After the end of World War I, Germany was devastated economically and socially, jeopardised by poverty and hopelessness. The political and social upheaval was on the horizon, and all the general efforts were oriented toward survival amid the crisis.
History tells us that challenging scenarios are always the cornerstones of innovation and change. In 1919, only four years after the war ended, Weimar became the epicentre of a new political agreement that transformed Germany into a democratic republic. This period was known as the Weimar Republik (1919-1933).
Far from coincidence, in this same place, motivated by the general enthusiasm and openness to new systems of thought, the celebrated German architect Walter Gropius created and developed a new education system that aimed to unite fine art and technology so that they could contribute to the rising of an innovative, integral and evolved German society.
This movement was called Bauhaus.
“Limitation makes the creative mind inventive” - Walter Gropius.
More than 100 years later, the Bauhaus movement (1919-1933) stands as one of the most influential art movements that have positively impacted almost every artistic discipline since, especially modern art, design and architecture. Marcel Breuer, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Mies van der Rohe are among their most remarkable figures.
This article will explore how the Bauhaus style has contributed to graphic design and the business world today so that every entrepreneur and designer can apply its principles to their everyday creative and business endeavours.
Bauhaus: The vision
Bauhaus, literally the “house of building” in German, sought to break free from traditional constraints and forge a new path for creative expression.
Before it, fine artists were simply artists, and artisans were solely artisans. Such distinctions were irrelevant for the Bauhaus school as they considered both roles equal. The artist needed to know all about materials, techniques, and craft. The Bauhaus artists were required to communicate their inherent emotions and develop their artistic expression.
Such collaboration between disciplines resulted in highly functional creations that transcended mere aesthetics. Bauhaus architecture, fine arts, and interior design are permeated with such vision.
There is a compelling story about this Bauhaus vision.
Josef Albers was a famous artist and professor at the Bauhaus school. Once, he gave his students a piece of newspaper and invited them to create something without using any tools. The next day, he came to class, and most of his students’ creations involved scissors, glue, etc. Yet, he was intrigued by one alone.
The art piece was an origami-type figure that could stand independently. This unique emphasis on functionality and simplicity was a trademark of the Bauhaus school, and such a story serves as an introduction to the Bauhaus movement’s central principles of creation.
Form follows function
Every design or artistic creation must be functional for society. The form is important in Bauhaus art, but it’s not the essence of creation. Every invention or artwork must have a purpose that serves the general public.
Artistic disciplines are connected
As mentioned, the Bauhaus movement considered all artistic disciplines important. They promoted an integral development so every artist comprehended how to use wood, metal, and clay, and every artisan knew how to use their creativity to produce valuable ideas.
Art and technology are united
The Bauhaus school stood apart from the mass production system that began with the industrial revolution and aimed to unify technological advances with the artistic spirit.
Industry drives innovation
Rapid technological developments characterised the early 20th century. The Bauhaus movement embraced such changes and recognised industrial techniques as a creative opportunity rather than an obstacle.
Let’s dive deeper into how the Bauhaus school impacted design and the modern business industry.
Bauhaus and modern design
“The artist is not a special kind of person; rather, each person is a special kind of artist." - Josef Albers.
The principles and philosophy of Bauhaus have left an indelible mark on the world of design. Its emphasis on functionality, minimalism, and integration of art, craft, and technology still influences and inspires designers worldwide today.
Product design, for instance, applies these principles thoroughly as it’s based on simplicity and utility, creating visually pleasing, ergonomic, and highly functional objects. Examples can be seen in brands such as Braun, Ikea, and Apple, which keep employing Bauhaus standards in their elegant, aesthetic and harmonious tech and furniture products.
The movement also profoundly influenced industrial design. Standardisation, efficiency, and practicality principles are still integral in contemporary industrial design, where streamlined forms, modular systems, and sustainable materials are prioritised.
Bauhaus and graphic design
“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 civilised society.” - Walter Gropius.
Undoubtedly, graphic design and architecture were profoundly influenced by the Bauhaus movement.
