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Gestalt Principles [13] Typography [23] Negative Space [35] Geometric Abstraction [47] Color [53]

Herbert Bayer [61] Laszlo Moholy-Nagy [69] Jan Tschichold [77] Theo van Doesburg [85] Josef Albers [93] Piet Zwart [99]

CREDITS [109-111]


“If today’s arts love the machine, technology and organization, if they aspire to precision and reject anything vague and dreamy, this implies an instinctive repudiation of chaos and a longing to find the form appropriate to our times.” -Oskar Schlemmer



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. Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus in 1919. The name literally means “house of building�, which fits the intention of

teaching craft and technique in multiple medias. The Bauhaus in Weimar Germany came about to dispel societies misgivings about mass production. The creators wanted to reunite creativity and manufacturing by improving the quality of large-scale production.

The Bauhaus Dessau

The Teachers at the Dessau Bauhaus



The Bauhaus strove to maintain the spirit of the arts and crafts movement with an emphasis on intellectual and theoretical pursuits. One of the manifestos explained their pursuit of unity, collaboration, wholeness, and re-integration. The Bauhaus philosophy is best explained by Jan Tschichold, who stated that “Bauhaus is not a style, it is a collection of attitudes.” Gropius explained his vision for a union of art and design in the Proclamation of the Bauhaus, which described a “utopian craft guild combining architecture, sculpture, and painting into a single creative expression”. Gropius developed a craft-

based curriculum that would turn out artisans and designers capable of creating useful and beautiful objects appropriate to this new system of living. The Bauhaus combined elements of both fine arts and design education. The curriculum began with a preliminary course that immersed the students, who came from a diverse range of social and educational backgrounds, in the study of materials, color theory, and formal relationships in preparation for more specialized studies. After their introduction to Bauhaus theory, students entered specialized workshops, such as metalworking, cabinetmaking,

weaving, pottery, typography, and wall painting. The Proclamation of the Bauhaus (1919) described a utopian craft guild combining architecture, sculpture, and painting into a single creative expression. Gropius called for the school to show a new respect for craft and technique in all artistic media, and suggested a return to attitudes to art and craft once characteristic of the medieval age, before art and manufacturing had drifted far apart. Gropius envisioned the Bauhaus encompassing the totality of all artistic media, including fine art, industrial design, graphic design, typography, interior design, and architecture.

The Bauhaus Dessau



“The whole is other than the sum of the parts.” — Kurt Koffka



When you view a group of objects, you perceive them as a whole before seeing the individual objects. There are several key ideas behind gestalt: Emergence is the process of forming complex patterns from simple rules. Viewers will identify elements first by the general form. A simple, well-defined object will communicate more effectively than a detailed object with a hard to recognize contour. Reification is an aspect of perception in which the object as perceived contains more spatial information than what is actually present.

Multi-stability is the tendency of ambiguous perceptual experiences to move unstably back and forth between alternative interpretations. Invariance is a property of perception in which simple objects are recognized independent of their rotation, translation and scale. You can see these ideas in play throughout the rest of this chapter. The main idea is that gestalt principles are about perception and what is visually communicated by objects. The principles speak to the core of the visual language within which we work.

L贸pez Lule & Mar铆a de Lourdes



Similarity occurs when objects looks similar to one another, viewers will often see the individual elements as part of a pattern or group. This effect can be used to create a single illustration, image or message from a series of separate elements. The similarity between different elements can be shape, colour, size, texture or value. The more commonality that individual elements have, the greater the sense of coherence, due to similarity. A particular element can be emphasized when it’s dissimilar, breaking the pattern of similarity. This effect is called an anomaly.

Continuity is the principle through which the eye is drawn along a path, line or curve, preferring to see a single continuous figure than separate lines. This can be used to point towards another element in the composition, and is seen where a line is cut through one object, often in a curve, aligning perfectly with a secondary element.

Wassily Kandinsky, Relationship Moholy-Nagy, Bauhaus Logo



Closure is a common design technique that uses the human eye’s tendency to see closed shapes. Closure works where an object is incomplete or the interior space of an element is not fully closed, but the viewer perceives a complete shape by filling in the missing information. This technique is often associated with stenciled artwork, but is also closely associated with logo forms.

