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Typography Furniture 2D Art Architecture Summary

THE MASTERS Walter Gropius Theo Van Doesburg Laszlo Moholy-Nagy Herbert Bayer Jan Tschichold Piet Zwart Joseph Albers


Komposition A by Lazlo Moholy-Nagy, 1925




AESTHETIC Typography Furniture 2D Art Architecture Summary

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INFLUENCE Typography Furniture 2D Art Architecture Summary




The Bauhaus was a school whose approach to design and the combination of fine art and arts and crafts proved to be a major influence on the development of graphic design as well as much of 20th century modern art. Founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany in 1919, the school moved to Dessau in 1924 and then was forced to close its doors, under pressure from the Nazi political party, in 1933. The school favored simplified forms, rationality, functionality and the idea that mass production could live in harmony with the artistic spirit of individuality. Along with Gropius, and many other artists and teachers, both Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Herbert Bayer made significant contributions to the development of graphic design. Among its many contributions to the development of design, the Bauhaus taught typography as part of its curriculum and was instrumental in the development of sans-serif typography, which they favored for its simplified geometric forms and as an alternative to the heavily ornate German standard of blackletter typography.

Cover for the 'Bauhaus' journal by Herbert Bayer, 1928



WALTER GROPIUS "Our guiding principle was that design is neither an intellectual nor a material affair, but simply an integral part of the stuff of life, necessary for everyone in a civilized society."

THEO VAN DOESBURG "The word ‘art’ no longer has anything to say to us. In place of that, we (De Stijl) insist upon the construction of our surroundings according to creative laws, deriving from a fixed principle."

PIET ZWART "Know that to make beautiful creations for the sake of their aesthetic value will have no social significance tomorrow, will be nonsensical self-gratification. Every era contains the conditions for providing a rebel.”

HERBERT BAYER "Like modern machines, architecture and the cinema, so too must type be an expression of our exact times.”


MARCEL BREUER "Structure is not just a means to a solution. It is also a principle and a passion."

JOSEF ALBERS "Traditionally art is to create and not to revive: leave that to the historians who are looking backwards."

JAN TSCHICHOLD "Perfect typography is certainly the most elusive of all arts. Sculpture in stone alone comes near it in obstinacy."

LASZLO MOHOLY-NAGY "The reality of our century is technology:the invention, construction and maintenance of machines. To be a user of machines is to be of the spirit of this century. Machines have replaced the transcendtal spiritualism of past eras.






Are you searching for inspiration? Welcome to the experience of becoming inspired by being informed. It is commonly understood by intermediate and beyond designers that the Bauhaus is primarily responsible for Gestalt Theory. But did the Bauhaus possess a knowledge of something that reaches deeper than the elements and principles of design? A more challenging comprehension of the Bauhaus is that its aesthetic decisions often had social and political implications. The Bauhaus was deeply rooted in German political turmoil during the 1920s and 1930s. Much of their work represents heavily controversial ideology. The magazine endeavors to build upon preconceived knowledge of Bauhaus design. It will relate to what you might already know and will increase your depth of understanding of Bauhaus ideals. It is by this understanding that you will develop a greater comprehension of the influence of your work as an artist/designer. This magazine divides the Bauhaus aesthetic into three categories: why they created it, what it is and its influence on the world. Subcategories are included to serve as examples of the versatility and immortality of Bauhaus innovation: typography, furniture, two dimensional art and architecture.

Van Doesburg explored the organic structure of the cow and translated it into a geometric form.



In 1923, Wassily Kandinsky proposed a universal relationship between three basic shapes and the three primary colors: the dynamic triangle is inherently yellow, the static square is intrinsically red and the tranquil circle is naturally blue. These elemental forms are central components of Bauhaus ideals because they destroy illusion and reveal truth. The three categories regarding the Bauhaus aesthetic correlate with a shape and color. The most important information that you come across will be indicated by a shape beside it. Summary sections found at the end of each section will repeat key concepts marked in the material. It is important to note that Kandinsky's equation is no longer the standard. The associations of these colors and shapes are open to artistic interpretation and have derived numerous meanings. Kandinsky's ideas on the relationships of three colors and three shapes represent the impact of the Bauhaus: ideas so groundbreaking, they are impacting the world 80 years later. It established the structure for art to be built upon. The Bauhaus was the Catalyst that ignited the reaction of the world to the modern way of thinking.




