The Bauhaus was one of the first colleges of design and had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography.
It was the most influential modernist art school of the 20th century, one whose approach to teaching, and understanding art’s relationship to society and technology, had a major impact both in Europe and the United States long after it closed.
The Bauhaus, a German word meaning “house of building”, was a school founded in 1919 in Weimar, Germany by architect Walter Gropius. The school emerged out of late-19th-century desires to reunite the applied arts and manufacturing, and to reform education.
The school is renowned for its faculty, which included artists Wassily Kandinsky, Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee andJohannes Itten, architects Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and designer Marcel Breuer. Bauhaus selected some of the best talent from each trade to become Master Instructors. Not only did they teach the student, they motivated and inspired.
Bauhaus brought together artists, architects and designers–among them Anni and Josef Albers, Herbert Bayer, Marcel Breuer, Lyonel Feininger, Walter Gropius, Johannes Itten, Vasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Lilly Reich, Oskar Schlemmer, Gunta Stolzl.
Record Cover by Bauhaus artist, Josef Albers
Oskar Schlemmer, Cover, 1921
Bauhaus Title Page – Laszlo Moholy-Nagy – 1923
Its core objective was a radical concept: to reimagine the material world to reflect the unity of all the arts. The school adopted the slogan “Art into Industry.”
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.
In1923 when a poster was made for the school, it intrigued others to notice the unique typeset and design. Effective visual communication was a main focus when designing. You will see a balanced layout, vibrant colors, harmony, geometric shapes strong bars, bold and universal type. Using upper case or lower case fonts, but not a combination of the two, the typeset was clear and concise. The type was laid out in various ways. In addition to being horizontal and vertical orientation, Bauhaus is well-known for placing text at angles and also wrapping text around objects.
Herbert Bayer’s cover for the 1923 book Staatliches Bauhaus, Weimar, 1919–1923 is an example of Bauhaus experiments in typography. At the Bauhaus, typography was conceived as both an empirical means of communication and an artistic expression, with visual clarity stressed above all. Bayer’s design, made while he was still a student, employs to dramatic visual effect blocklike sans serif lettering in bright red and blue against a black background. Bayer manipulated the spacing of the letters so that each of the four lines of text is the same length. Hence, the title appears as a unified block of text, rather than individual words. The Bauhaus typography, with its letters stripped of all ornamental elements, initially caused an uproar among critics but had a far-reaching impact on the development of graphic design in the twentieth century.
In 1925, Gropius commissioned Bayer to design a typeface for all Bauhaus press releases. He took advantage of his views of modern typography to create an “idealist typeface.” The result was “universal” – a rather simple geometric sans-serif font. It utilized simple curves and has other unadorned attributes. He said “The creative proces is not performed bye skilled hand alone, or by intellect alone, or by intellect alone, but must be a unified process in which “head, heart and hand” play a simultaneous role.”
The Bauhaus typeface design is based on Herbert Bayer’s 1925 experimental Universal typeface.
As the legacy continues, Bauhaus style typography is still used in modern day designs and posters. You will find their style on album covers, posters for movies, events, and signage. One of the most notable was a print designed for the Obama Presidential Campaign, a rally which was held in Berlin.