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An Exploration of Modernsim and PostModernism


How Bauhaus was shaped into greatness The building in question was the Bauhaus, the German art and design school designed in the mid-1920s by the architect Walter Gropius in the industrial city of Dessau. On his visit in 1929, Johnson, who grew up to become a famous architect, was equally entranced by the work of the students: so much so that he adopted Bauhaus habits, like typing solely in lower case letters. One of the teachers, the graphic designer Herbert Bayer, had banned capitals on the grounds that there wasn’t enough time for them in the frenzy of modern life. Johnson wasn’t alone in his admiration. There have been other great design schools, but none that matched the Bauhaus. Many of the most influential designers of the 20th century taught or studied there. Gropius and Mies van der Rohe in architecture. Marcel Breuer in furniture. Bayer in graphics. László Moholy-Nagy in film. Oskar Schlemmer in theater design. Anni Albers and Gunta Stölzl in textiles. Marianne Brandt and Wilhelm Wagenfeld in product design. The list goes on. Working alongside them were great artists like Paul Klee, Josef Albers and Wassily Kandinsky. Even today, some 75 years after the Bauhaus closed, our lives wouldn’t be the same without it. The story of the Bauhaus, from 1919 when Gropius became director, to 1933, when Mies reluctantly disbanded it, is told in an exhibition at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art in England. How did one design school become so influential? Like most success stories, it was (almost) as

but behind its minimally elegant façade, the Bauhaus was a turbulent place, and very vulnerable to the political pressures of Nazi Germany. For much of the time, it was, as Anni Albers put it when she arrived in 1922, “a great muddle.” Luckily that muddle was “great” in both senses of the word. But the reason why the Bauhaus is remembered as a success, while the muddle is mostly forgotten, is Gropius’s gift for spin. His PR flair was evident from the beginning when, as a demobilized World War I officer, he was appointed director of the art and crafts schools in the city of Weimar in 1919. One of his first acts was to rename them the Bauhaus: a short, memorable name, which wasn’t too daunting for non-German speakers. Gropius then published a manifesto - illustrated by Lyonel Feininger - promising to create “the new building of the future to embrace architecture, sculpture and painting in one unity.” Few of the old staff survived the first two years of his regime. The urbane Gropius replaced them with his own appointees, including Klee and Schlemmer. There were political problems from the start. Women students protested against being confined to the weaving and ceramics workshops. Locals objected to the students’ bohemian habits, like nude bathing in the public pool. More seriously, the Weimar Nazis saw the Bauhaus as a hotbed of Bolshevism, despite Gropius’s ban on political activity. But his biggest problem was the growing power of one of the teachers, Johannes Itten. A member of the Mazdaznan sect, Itten shaved his head, wore flowing robes and prescribed breathing exercises and strict vegetarianism to the students, whom he taught to approach art instinctively and spiritually. Gropius favored the rationalism of Russian Constructivism and the emerging Modern movement, and believed in integrating their principles into daily life, by applying them to buildings and industrial products. But it was not until Itten left in 1923, and was succeeded by the Constructivist Moholy-Nagy, that he instilled those values in the Bauhaus. The student show that year was a manifesto for its new spirit - a

