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The Bauhaus Movement in Graphic Design: Impact & Application

Instructor: Sunday Moulton

Sunday recently earned a PhD in Anthropology and has taught college courses in Anthropology, English, and high school ACT/SAT Prep.

In this lesson, we'll discuss the Bauhaus Movement and its impact on graphic design. We'll study the foundation of the Bauhaus School, its core principles, and its lasting contributions to typography and graphic design.

Bauhaus

If you're just beginning to learn about graphic design, you might not be too familiar with the Bauhaus Movement, the school associated with it, or the lasting influence it has had on design. However, you've probably seen or heard the name several times regarding design, furniture, and even architecture.

For all its influence on design throughout the 20th century and even today, it might surprise you that the Bauhaus School was only open for 14 years. Let's take a closer look at this revolutionary school, what it taught, and why it still has a powerful influence on graphic design today.

The Beginnings of a Movement

The Bauhaus School was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany. It officially opened its doors in 1919. Six years later, it relocated to Dessau, moving into a building designed by the school to physically embody its core teachings.

Bauhaus School Building in Dessau
Dessau

The Bauhaus Movement was a reaction to the soullessness of manufacturing and industry. They felt art was losing its place in society. It also drew inspiration from slightly-earlier movements reacting to the same social conditions. The most notable of these was the Arts and Crafts Movement that started in England which attempted to resurrect hand-made techniques of pre-industrial construction and furniture building.

The Bauhaus Movement, instead of trying to turn back to a pre-industrial period of craftsmanship, embraced the new technologies and the aesthetics of machinery. This allowed the Bauhaus designers to create a style compatible with growing industrialization.

Core Concepts

You've probably heard the phrase, ''form follows function.'' Would it surprise you to know this came from the Bauhaus School? They felt this statement applied to all fields of art and architecture and would blend the ever dividing realms of creativity and industrial manufacturing.

Under their roof, they taught a wide variety of disciplines and required students to study each of them, regardless of their area of focus. This included painting, architecture, graphic design, furniture design, and typography. In fact, they were the first school to introduce graphic design and stress the importance of purpose-driven design as much as fine arts. They even created a printing and advertising workshop in the Dessau building when they moved to the new location.

Bauhaus magazine from 1968 helped keep the style alive.
Bauhaus

One of their many endeavors toward returning art and design to daily life was to wed theoretical and intellectual art concepts with practical skills, crafts, and techniques. They looked to experimentation and problem solving as a motivation to master the techniques and skills they taught. If art was going to regain a place in society throughout the change to industrialization, it needed to have a functional role in the new society.

Lasting Effect

While the Nazi regime forced the school to close its doors in 1933, the faculty brought the concepts of the Bauhaus Movement with them to many universities across Europe and the United States. Though the school never reopened, their effect on 20th-century design and even design today in the 21st century cannot be overstated. Aside from creating the field of graphic design, their work in typography and their principles of simplicity still drive the field today.

Typography

Not satisfied with the pure functionality of letters, the Bauhaus school sought to bring elements of design into the world of printing. Inspired by the beauty of ancient manuscripts that were painstakingly written by hand in controlled and ornate letters, they created a number of fonts.

Typography became part of the core curriculum for all students and one of their key typographers, Herbert Bayer, created the Universal typeface at the request of school founder Gropius in 1925. Bayer famously said, ''Like modern machines, architecture, and cinema, so too must type be an expression of our exact times.'' His typeface had an elegant simplicity in its geometric forms and lack of ornamentation. In fact, the school helped to develop a wide number of sans serif fonts, lettering without the straight, horizontal lines at the end of vertical and diagonal lines.

Comparison of Serif and Sans Serif letters
serif

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