Proximity uses close arrangement of elements to create a group association between objects. If individual elements are similar, they will be perceived as a single object, even though they are separate elements. Proximity or grouping can be achieved with different commonalities including shape, colour, texture, size or any other visual attributes.

El Lissitzky, Poster Art Hannes Meyer, Bauhaus 4



Figure-Ground is the tendency to see and separate objects from the surrounding background. This technique works because human eyes want to see the figure (foreground object) and background (ground) as two different planes of focus. Everything that is not figure is considered ground, which can be used to create interesting visual effects, particularly when the designer or artist introduces deliberate ambiguity.

Symmetry means that a composition should not give a sense of disorder or imbalance, or the viewer will waste time trying to locate the missing element, or fix the problem, rather than focusing on the message or instruction. You can achieve symmetry by providing a good balance or sense of symmetry in your design elements.

Ott+Stein, Bauhaus-Archiv Shigeo Fukada


“Perfect typography is certainly the most elusive of all arts. Sculpture in stone alone comes near it in obstinacy.” — Jan Tschichold



The Bauhaus set forth elementary principles of typographic communication: Typography is shaped by functional requirements; The aim of typographic layout is communication (for which it is the graphic medium). Communication must appear in the shortest, simplest, most apparent form; For typography to serve social purposes, it needs internal organization (ordered content) as well as external organization (typographic material properly related). Art is (almost) always about communication. In a normal setting, the form of communication that most people are

familiar with is the use of spoken or written words. They are, after all, the most literal means of getting a point across. When the Bauhaus chose to use words in their art, they did it with a specific purpose. Text is just as important as pictures for creating balance, proportion between figure and ground, and a path for the eye to follow. The orientation should be treated with equal importance. It’s about more than just the subject - the text duals as part of the art as opposed to just a static caption.

Herbert Bayer, Invitation to the Inauguration of the Bauhaus Building



Shorter words and phrases are better suited for the fact that they’re better fitted to the geometric outlines of the shapes created within the plane, whether they are horizontal or vertical. A typeface that is non-decorative and clean will be less distracting and easier to read. Letters should be set in either all miniscule or all majuscule characters.

Piet Zwart, Vereeniging: Experimenteel Tooneel Herbert Bayer, Universal Typeface



Friedrich Frรถbel, a German pedagogue designer, believed that the process of perception is dependent upon the concepts of horizontality and verticality. For example, by aligning words on a straight edge, the edge becomes strengthened, thus more prominent in creating hierarchy and division. Text on its own ground is useful in large, lengthy blocks. The more words, the more informed we become. But within an art piece, less is more; short, impactful words and phrases are more memorable than longer sentences or paragraphs.

Herbert Bayer, Wall-painting design for the stairwell of the Weimar Bauhaus



The geometric building blocks (circles, triangles and squares) were not only visibly dispersed in design works and paintings, but also made an appearance in the early typeface designs of faces like Universal and Futura. With type being almost always set in all uppercase or lowercase letters, more unity was created within the type, making it easier for them to be fit to geometrically shaped boundaries. Keeping every character (with the exception of ascenders and descenders) the same height helps imply that each character could fit easily into a perfect

square or rectangular format. Looking at the prototype specimens for Futura, the obvious use of geometric shapes (circles in o and p, squares and angles in m and a, triangles in g) help to further this implication, as well as referencing the Bauhaus’ acknowledge and use of the basic geometric shapes within their art.

Paul Renner, Early letterforms for the typeface Futura Walter Gropius, Staatliches Bauhaus



Treating typography like shapes can be a good thing. Playing around with sizing, arrangement and color of words or phrases not only changes the emphasis of the text but also the impact of the design as a whole. Bauhaus lines and rules had a habit of being asymmetrical and/or diagonally skewed. Matching type alignments to these rules helps the asymmetrical aspects create more of a unified feeling, and less of an abnormal one.

Herbert Bayer, Kandinsky zum 60 Piet Zwart, NormalieĂŤnboekje


“Where I used to strive for movement and restlessness I now attempt to sense and express the complete total calm of objects and the surrounding air. My aim is a passionate longing for rigorous spatial design..without painterly intoxication of any sort.” – Lyonel Feininger



A space where objects are not present. As a designer and artist, it is easy to concentrate and attach ourselves to the main objects of our work — So easy in fact, that we can easily forget about a part of our work equally important: The Negative Space. Negative Space is the space between an object, around an object, but is not part of the actual object itself. It is the opposite of an identifiable object which can at the same time be used to help define the boundaries of positive space. A good artist realizes that the space surrounding an object is just as important as that object itself. Negative

space helps define a subject, and brings balance to a composition. Negative space should not distract from the main subject‌ that is, unless the negative space IS the subject. Use of negative space is not constricted to one form of art. On the contrary, it is an important element in most mediums, including photography, painting, graphic design, sculpting, etc.



