Welcome to the world of graphic design. If you’ve ever studied graphic design, you know that the Bauhaus played a pivotal role in shaping the look and approach of modern graphic design.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about the Bauhaus movement and how it’s changed the graphic design for the better.
What is the Bauhaus?
The Bauhaus was a German art school that operated from 1919 through 1933. It was founded by Walter Gropius, a designer, and architect, with the support of the industrialist Hugo Häring.
The idea was to create an institution where artists could study all aspects of art, including painting, sculpture, and architecture. To do this, they needed a school with facilities for practical training in design techniques such as woodworking and metalwork.
The Bauhaus had an artistic side with staff members like Wassily Kandinsky, who taught there from 1922 to 1928, and an architectural side under Gropius’s direction until 1928.
In 1928, Gropius left to form his architectural practice in Berlin. He continued experimenting with interiors using modern materials such as glass, bricks, or plywood panels inside houses instead of traditional plaster walls.
The Bauhaus school was closed down by Hitler in 1933 but continued operating illegally until 1938, when it was finally shut down for good.
Despite only existing as an architectural and design school for over a decade, Bauhaus is one of the most influential movements in architecture and design.
Bauhaus is often cited as a significant influence in Scandinavian minimalism, modern architecture, and American mid-century modern styles.
Bauhaus Design Principles
The Bauhaus school taught designers to be functionalists. They believed that design must first and foremost serve a purpose, rather than being decorative or superfluous.
This principle of functionality was the driving force behind their designs. Their minimalist approach to design was simple and clean, with an emphasis on asymmetry and balance.
Bauhaus style is often referred to as the International Style. It is characterized by clean lines, a minimalist aesthetic, primary colors, geometric forms, asymmetrical compositions, and sans-serif typefaces.
Designs should be simple, elegant, balanced, and discreet. Designs also needed to be as aesthetic as possible while being very functional to create beauty with clarity through simplicity. In addition to these basic principles of Bauhaus design, there were some specific rules for designers at the time:
- Use white space wisely; don’t clutter your pages with too much information
- Use primary colors (red, blue, yellow) instead of secondary colors (yellowish-green) or tertiary colors (reddish-orange). They are bolder than secondary or tertiary colors, which tend to blend when grouped on one page – this will make your designs pop off the page
- Use sans serif typefaces instead of serif typefaces since sans serif typefaces are more modern looking than serif types
Bauhaus Influence on Modern Design
The Bauhaus movement was a major influence on modern graphic design. In fact, it can be argued that without the Bauhaus movement, there would be no “modern” graphic design at all.
The founders of the school believed in using simple lines and shapes to create art and products that were useful and meaningful.
The style of visual expression that emerged from this philosophy is known as “Graphic Design.” This was a term coined by students of the Bauhaus school who used it to describe their work in contrast with traditional painting or sculpture.
The emphasis on line, shape, texture (smooth versus rough), color combination, and balance were early traits of what we now call Modern Graphic Design.
The Bauhaus was known for its use of industrial materials, its emphasis on functionality, and its simple forms. The design school had a specific typography style, illustration, photography, and color palette.
The Bauhaus style is characterized by simple geometric shapes repeated throughout the whole design, often with a very neutral color palette (black & white).
The use of typography is typically immaculate, bold and sans-serif (without serifs). Images used will be minimalistic illustrations or photographs with high contrast between light and shadow.
The most popular design styles today are often influenced by the principles of the Bauhaus movement:
- simplicity over complexity;
- form following function;
- elimination of ornamentation;
- harmony among all elements;
- And truth to materials (the way they are naturally found).
Bauhaus is still being used today in branding, design, and advertising. You see it everywhere, from logos of brands like Target to print ads for Nike. It’s also used in film posters like Wall-E and Blade Runner 2049.
The Legacy of the Bauhaus Movement
The Bauhaus movement is one of the most influential design movements to date. Although it officially ended in 1933, its principles are still used today and can be seen in many forms of graphic design, branding, product design, and interior design.
Bauhaus pushed back against traditional graphic design styles by focusing on geometric forms, asymmetrical compositions, primary colors, sans-serif typefaces, and a lack of ornamentation. The school sought to create a modern design that was relevant to everyday life and would help improve society through technology.
To this day, graphics designers are still inspired by the clean lines and minimalism that characterize the works of Josef Albers, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Oskar Schlemmer, László Moholy-Nagy, and El Lissitzky—among many others who worked at the Bauhaus.
Their aesthetic has been popular since its inception and is often considered modern today. It’s also regarded as minimalist.
The Bauhaus was a short-lived experiment, but it proved incredibly influential in shaping the way we approach to design today. In its wake, graphic design became more communicative and less decorative; its principles were adopted by schools worldwide and are still taught today.
The Bauhaus movement has helped shape our understanding of what the modern world looks like bold colors, simplicity of form, and clarity of purpose. While some elements have become dated or cliché, its influence on graphic design is undeniable.