The Bauhaus was founded during a time of international turmoil. World War I had recently ended and citizens of the world were captivated with great theories of the modern society. A push emerged from the war's depths for a utopian society and a nationless world. The Bauhaus aesthetic also stemmed from other developments of the 19th century. Anxieties regarding the soullessness of manufacturing generated fears about art's ability to survive. Creativity and manufacturing were drifting apart. When Walter Gropius created the Bauhaus, it was his intent to unite unify the machine age with artistic expression. The Bauhaus abandoned traditional fine art education and formed artistic production from intellectual and theoretical pursuits. It linked the medieval guild system and skilled techniques to a systematic educational system. By this accomplishment, the Bauhaus leveled the old hierarchy of the arts, placing crafts on par with fine arts such as sculpture and painting. It paved the way for new depictions of what art was. The Bauhaus led to the 'fine arts' being rethought as the 'visual arts' and art considered as a science.




The social and political ramifications of the use of sans serif typography were immense. Its use generated a political statement. For the Bauhaus, it came to symbolize the rejection of German nationalism and convergence toward international unity. Tschichold claimed he was one of the most powerful influences on 20th century typography. There are few who would attempt to deny that statement. The son of a sign painter and trained in calligraphy, Tschichold began working with typography at a very early age. Raised in Germany, he worked closely with Paul Renner (who designed Futura) and fled to Switzerland during the rise of the Nazi party. His emphasis on new typography and sans serif typefaces was deemed a threat to the cultural heritage of Germany, which traditionally used Blackletter Typography and the Nazis seized much of his work before he was able to flee the country.

Jan Tschichold, Penguin Books Cover, 1948

When Tschichold wrote Die Neue Typographie he set forth rules for standardization of practices relating to modern type usage. He condemned all typefaces except for sans serif types, advocated standardized sizes of paper and set forth guidelines for a typographic hierarchy when using type in design. While the text still has many relative uses today, Tschichold eventually returned to a classicist theory in which centered designs and roman typefaces were favored for blocks of copy. Sabon was one of Tschichold's completed typefaces. It has been revived as Sabon Next by Jean Francois Porchez for Linotype. He spent part of his career with Penguin Books and while he was there he developed a standardized practice for creating the covers for all of the books produced by Penguin. He personally oversaw the development of more than 500 books between the years 1947–49. Every period of his career has left a lasting impression on how designers think about and use typography, and it will continue to affect them into the future.



Strides taken by furniture designers of the Bauhaus, specifically Marcel Breuer, impacted the world in terms of simplicity and functionality. While at the Bauhaus, Breuer studied, taught and was eventually was given the head position of the schools cabinet making shop. Due to the Nazi advancement in the 1930s, Breuer relocated to London, and soon landed in the United States. During his time at the Bauhaus, he made many advancements in furniture building. At the time, traditional furniture was made from wood. Breuer departed from this standard idea and drew upon bicycle handlebars to inspire his furniture designs. Many of Breuer's pieces were created from a wide range of tubular steel. Using it as a medium included a wide range of advantages: affordability, simplicity and resilience. By the use of this new medium, Marcel Breuer helped pave the way for more modern living, which was an essential part of his designs.