Negative space can be used to turn an average composition into an outstanding one. With practice, it can help you see space differently, transforming your compositions and producing truly breathtaking results. It provides “breathing room�, giving the eye somewhere to rest and prevents your artwork from appearing too cluttered with unnecessary fluff. In Bauhaus art, it is evident that the subject and the space that surrounds it is very important to the overall composition. The top image shows a woman riding down an escalator in front of a white wall. The white

wall takes up the majority of the image. The large amount of negative space makes the woman a focal point. In the bottom image, the negative space occupies the majority of the right side of the image. The space was meant to balance the heavier weights on the left side. Mastering negative space takes time. We are used to focusing on the main subject in a project that it can seem strange to treat it almost as an afterthought. However, doing so will make you consider each element in your work more carefully, leading to much stronger compositions. Adjust the layout

until the positive and negative spaces feel well balanced against one another. Be generous with the amount of empty space you leave, and don’t ever feel you have to cram something interesting into every square inch of the artwork.

Bernie Raffe, Negative Space Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, The Law of Series



The human brain uses patterns and space to make inferences about an object. Optical illusions trick the brain into making an inference about the scene that is not true. In many illusions, the artist uses the negative space to fool the viewer’s eye. There are three elements that make up the framework of a composition that incorporates negative space: the subject (positive space), the frame, and the negative space. For example, in Circles, the subject is the black shapes and the negative space is the overlapping areas. Are you seeing the black

image or the white image? The boundary of the work is not specified since it is a photograph. Artworks that utilize negative space are usually very simple, but the viewer can tell that there is more to the piece. A creative negative space is more rewarding for the viewer; they get a feeling of inclusion because they figured out a subtle hidden message or image. This is a highly effective way to add appeal to your compositions. When negative space is used to create an illusion, there must be an exact reason for it. If negative space is used improperly, the composition will seem jumbled.

Josef Albers, Circles Gareth Chang, Sight for Sore Eyes Victor Vasarely, Illusion



The idea of negative space is to focus on essential elements of the design and have the negative space draw the eye to the focal point. If there are more elements than necessary, a design can become too crowded, but when negative space acts as an essential element, the composition will be more successful. For example, Piet Mondrian’s Composition with Red, Yellow & Blue uses negative space to create hierarchy. Viewers make the connection that the focal point is the large, red square, while the yellow and blue colors are second in terms of hierarchy.

The black area acts as the boundary, while the white are acts as the negative space. The image on the right is a modern example of Mondrian’s use of color as a focal point, however this photograph of the staircase sets the focal point on the bottom. This gives the image more breathing room. The white space makes the focal point stand out in the image. Also, both the Mondrian painting and the Bauhaus staircase use heavy, black outlines (along with primary colors) as the positive space, while the white areas remain the negative space.

Adjust the layout until the positive and negative spaces feel well balanced against one another. Be generous with the amount of empty space you leave, and don’t ever feel you have to cram something interesting into every square inch of the artwork.

Piet Mondrian, Composition with Red, Yellow & Blue Bauhaus, Mondrian Staircase



The term negative space (in design) is a little misleading. It sounds like you’re describing space on your page with nothing in it, but that is not true. There is plenty of “something” in the space, and when used with purpose, it’s resulting effect is anything but negative. Negative space is a roadmap through a design, showing the core ideas viewers need to understand, or want to see.

intrigue will entice the viewer to spend extra time looking at your design. Designs with negative space are usually very simple, but the viewer can tell that there is more to the piece than they originally believed. Negative space has a huge impact on composition and how your work is received visually. When a design doesn’t have enough negative space, it will look crowded.

When someone looks at a piece with wellcomposed negative space, the viewer can evaluate and appreciate the design. The key is that they do not have to work too hard. A balance between great negative space and

Negative space is a vital aspect to every design that can make the difference in the focal points of a design, the overall look of a design, its legibility, and our overall perception of the design’s presentation.

