Above: A poster by Michael Bierut for the
Yale School of Architecture.
Jenny Tondera writes: Omnipresent in our current design culture, designer and design critic Michael Bierut works at Pentagram, is an editor of Design Observer, and is a senior critic in graphic design at the Yale School of Art (just to name a few of his many roles). I certainly agree with Michael in wishing that a remembrance of the Bauhaus’ utopian dreams, in terms of the desire for a better-designed everyday life, were more at the forefront of design thinking among students today. Perhaps if the captivating history of the Bauhaus were taught more in art and design curriculum today, so that students would understand the Bauhaus beyond simply knowing it as the reasoning behind the structure of their educational institutions, these wishes wouldn’t be too far-fetched?
1. How do the Bauhaus ideals such as “form follows function” influence (or not influence) your design work? Do you take these teachings into consideration during your design process?
I think the important breakthrough of the Bauhaus for me was the idea that design and craft could be incorporated into modern industrial processes and as such become part of everyday life. Even today, design is thought of by some as a luxury or as something that can be added later. This legacy, which of course has been oddly distorted by time, as some Bauhaus designs became luxury items themselves, is more important to me than the specific aesthetic of the movement.
2. How have the ideas of “New Typography,” introduced by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and furthered by Herbert Bayer (and his “Universal” type) found their way into your designs (or have they not)? What about the color theory studies
of Josef Albers?
Anyone who practices typography today — at least anyone who uses sans serif type,
or sets it flush left ragged right, or makes an asymmetrical layout — is somehow influenced by the graphic designers of the Bauhaus. I think, on the other hand, that Albers’s color studies were more personal.
3. How do you feel the Bauhaus’ modernist aesthetics are influencing other graphic designers in our world today?
Every day a student sees a reproduction of a Bauhaus piece in a book, that influence is extended. I wish, though, that the idealism of the Bauhaus, the conviction that the role of design is to improve the world by introducing artistry into everyday life, had more of an influence.