Furniture designs by Marcel Breuer




Van Doesburg was an artist with a wide range of talents including painting, architecture, design and poetry. He was highly influential in the formation of the machine aesthetic at the Bauhaus. Highly influenced by Wassily Kandinsky, van Doesburg shifted his style of painting from one that emphasized less of a direct reflection of everyday life to one that placed more importance on a conceptual style that favored a simplistic geometric style. A Dutch artist, van Doesburg led the artistic style movement "De Stijl" into popularity and influenced graphic designers for many years to come with his theories, which conveyed the idea that there was a collective experience of reality that could be tapped as a medium of communication. Theo van Doesburg settled in Weimar late in 1921, and he provided young artists with an alternative vision to that espoused by faculty members such as Kandinsky. Van Doesburg offered a series of lectures in 1922 explaining the rational, geometric principles behind De Stijl and Constructivism. He also organized the Constructivist Congress in Weimar in 1922.

Van Doesburg explored the organic structure of the cow and translated it into a geometric form.

Van Doesburg moved to Weimar, Germany in hopes of impressing the director of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius. Gropius did not directly oppose his ideas, but did not accept him onto the faculty of the Bauhaus. In reaction to this, Van Doesburg positioned his studio directly next to the Bauhaus and attracted many students with the ideas he promoted, most of which were developed out of the ideas of Constructivism, Dadaism and De Stijl. It was during these times that van Doesburg formed a tight bond with the artist Piet Mondrian. And, in 1923, van Doesburg moved to Paris so that he could communicate directly with Mondrian. However, the two were very much polar opposites in character and it resulted in the dissolution of their friendship. It has been speculated that the breakdown came as a result of a disagreement about the directions of lines in their paintings. Theo van Doesburg moved to Switzerland in 1931, due to his declining health, and it was there that he died, on March 7th.



For the Bauhaus, architecture was based on functionality and the experience created by being engaged by the building's structure. It shunned ornamentation, favored organization and was largely driven by the machine aesthetic. Walter Gropius applied this ideology to the actual design of the Dessau Bauhaus building. He uniquely designed building based on their capacity to function. He placed the workshops, offices and dorms in separate parts of the building that were connected by hallways. His intention was to force the observer to move around the whole building to appreciate the overall design rather than giving one central viewpoint to experience it all at once. The design of the Dessau building approached architecture in terms of negative space versus its activation by mass. Bauhaus architecture contributed to the social aspects of design by the creation of a new form of social housing for workers. Gropius considered architecture as being the highest form of art because it most directly influenced humanity.

Exterior and Interior of the Dessau Bauhaus



TYPOGRAPHY For the Bauhaus, sans serif typography came to symbolize the rejection of German nationalism and convergence toward international unity.

FURNITURE Breuer's use of tubular steel had a wide range of advantages including: affordability, simplicity and resilience.

2D ART Theo Van Doesburg explained the rational, geometric principles behind De Stijl and Constructivism that became incorporated into Bauhaus coursework.

ARCHITECTURE Bauhaus architecture shunned ornamentation, favored functionality and was largely driven by the machine aesthetic.


The Attack on the Bauhaus by Iwao Yamawaki, 1932


The Bauhaus aesthetic revolved around radically simplified forms, rationality and functionality. Bauhaus ideals fused the idea of mass production with artistic expression. The machine aesthetic determined much of the technical associations of the Bauhaus. The focus of the Bauhaus was the idea of creating a “total� work of art in which all forms of art would be brought together. Their work was marked by the absence of ornamentation and emphasizing the functionality of an object while still making it a work of art. The desire to create more functional objects came with the rise of the working class and the desire to meet the needs of the masses rather than just wealthy patrons.



Sans serif typography rejected historical forms and individual “old-style and fancy typefaces.� Bauhaus type designers sought to create an internationally valid style that was both legible and universal.