Jan Tschichold, Die Frau Ohne Namen Jan Tschichold, Die Kameliendame Ray K. Metzker, Valencia


Geometric abstraction is based on the use of simple geometric forms combined in nonobjective compositions. The deconstruction methods of synthetic and analytic Cubism became the basic characteristics of abstract geometric art. El Lissitzky brought the principles of Constructivism and the machine aesthetic to the Bauhaus curriculum.



The focus on two-dimensionality changed the conventions of form and space and removed all references to the real world. Geometric abstraction is employed through the division of the canvas through black vertical lines of varying thickness. This approach is not only used in design and painting but the geometric form is employed for ornamental purposes in the decorative and applied arts as well as in architecture. Wasily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Johannes Itten, Oskar Schlemmer, Laszlo MoholyNagy, and Josef Albers were all believers in use of the pure geometric form as

the most appropriate expression of the modernist canon. In Kandinsky’s Point and Line to Plane he states, “Naturally, the new science of art can only develop when the signs become symbols and the receptive eye and ear open the way from silence to speech. Let him who is unable to accomplish this, leave both the ‘theoretic’ and the ‘practical’ in art alone... It is these very people who are today intent in placing a period after the word ‘art’”.

Thomas-Brownell Eldred, Untitled



Cubism subverted the traditional depiction relying upon the imitation of forms of the surrounding visual world in the illusionistic perspectival space. The High Analytic Cubist phase made available to artists the planarity of overlapping frontal surfaces held together by a linear grid. Synthetic Cubism introduced the flatly painted synthesized shapes, abstract space, and “constructional” elements of the composition. These three aspects became the fundamental characteristics of abstract geometric art. The freedom of experimentation with different materials

and spatial relationships between various compositional parts, which evolved from the Cubist practice of collage and papiers collés also emphasized the flatness of the picture surface—as the carrier of applied elements—as well as the physical “reality” of the explored forms and materials. Geometric abstraction, through the Cubist process of purifying art of the vestiges of visual reality, focused on the inherent twodimensional features of painting.

Bauhaus Cubism Bauhaus Nesting Tables Bauhaus Bike


“Color is life, for a world without color seems dead. As a flame produces light, light produces color. As intonation lends color to the spoken word, color lends spiritually realized sound to a form.” –Johannes Itten



There were three basic tasks to the color theory class that Johannes Itten taught while at the Bauhaus. He felt that his courses should be able to utilize the creative aspects and the individual talents of his students. Next he felt that his course should make the student’s career decision easier. Finally, the course should be able to teach the guidelines of a successful creative composition to the students preparing them for their future careers. Itten taught the seven different contrast effects in color. First, there is pure color contrast which happens when pure colors

are placed together in a composition. If you want the colors to appear more vivid, then you can add black and white to the. Next there is the light and dark contrast. You can get to this point by using differing tone and brightness values together. The cold and warm contrast is most notable when blue green is mixed with orange red. The fourth effect is the complementary contrast. When the opposite colors are mixed they make a neutral black gray color. Next there is the simultaneous contrast in which each pure color demands its opposite. The sixth is the contrast of quality. There is

a contrast between dull and bright colors. The last effect is contrast of quantity. Areas that are different colors and sizes contrast nicely. These effects all revolove around the twelve step color wheel. Itten developed the Color Star in 1921. It shows the 12 main colors gradually going towards both black and white. It gives a solid base for the understanding of color essence. It formed the basis for the color theory lectures at the Bauhaus.

Color Theory



Johannes Itten designed the color star in 1921. This shows the progression amongst the colors. The center is very light. As you go up a notch in each color, the tones get darker. The center shows the primary colors in their original forms. There are three tones on each side of the center. The tips of the star are almost black, because they are the at the farthest tones of each color. The color star plays off of the original color wheel. The gradation of colors make it easy for students to find the perfect tone that they need for their work. It is also helpful when looking at the seven basic color effects that

Itten taught in his color theory lectures. Color is a very important and powerful piece in any artwork that utilizes it.​

Johannes Itten, The Color Star



“ We live in a time of the greatest precision and of maximum contrasts: photomontage offers us a means to express this. It shows ideas: photography shows us objects.” – Herbert Bayer



Bayer was both a student and a teacher at the Bauhaus and worked in a wide range of fields including painting, sculpture, typography, advertising and architecture. In his early years as a student he studied painting with Kandinsky, but in just a short while he was teaching one of the Bauhaus’ first classes on typography. The amount of work that he created before he was 28 was more notable than most designers entire careers of work. Bayer spent time teaching at the Bauhaus, working as an Art Director for the Container Corporation and as an architect in both

Germany and America. Bayer designed the type used in the signage at the Bauhaus building in Dessau. In between his time at the Bauhaus and his career in America he spent time as the Art Director of Vogue magazine’s Berlin office. His contributions to the fields of graphic design, typography and advertising were many.

