Beyond the Bauhaus

In 1933, Bauhaus director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe closed the school after it was labeled degenerate in the press and raided by the Nazis.

Thirty years later, the rector of the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm (HfG), a German institution modeled on the Bauhaus, asked in the school’s magazine: “Is the Bauhaus relevant today?” For the HfG, the question had an urgent, political significance, as it had just endured a smear campaign reminiscent of the one directed at its pedagogical predecessor.

Today, just over a century since the Bauhaus’s founding, one can survey a wide range of design objects and conclude that it is as relevant as ever. This section includes just a few of the many items bearing traces of its influence. Some of their designers, such as American Elaine Lustig Cohen, were Bauhaus collectors and explicitly made use of its principles in their work. Some appropriated the school’s crisp visual communication in service of corporate brands, such as Chermayeff & Geismar’s geometric sans logomark for Mobil. Others, such as designers featured in Emigre magazine, while evidently rejecting the ascetic purity of the New Typography, seem to echo the edgier, more expressive designs of Johannes Itten and the early Weimar years.

Overall, the school’s impact on graphic design is not reducible to a single style. Instead, the Bauhaus idea encompasses broader methods of experimentation, simplification, and imagination that are as applicable to today’s digital era as they were to the machine age. And, as funding for the arts and education continues to be cut, as corporate design prefers the safety of proven solutions, and as fascist ideologies resurface worldwide, we may also conclude that the forces that once suppressed the Bauhaus are just as alive as its formal lessons.


Ecuador, the Land of the Shuar The Igarashi ABC Book