One that should be noted was his design for a typeface that consisted of entirely lowercase letters. The German blackletter types were overly ornate for his taste and their use of capital letter for every proper noun was annoying. Logically, Bayer developed a sans serif alphabet of lowercase letters titled Bayer was both a student and a teacher at the Bauhaus and "Universal." In 1946 Bayer moved to Aspen, Colorado where he worked in a wide range of fields including painting, sculpture, spent much of his time designing local architecture and posters typography, advertising and architecture. In his early years as for the local community. In 1959 he designed another sans serif a student he studied painting with Kandinsky, but in just a short typeface. Again it was all in lower case, but he called it "fonetik while he was teaching one of the Bauhaus' first classes on alfabet" and it contained special characters for the endings -ed, typography. The amount of work that he created before he was -ion, -ory and -ing. He is one of the most recognized designers to 28 was more notable than most designers entire careers of work. come from the Bauhaus institution and his theories of design He spent time teaching at the Bauhaus, working as an Art are still taught in many schools today. Director for the Container Corporation and as an architect in both Germany and America. Similar to many designs from the Bauhaus, Bayer designed a newspaper stand to be made out of pre-fabricated materials so Bayer designed the type used in the signage at the Bauhaus that it could easily be reproduced Van Doesburg designed a building in Dessau. In between his time at the Bauhaus and typeface where each character was based upon a square divided his career in America he spent time as the Ar t Director into 25 smaller squares, developing long before the Macintosh of Vogue magazine's Berlin office. His contributions to the computer and pixel-based fonts. It has been revived as Architype fields of graphic design, typography and advertising were many. Van Doesburg.

Bauhaus poster by Joost Schmidt, 1923



One important contribution made by the Bauhaus school w as the use of steel as frames and supports for different t y p e s of f ur ni tur e, including tables, chairs, sofas and even lamps. The use of machine-made, mass-produced steel tubing created simple forms requiring little handcrafting or upholster y. Tubular steel greatly reduced production costs and thus the cost of the final product. It also contributed to the streamlined, modern look of furniture. Out of this approach came a series of design requirements based on functional analysis of furniture. These standards included elastic seat and chair backs, prohibition of expensive stuffed upholstery, angled seats to alleviate pressure on the legs while providing support and an angled chair back to support the torso. The final design consideration ensured that the spine remain free to avoid discomfort or unhealthy pressure.

Top: LC2 Petit Modele Two-Seat Sofa by Le Corbusier, 1928 | Bottom: Bauhaus furniture catalog



A pioneer of modern typography, designer Piet Zwart was influenced by Constructivism and De Stijl. His influence in his work and in this quote: “…To make beautiful creations for the sake of their aesthetic value will have no social significance tomorrow…” Zwart worked as a designer, typographer, photographer and industrial designer in the Netherlands in the 1920s and 30s. Primarily working for the NKF Company, he created many works of graphic design before retiring from the company to spend the rest of his days as an interior and furniture designer. The work that Zwart did for the NKF Company can be spotted by his use of primary colors, clean sans serif typography and photo-montage. Formally trained as an architect Zwart referred to himself as a hybrid between a typographer and an architect. Also influenced by the Arts and Crafts movement, Zwart began his education at the School of Applied Arts in 1902. He spent most of his career moonlighting as an architect and photographer, as well as a designer and for several years he was very successful. His design career came to a halt when he was arrested by German soldiers in 1942. He was eventually released after the war, but the experience affected him drastically. He spent the rest of his life primarily working in interior design. His excellent use of color, typography, composition and photography are reminiscent of the Bauhaus and his influence on the future generations of graphic designers lives on through the Piet Zwart Institute at the William de Kooning Academy.

Possibly the height of his graphic design career, the NKF Catalog he designed in 1927–28 was printed in full-color and was 80 pages long. Albers was a student of the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany and was a practicing artist in the fields of design, typography, photography, painting, printmaking and poetr y. His most influential art was created in the field of abstract painting and it showed an influence of both the Bauhaus and the Constructivists with its simplified geometric shapes. However, he also proved to be very influential to many other graphic designers and artists as a teacher at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina from 1933–49 and at Yale University in Connecticut from 1950–58. His series Homage to the Square is an example of his disciplined approach to composition and color theory. Towards the end of his career he and his wife established the Joseph and Anni Albers foundation in an effort to continue sharing and promoting the theory that he had established during his career. His style and work represent a bridge between the European art of the Bauhaus and Constructivists and the new American Art that emerged in the 1950s and 60s. He was a teacher and an artist his entire career, until his death in 1976 at the age of 88.