Herbert Bayer,1932 calendar cover with Normande



One contribution 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 “Universal”. In 1946 Bayer moved to Aspen, Colorado where he spent much of his time designing local architecture and posters for the local community. In 1959 he designed another sans-serif typeface. Again it was all in lower case, but he called it “fonetik alfabet”

and it contained special characters for the endings -ed, -ion, -ory and -ing. Similar to many designs from the Bauhaus, Bayer designed a newspaper stand to be made out of pre-fabricated materials so that it could easily be reproduced. He is one of the most recognized designers to come from the Bauhaus institution and his theories of design are still taught in many schools today.

Four Scales Chromatic Intersection



If Herbert Bayer had produced nothing after the age of 28, his accomplishments to that point alone would make him one of the great pioneers in visual communication. When he died at the age of 85 in 1985, Herbert Bayer left behind him an outstanding career which affected nearly every field of the arts, from painting to photography and typography to teaching. Bayer is one of the designers who has changed the perceptions of what graphic designer should do. His long career has great impact on the generation of artists after him, and has

shown, through numerous innovations in photomontage, exhibition and environmental design (and others) that changing the world into a better place is not impossible.

Biography at the Art Directors Club

Lonely Metropolitan Untitled Self Portrait Bauhaus Magazine Cover


“Designing is not a profession but an attitude. Design has many connotations. It is the organization of materials and processes in the most productive way, in a harmonious balance of all elements necessary for a certain function. It is the integration of technological, social, and economical requirements, biological necessities, and the psychological effects of materials, shape, color, volume and space. Thinking in relationships.” – László Moholy-Nagy



Known for his versatility and the fundamentals of design, which he taught his students, Laszlo replaced Johannes Itten as director of the Bauhaus in 1923. He experimented in many different fields including photography, typography, sculpture, painting, industrial design and printmaking. His experimentation across multiple mediums led to graphic design work characterized by bold typography in combination with striking photography. After he resigned from his position at the Bauhaus in 1928 he spent time working in Berlin as a film and stage designer. In 1937

he moved to Chicago and formed the New Bauhaus, which is now the Illinois Institute of Technology. The school shared the same philosophy as the original Bauhaus and caught on quickly. He chronicled his efforts to establish the curriculum of the school in his book Vision in Motion. Called photograms, Moholy Nagy used everyday objects and collaged them together and then used them to expose photographic paper.

L谩szl贸 Moholy-Nagy , Untitled



His interest in photography encouraged his belief that an artist’s understanding of vision had to be specialized and modernized. Artists used to be dependent on the tools of perspective drawing, but with the camera they had to learn to see the world again. They had to renounce the classical training of prior centuries, which encouraged them to think about the history of art and to reproduce old ideas and experiment with vision. Moholy-Nagy’s interest in qualities of space, time, and light continued throughout his career and was evident in every kind of

media he used. Whether he was painting or creating “photograms” (photographs made without the use of a camera or negative) or crafting sculptures made of transparent Plexiglas, he was ultimately interested in studying how all the basic elements interact.

Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Photograms



Moholy-Nagy’s influence on American art was felt broadly in several disciplines. Along with the other Bauhaus artists, he succeeded by introducing a modern aesthetic to American design. His impact was felt mainly by his students, but his use of modern materials and technology impressed other young designers, including Charles Eames, who visited the New Bauhaus while studying at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. Moholy-Nagy’s influence on photography is seen in his writings as well as his photographs and photomontages. His first Bauhaus book

established photography as a fine art equal to painting. His experiments in light and shadow reinforced photography’s value as a subjective medium, making it an artistic medium, rather than simply a way to document reality.