modern home. Itten’s monkish robes were forgotten, and Marianne Brandt became the first woman to join the metal workshop. This was the vision of the Bauhaus technocratic, meritocratic and seductively modern - that Gropius would portray so successfully that it’s how most people imagine it today. Spinning masterfully, he propagated that image in lectures, essays and exhibitions. When the Nazis seized power in Weimar in 1925, Gropius negotiated a deal to build a new school in Dessau. The Bauhaus enjoyed a few golden years there, when star students, such as Bayer and Breuer, became teachers, as Gropius had always intended. But, with Nazism in the ascent, political pressure mounted, and in 1928 he resigned. Both of his successors, Hannes Meyer and Mies, spent their directorships mired in political strife. Gropius left Germany in 1934, and arrived in the United States in 1937 to become professor of architecture at Harvard. He then helped fellow Bauhaüslers to find American teaching jobs: Breuer alongside him at Harvard; the Alberses at Black Mountain College, and then Yale; Mies at the Illinois Institute of Technology; Bayer at the Aspen Institute; and Moholy-Nagy at the shortlived New Bauhaus in Chicago. Together they imbued generations of Americans with Bauhaus principles, while Gropius imprinted the technocratic vision of its mid-1920s heyday on design history. Among his biggest coups was the Bauhaus exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1938, designed by Bayer and curated by Philip Johnson. Unsurprisingly, it is the Americanized Bauhaüslers who seem most prominent now. The ones that stayed behind in Germany are less well known, even Wagenfeld, who pioneered the design of the modern kitchen. A similar fate befell those who settled in other countries, like Margarete Heymann-Marks, who toiled in the English potteries of Stoke-on-Trent, rather than dictating design history from an Ivy League campus. Itten has been relegated to a bit part in the Bauhaus story, too, although judging by his mawkish paintings in the Middlesbrough exhibition, that’s probably for the best.


Paul Rand is a very popular modernist designer. He’s core beliefs in Modernist Design is what drove his career, this is why his lasting influence, was the modernist philosophy he so revered. Paul Rand celebrated the works of artists from Paul Cezanne to Jan Tschichold, and constantly attempted to draw the connections between. (google.co.uk) Biography:

Modernism is a term used in the aftermath of the 1st world war and the Russian revolution in a period where the artistic avant-grade dreamed of a new world free from conflict, greed and social inequality. The term modernism was used in graphic design itself since around the 1925-1930, as once economic conditions improved designers had to reassess their work, adapting it to a mass markets, and sometimes even to the demands of fascism. Initially before this time modernism was only largely experimental but then moved from the sketch board to the real world. Modernism has survived for all this time and still remains a powerful force of the design world of today. I looked at what “Designing a new world had to say about Modernism more in depth. Whilst researching the subject I came across some interesting information, first of all it states that at the core of Modernism lay the idea that the world had to be fundamentally rethought. The carnage of the First World War led to widespread utopian fevour, a belief that the human condition could be healed by new approaches to art and design, more spiritual, more sensual, or more rational. Then it went on to say The Russian Revolution offered a model for an entirely new society. Designing a new world V&A goes on to talk about how modernism was promoted back then. It states that as modernism was campaigned, it generated many exhibitions and countless books, journals, posters and advertisements. Then it goes on to say that in both design and content it would argue the case of ‘New’, often with a generational

and political bias against the old. Lastly under “promoting modernism”, it states that Modernist graphic design and advertising came to be known as the New Typography and it favoured sans-serif lettering, sometimes without uppercase letters and Typo-Photo in which photographic images were montage alongside type. Also Colour and composition were influenced by abstract paints. In my opinion when it come to Modernism as a whole it can be a bit disturbing in regards to the political side of things and in regards to the way it was used, but when it come to design itself I prefer modernist design only because of the outcome of a particular design, I guess I am attracted to the way they are composition, together, and in order, I generally like that fact that I need to work toward some sort of order/grid/rule but only to a certain extent.

Paul Rand (born Peretz Rosenbaum, August 15, 1914 – November 26, 1996) was a well-known American graphic designer, best known for his corporate logo designs. Rand was educated at the Pratt Institute (1929-1932), the Parsons School of Design (1932-1933), and the Art Students League (1933-1934). He was one of the originators of the Swiss Style of graphic design. From 1956 to 1969, and beginning again in 1974, Rand taught design at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Rand was inducted into the New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame in 1972. He designed many posters and corporate identities, including the logos for IBM, UPS and ABC. Rand died of cancer in 1996.