Left: From the series Homage to the Square by Josef Albers, 1965–70 | Right: Bauhaus Logo, 1919




Walter Gropius was the father of the Bauhaus and also Bauhaus architecture. In America, the Bauhaus influence can be seen in the work of Mies van der Rohe and the work of the Bauhaus members who fled to the U.S. after they were shut down by the Nazis. This style of architecture was made possible because of new developments in engineering which allowed walls to be built around steel or iron frames. This meant that the exterior walls no longer had to support the weight of the structure. What is possibly the best example of these new construction techniques was at the Dessau Bauhaus. Gropius designed into it a glass “curtain wall� on the front side of the workshop wing. The creation of this glass wall openly shows the structure of the building which had never been done before. Most buildings at the time were covered in terracotta or stone and were elaborately decorated but the Bauhaus architecture embraced the Machine Aesthetic. Bauhaus buildings are usually cubic, favor right angles, (although some feature rounded corners and balconies); they have smooth facades and an open floor plan.

Walter Gropius' Director's Room in the Weimar Bauhaus



TYPOGRAPHY Bauhaus type designers sought to create an internationally valid style that was both legible and universal.

FURNITURE Tubular steel greatly reduced production costs and thus the cost of the final product.

2D ART Zwart referred to himself as a hybrid between a typographer and an architect.

ARCHITECTURE In America, the Bauhaus influence can be seen in the work of Mies van der Rohe.


Cellon by Eugen Batz, 1930


From its origins, in 1919 the Bauhaus aesthetic majorly impacted the development of modern thinking. Sans serif typography was used to reject German nationalism and Marcel Breuer's furniture designs sculpted modern day living. The Bauhaus techniques are the foundational rules that today's artists and designers base their works off of, and these techniques are used throughout many different fields by many well known companies. This breadth of influence holds a substantial impact on topics such as consumerism and politics.



Typography was an important discipline for the students of the Bauhaus to learn and two terms of preliminary courses were devoted to this element of design. With that amount of focus on typography, it allowed for fantastic things to be created and inspire designers of today. Futura and Verlag are two typefaces in particular that were designed from the Bauhaus' typography work. Futura, created in 1927 by Paul Renner, was a typeface that stemmed directly from the Bauhaus and has made an incredible impact on the world. Futura is a typeface that is a simple, geometric sans serif, based specifically perfect circles, triangles and squares. The spread to the top left is an example of how those three shapes are used throughout Renner's design. When humans landed on the moon, they marked their success by a plaque set in Futura, describing precision and innovation. According by Andrew Draplin, a famous designer, Futura is considered to be the working man's typeface. It explicitly discusses its social ramifications in terms of being anti-Nazi and anti-fascist. Verlag is a newer typeface that stems from the Bauhaus. In 2006, Hoefler & Frere-Jones released Verlag to suit the needs of a modern identity program. Verlag was a very carefully planned typeface because it would represent many different artistic voices, including CĂŠzanne and Kandinsky. Today, Verlag is a very popular face used on many magazines and different companies. Recently, when Wendy's fast food restaurant redesigned their branding, they turned to Verlag as their new typeface.

Plaque on the moon, 1969




One of the most important contributions of the Bauhaus was modern day furniture design. The Cantilever chair by Dutch designer Mart Stam and the Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer are two examples of how Bauhaus furniture design impacted the world. Many contemporary designs clearly refer to their parent designs of the Bauhaus. These two chairs were only the beginning of the idea that we need to design affordable, simplistic furniture that is essential for modern day living. IKEA is a world renowned furniture company that is heavily inspired by Bauhaus. Without the Bauhaus, IKEA would not be able to produce what they do. Most, if not all, of their furniture is designed for the masses and is affordable for the average every day person, which was one of the desires of the Bauhaus designers. IKEA's designs are simple, sleek and very functional. Many of their chair designs are based on the tubular designs similar to the chairs that Breuer and Stam designed. IKEA furniture is designed for functionality. They want their users to have easy clean up and be able to put items away without their furniture taking up too much room. For example, the tables in the bottom left on the page left are based off Bauhaus design. These tables function with the ability to have many table tops out when needed; however, when it is time to clean up they all store under on another so it only takes up floor space of one. Many designs like these came from the Bauhaus and continue to be loved by the working class individual.




