year curriculum. This foundation year exposed all students to the basic elements and principles of design and colour theory, and experimented with a range of materials and processes. This allowed every student the scope to create projects within any discipline rather than focus solely on a specialty. This approach to design education became a common feature of architectural and design schools in many countries.

In addition to its influence on art and design education, the Bauhaus style was to become a profound influence upon subsequent developments and practices in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography.

The school itself had three iterations in its 14-year run. With each iteration, the core concepts and romantic ideals were modified and watered down to work within the realities of the difficult Nazi culture. When the school was finally closed by its own leadership under pressure from the Nazi-led government, most of the faculty left the country to teach in less difficult circumstances and continued to spread Bauhaus precepts all over the world. Many of its artists and intellectuals fled to the United States. Because the Bauhaus approach was so innovative and invigorating, the institutions that were exposed to the Bauhaus methodology embraced its principles. This is why the Bauhaus had a major impact on art and architecture trends in Western Europe, the United States, and Canada.

Later evaluation of the Bauhaus design philosophy was critical of its bias against the organic markings of a human element, an acknowledgment of  “… the dated, unattractive aspects of the Bauhaus as a projection of utopia marked by mechanistic views of human nature” (Schjeldahl, 2009, para. 6). And as Ernst Kállai proposed in the magazine Die Weltbühne in 1930, “Home hygiene without home atmosphere” (as cited in Bergdoll & Dickerman, 2009, p. 41).

The very machine-oriented and unadorned aesthetic of the Bauhaus refined and evolved, eventually informing the clean, idealistic, and rigorous design approach of the International Typographic Style.


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Graphic Design and Print Production Fundamentals Copyright © 2015 by Alex Hass is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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