Top: László Moholy-Nagy, The Olly and Dolly Sisters; Composition Z VIII Middle: László Moholy-Nagy, Staatliches Bauhaus Weimar; Leda and the Swan Bottom: László Moholy-Nagy, A 18; Dynamik der Gross-Stadt (Dynamic of the Metropolis)


“In addition to being more logical, asymmetry has the advantage that its complete appearance is far more optically effective than symmetry.” –Jan Tschichold



Tschichold claimed that 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 sansserif 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. 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 establishing 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. 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.

Jan Tschichold, Poster Design



Tschichold became more and more irritated by the typography of the times. He was strongly influenced by modern painters like László Moholy-Nagy and El Lissitzky, whose works used contrasting forms to display balance and conflict. Tschichold believed that the cure for typography lay in abandoning rules, adopting symmetrical setting, and the exclusive use of sans serif typefaces. In 1928, Tschichold published a manual that continues to influence people today: Die neue Typografie (The New Typography),

which is still in print. The strict standards in this book aimed to free designers from traditional restrictions and move them beyond centered type and ornaments. He believed design should be clear and efficient—and that the tools of clarity were sans serif type, asymmetric compositions, photography, and white space.

Cover of Elementare Typographie Original invitation notice for a lantern lecture



As the Nazi party felt Modernism was “unGerman,� they arrested Tschichold in 1933 and imprisoned him for four weeks. He and his family then moved to Basel, Switzerland. His work began to drift away from the rigid New Typography. Centered type, serif faces, and ornaments began to appear in his work, as he understood that different projects called for different solutions. After a move to London in 1947, he standardized the look for the inexpensive paperbacks of Penguin Books. He colorcoded the horizontal bands on the covers

(orange = fiction, blue = biography), a design touch that is still in use today. In addition to design and typographic principles, he considered how the book felt in the hand, and established rules for printing, paper weight, and binding. Demanding and inflexible, he raised the level of quality and set standards that influenced the entire publishing industry.

Film Poster Film Poster for Casanova Cover for Die Neue Typographie (The New Typography) PublicitĂŠ et Arts Graphiques (Publicity & Graphic Arts)


“..modern destruction begins where architectural structure is opened up and set into motion by colour relationships. The colour-planes, however, are always in orthogonal relationship.” – Theo Van Doesburg



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. Van Doesburg moved to Weimar, Germany in hopes of impressing the directer 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 Bahaus and attracted many students with the ideas he

promoted, most of which were developed out of the ideas of Constructivism, Dadaism and De Stijl. Van Doesburg designed a typeface where each character was based upon a square divided into 25 smaller squares, developing long before the Macintosh computer and pixel-based fonts. It has been revived as Architype Van Doesburg. 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. Van Doesburg moved to Switzerland in 1931, due to his declining health, and it was there that he died, on March 7th.

Theo Van Doesburg, Contra-Composition of Dissonances, XVI



Highly influenced by Wassily Kandinsky, van Doesburg shifted his style of painting from one that emphasized less of a direct reflection of everyday life and one that placed more importance on a conceptual style that favored a simplistic geometric style. Doesburg experiments with varying colors and sizes by using thick black lines in contrast with the colored areas. In Counter Composition V, Doesburg plays with different colored shapes by choosing to fill the composition with only shapes. In the previous example, In Simultaneous Counter Composition, Theo Van Doesburg positioned

the shapes differently. They are at different angles, whereas previously the shapes had rested against the other. The black line that separates the shapes is thinner than in the first example. Each of Van Doesburg’s compositions have similar subjects and he uses primary colors in contrast with the black and white. Theo Van Doesburg furthers his study of color relationships in Composition XX. In the composition, there are neutral colors mixed with primary colors, reflecting Van Doesburg’s knowledge of Johannes Itten’s color theory.

Simultaneous Counter Composition Counter Composition V Simultaneous Counter Composition Composition XX



In Van Doesburg’s, The cow series, viewers can observe his progression to the final work. Van Doesburg painted The Cow months after a series of studies. He began with a series of figurative sketches, then transformed them into a geometric composition of colored horizontal and vertical bands. The central area of white maintains a connection to the work’s original figure. He uses a single subject and pushes it until it is in complete abstraction. His final version is barely recognized as being a cow. In analyzing the form of a cow, Van Doesburg turns it step by

step into a group of rectangles, eliminating all the curved and triangular elements. He published several of these works in a widely distributed treatise he wrote on the De Stijl. This unveiling of the figurative source of an abstract work served both a pedagogical and a polemical purpose’: to educate his audience and to justify his practice.