Many of today's designers seek inspiration from Bauhaus work because of their groundbreaking ways of using graphic elements and typography to enhance communication. Bauhaus designers sought after design that was appealing and functional. Most of their designs incorporate of sans serif typography and the placement of type on angles, which are also common elements used in today's design. They made these choices because of this new way of thinking behind type; they wanted to continue that through their advertising designs as well. Highly influential modern day designs are depicted on the left. All three designs are visually different and hold true Bauhaus principles. Each design incorporates sans serif typography and two of the three designs have typography placed on angles, which is another common element that Bauhaus designers used. Paul Rand drew great inspiration from the Bauhaus aesthetic when he created the identity for the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) logo in 1962. Today the logo still incorporates the original design created. When Rand created the logo, it was a very modern design for the time period because he used lower case typography. Following his example, many designers make the same choice when creating logos using sans serif typography.




The Bauhaus had a major impact on art and architectural trends in Western Europe, the United States and Israel. The cities were intended to be reductive in pursuit of leveling the playing field for different social classes and in city planning. Anything added or extra to these structure of the city was unneeded. Peter Berhings, Mies van der Roe, Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier wanted to bring simplicity to the normal people to have green space. We owe the implementation of city parks to this kind of thinking. While the Bauhaus was located in Germany, the largest collection of Bauhaus architecture is actually located in Tel Aviv, Israel. There are a few distinct characteristics to Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv. Bauhaus architecture was concerned with the social aspects of design and with the creation of a new form of housing for workers. This may be one reason it was adopted in the evolving city of Tel Aviv. Bauhaus architecture was able to flourish in Israel, in part, because seventeen former Bauhaus students worked there as architects. The city of Tel Aviv came to be known as “The White City” because the exteriors of most Bauhaus buildings were painted white or beige. These white exteriors came to be attributed with Bauhaus architecture but were not a defining characteristic.

Chicago city skyline

In Europe, a key element of Bauhaus architecture were large windows that let in a lot of light. In a hot climate, this feature of the design would have been inefficient. Instead local architects used long and narrow horizontal windows. These “strip windows” were a signature characteristic of Le Corbusier and a number of architects worked in Le Corbusier’s Paris office and were greatly influenced by his style. Another signature element used by Le Corbusier were stilts to raise the buildings off of street level to create space for green space. Bauhaus architects also used the element of flat roofs. These roofs served as social areas in most cases. Chicago, Illinois was, an oasis for Bauhaus inspired architecture. Many buildings in Chicago were designed by Bauhaus students and use the elements such as curves and "glass curtains" or "strip windows" to link them to the Bauhaus style. Specifically, the Lake Point Tower located in downtown Chicago features elements of the Bauhaus aesthetic. The architects for this project were John Heinrich and George Schipporeit. Both were students of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Chicago Institute. The Lake Point Tower is a high rise residential building and was inspired by Mies van der Rohe's design skyscraper in Berlin that was never built.



TYPOGRAPHY Two faces that are based off of typography work of the Bauhaus are Futura and Verlag.

FURNITURE The most world renowned Bauhaus inspired company is IKEA.

2D ART Most of their designs use the element of sans serif typography and placing type on angles, which are also common elements used in today's design.

ARCHITECTURE The Bauhaus had a major impact on art and architectural trends in Western Europe, the US and Israel.


Museum of Modern Art by Edward Durell Stone, 1939







The Catalyst & Reaction, The Levels and Motives


Contents, Beginning, The Masters, Summaries and Credits



This is a test of our History of Graphic Design magazine on the Bauhaus.