The Bauhaus movement and its emphasis on simplicity and minimalism began a clear, innovative and visually striking visual communication trend that revolutionised the world in the early 20th century and still does today’s digital landscape.
Let’s explore how the Bauhaus movements set the foundations for modern graphic design.
The Bauhaus movement put a particular focus on the use of typography as a way to communicate with clarity. It promoted using clean lines and geometric forms, eliminating unnecessary ornaments.
Bauhaus typefaces are based on minimalism, legibility and precision. It also applied its design approach to letter spacing, line breaks, and alignment, creating visually harmonious and balanced layouts.
As a heritage, the Bauhaus movements left us the Sans-serif typefaces we can find everywhere, from street signs to brand books.
Bauhaus’s revolutionary principles and avant-garde aesthetics have transformed modern brand communication, leading businesses to embrace minimalist design, visual hierarchy, and the power of simplicity.
Minimalism, a hallmark of Bauhaus, lies at the core of contemporary branding. By conveying core values concisely and stripping away visual distractions, brands can establish a sense of sophistication and create memorable experiences.
Visual hierarchy, another Bauhaus principle, is also a major in brand communication. Brands that establish a clear hierarchy that includes value propositions through colour, typography, and spatial arrangements are destined to succeed.
Companies like Nike and Volkswagen embrace and portray Bauhaus-inspired design principles in their branding. Their successful and minimal logos and visually harmonious aesthetics communicate innovation and functional beauty.
Indeed, by embracing Bauhaus-inspired design, brands establish a timeless visual identity and forge a deep connection with their audience.
Digital and web design
The Bauhaus legacy on digital and web design has been paramount. The use of bold typography, grid systems, asymmetrical compositions, and the integration of text and image are some of its most remarkable contributions to this field.
The “Form follows function” philosophy continues to guide designers in creating visually appealing and engaging digital experiences, where intuitive navigation, minimalist layouts, and responsive design are primordial parts of the web and digital design.
Bauhaus and the business world
"In business, embracing Bauhaus principles means prioritizing both form and function, and finding the perfect balance between the two." - Elon Musk.
When we think of Bauhaus, we often associate it with art, architecture, and design. However, the principles and philosophies of Bauhaus can extend beyond the creative realm and find their place in modern business practices.
One of these principles is design thinking, a problem-solving approach that helps businesses unlock new opportunities and develop innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of their customers. This approach places empathy, experimentation, and collaboration at its centre.
Customer-centred strategies and solutions promoted by the Bauhaus movement are at the heart of modern business, emphasising the usability and practicality of products and services. Companies can foster loyalty, satisfaction, and success with intuitive, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing products.
The “Artistic disciplines are connected” principle points out the necessity of building teams with diverse talents contributing to the whole. This Bauhaus approach is helping many businesses to leverage the power of diverse perspectives and create more innovative and comprehensive solutions.
With the Bauhaus “less is more” approach, companies can create efficient workflows and minimalist processes that enhance the external perception of a business and internal operations and efficiency.
Furthermore, Bauhaus emphasises the importance of experimentation and continuous learning. In a rapidly changing business landscape, adaptability and flexibility are key. By fostering a culture in which experimentation occupies a significant place, businesses can innovate, thrive and adapt to the ever-changing customer demands.
These are some of the Bauhaus ideas that keep inspiring modern businesses and help them create strategies that benefit their customers directly.
Bauhaus is Everywhere
"Design is the intermediary between information and understanding." - László Moholy-Nagy.
Officially, the Bauhaus movement ended in 1933 when the Nazi political party took over the German government. Many of its teachers and principal exponents fled to England and the United States, where they continued sharing their ideas, finding receptivity in industries such as advertising, industrial design and architecture. Then, Bauhaus became an international style of art and aesthetics.
Almost a century later, those ideas keep helping many artists, designers, and business people to shape their artwork and companies' inner and outer functioning.
Simplicity, minimalism, functionality, and user-centred approaches are some of the most outstanding contributions to the Bauhaus movement to society.
We hope these Bauhaus principles help you direct your brand and graphic communication toward a complete service that places your user at their core.