of literature devoted to every aspect of postmodernism, as well as new books about arriving all the time about the subject and publications running whole series of articles attempting to explain what it meant. Poynor starts off to say that in the last 15 years graphic designers have created some of the most challenging examples of postmodernism in the visual art. Poynor says that few graphic designers have been eager to define their work as postmodernism and those who have laid the most positive and even argumentative claim to the label have tended to be American. In the book NO MORE RULES both American and non-American designers have produced work which relate to postmodernism and its themes, would reject the term strongly. In Poynor’s opinion for some designers, postmodernism is too closely identified with a particular historicist style of architecture current in the 1980s and it is consequently rejected on the grounds of aesthetic taste as much as anything. Welcome to the world of Postmodernism A term, used within the graphics design world since around the 1980s. When it comes to postmodernism there are several opinions on what it actually means as many people didn’t have a clue, even the most knowledgeable people with the graphic design world had doubts about it, i.e. Judith Williamson author of Decoding advertisements, interviewed in a design journal “the term is too vague to be useful in anything other than a stylistic sense”, Richard Kostelanetz author of a dictionary of the Avant-Grades, he is even blunter and says “My personal opinion holds that anything characterised as postmodern, weather by its author or it’s advocates, is beneath critical consideration, no matter how immediately popular or capable it might be”. In my opinion I must say, although I do not entirely agree with they way the terms postmodernism and modernism was used back in them days, I prefer Modernism when it come to my graphic design work. Rick Poynor founded Eye Magazine in 1990, and edited it for seven years. He also wrote the book “NO MORE RULES” a book about graphic design and postmodernism. I took the opportunity to research Poynor’s views on the subject and came across some very remarkable information. Poynor states that even twenty years of the term Postmodernism was used, that it still remains a difficulty topic, and he goes on to state that there is already a vast amount

Poynor states that postmodernism is viewed as stylistic by some of the commentators throughout chapter 1 of the book, which has inhibited an understanding of the way in which postmodern tendencies continued to influence design throughout the 1990s. Poynor also tell us that the purpose of the book is not to provide an overview of postmodernism and all attempts at summary inevitably run up against the multitude of sometimes conflicting interpretations that postmodernism as

Poynor writes that postmodernism can not be understood without reference to modernism, while the ‘post’ prefix might seem to suggest that postmodernism comes after modernism, or that it replaces or rejects it, many commentators point out that postmodernism is a kind of parasite, dependant on its modernist host and displaying many of the same features – except that the meaning has changed. As I looked further in to what poynor had to say about postmodernism, I came across a vary interesting paragraph, in which I totally agreed with. He wrote “The products of postmodern culture may sometimes bear similarities to modernist works, but their inspiration and purpose is fundamentally different. If modernism south to create a better would, postmodernism – to the horror of many observers – appears to accept the world as it is”. Then he went on to say “Where modernism frequently attacked commercial mass culture, claiming from its superior perspective to know what was best for people, postmodernism enters into a complicitous relationship with the dominant culture. In postmodernism, modernism’s hierarchical distinctions between worthwhile ‘high’ culture and trashy ‘low’ culture collapse and the two become equal possibilities on a level field. Poynor refers to a couple of designers and their opinions about postmodernism which I found to be very interesting first of all he states that T.S Elliot a modernist poet, towards the end of his life observed that it not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them and the commonly held view that one should master one’s discipline before seeking to disrupt it also held true for design. And John Lewis, a British designer and graphic design teacher, In Typography: Basic Principles (1963) includes a chapter titled ‘Rules are Made to be Broken. Before you start braking rules, he writes, you should know what they are. Once one knows what are the correct procedures, one can look at them critically and see whether by deliberately flouting them anything can be added to methods of communication. Then Poynor goes on to say that Lewis believed that there was even a place for illegiberately for mixing up fonts mutilating letters, if it would serve the message by adding some excitement.


ARTIST TYPEFACE For one of our modules in this course. I was asked to design a typeface inspired by an artist. The typeface could be used online and could also downloaded by customers. I based my typeface on an artist called Paul Ellimen and a group of artists from spain who used deferent machine parts to create their designs. My typeface is made from real weapon parts which i was able to get hold of as i’m in the Army


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