The Cow Series (Study) The Cow


“In visual perception a color is almost never seen as it really is – as it physically is. This fact makes color the most relative medium in art.” – Josef Albers



Albers was a student of the Bauhaus in Dessau, Germany and was a practicing artist in the fields of design, typography, photographer, painter, printmaker and poet. His most influential work 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 eighty-eight.

Josef Albers, Study for Homage to the Square



Color is a main recurring theme in many of Josef Alber’s pieces. The first example shows a long study of the interactions of many different colors. Each of the works are part of the Homage to the Square series. Different colors interact differently when in certain combinations.

The third example showsan interaction between darker colors. There is also an interaction with the warm and cool colors. The work begins to progress into more complex color pairings.

The second example shows an interaction of warm colors. The center is the brightest part. The artist uses different tones of each color surrounding the center square. It shows darker tones on the left, and lighter tones on the right. The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation

Interactions of Color Color Studies Color Studies for Homage to the Square


“The more uninteresting the letter, the more useful it is to the typographer.” ­ —Piet Zwart



A pioneer of modern typography, designer Piet Zwart was influenced by Constructivism and De Stijl. His influence shows in his work and in this quote: “ 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.

From 1902 to 1907 he studied at the School of Applied Arts in Amsterdam, and during his time working on home and interior products during World War I, he eventually started to drift into the field of graphic design, which he later became famous for.

Bruynzeel kitchen. Sketches and examples for Zwart’s kitchen designs.



The work that Zwart did for the NKF Co. can be spotted by his use of primary colors, clean sans-serif typography and photomontage. 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, Piet 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.

Piet Zwart, Untitled #1


DESIGN 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. Referring to himself as a “typotekt”, a hybrid of “typographer” and “architect”, the aspects of his work that were most consistent were his habits of organizing content. Zwart often utilized strong diagonal lines, nonconventional symmetry/asymmetry, primary colors, and a fixed central axis. The combination of these techniques created radical layouts that further emphasized the typical Bauhaus use of strong primary colors and geometric shapes. His processes in

art became so revered that in 2001, an undergraduate institution for the study of art and art research under his own name was inaugurated. The Piet Zwart Institute is located in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.

The Piet Zwart Collection at Design Observer

N.E.T.H.M.IJ, Sein via Scheveningen Radio, MonografieĂŤn over Filmkunst,




Alex Dib Concept Development; Research; Layout; Artist Profile: Herbert Bayer; Element Profile: Gestalt Principles; Revisions; TypeSetting; Image Selection; Type Selection; Color Selection

Morgan Holcomb Concept Development; Research; Layout; Artist Profile: Laszlo Moholy-Nagy; Element Profile: Negative Space; Revisions; Type-Setting; Image Selection; Cover Design; Master File

Kristina Harper Concept Development; Research; Layout; Artist Profile: Joseph Albers and Theo Van Doesburg; Element Profile: Color Theory; Revisions; Type-Setting; Image Selection; Creative Input

Tacoa Allen Concept Development; Research; Layout; Artist Profile: Jan Tschichold; Element Profile: Geometric Abstraction; Revisions; Type-Setting; Image Selection; Creative Input; Citations; Index; Credits

Madi Nalley Concept Development; Research; Layout; Artist Profile: Piet Zwart; Element Profile: Typography; Revisions; Type-Setting; Image Selection; Creative Input


Albers, Josef. Nesting Tables.

Whitford, Frank. Bauhaus Building

Bayer, Herbert. Kandinsky Birthday Poster; Universal Typeface (Sturm Blond); Wallpainting design for the stairwell of the Weimar Bauhaus building.

Zwart, Piet. 012 9 2 (Untitled #1); Buynzeel Kitchen: I; E.T.H.M.IJ: I; Monografieテ始 over Filmkunst; Normalieテォnboekje; Portrait; Sein via Scheveningen Radio; Untitled #2; Wij Nu Experimenteel Tooneel.

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The Building Blocks of Bauhaus  

Group project for ART 328: History of Graphic Design. Fall 2014.

The Building Blocks of Bauhaus  

Group project for ART 328: History of Graphic Design. Fall 2014.