Bauhaus Graphic Design: The Ultimate Guide to Bauhaus Style

Those familiar with the Bauhaus movement are likely familiar with its creed: Form Follows Function. As one of the defining artistic styles of Modernism, the German art and architectural movement known as Bauhaus helped define the aesthetics of the mid-twentieth century. It would not be a stretch to say that today's world is still visually defined by the long-lasting influence of modernist movements like Bauhaus.

Here is everything you need to know to incorporate Bauhaus graphic design into your next project with CorelDRAW:

The history of Bauhaus style

The movement is named for a particular school of art and architecture, The Bauhaus. It was originally founded by Walter Gropius in Dessau, Germany, before moving to an old factory in Berlin for a year in 1932. After the Nazis decided the Bauhaus was subversive, they raided and eventually shut down the Berlin school. Nevertheless, Bauhaus ended up becoming one of the most influential movements of the 20th century.

Initially, Bauhaus focused on uniting design principles with architecture. However, this evolved into a broader goal, described by Nikil Saval of the New York Times as "uniting art with industrial techniques." While this goal may seem rather non-specific, it was precisely the vagueness of Bauhaus principles that made them so influential. Bauhaus ideals could be applied to virtually any type of art, including the burgeoning field of graphic design, making it easy to see the ripple effects of Bauhaus thinking throughout the entire art world, well beyond its original architectural focus and well into the present day.

In fact, Nazi oppression may actually have helped the movement endure; as Bauhaus artists were exiled and sought refuge to create elsewhere, their ideas spread throughout the globe. As Saval argues, "what might plausibly have been only a minor episode in the history of Modernism became a recurring one, translated into different languages and geographies and contexts and economies." Ironically, by trying to denounce Bauhaus as Marxist propaganda, the Nazis actually ensured its global survival.

Basic principles of Bauhaus design

Saval calls Bauhaus "a planned revolution in the texture and feel and look of everyday life," and this is an apt description of the way Bauhaus graphic designers approached their work. Specifically, Bauhaus designers recognize that graphic design is the art of everyday life and act accordingly, following a few general design principles:

  • Form Follows Function: A design should first be functional, then aesthetically dynamic.
  • Artist = Craftsman: There need not be a class line separating the two since functional objects should be treated as art. Related was the idea that art was itself a craft, and that artists should see themselves as craftspeople.
  • Minimalism: Clean lines, geometric forms, not too much fuss or decoration.
  • Gesamtkunstwerk: Translated loosely as "total work of art," many Bauhaus artists sought to synthesize multiple art forms into one design.
  • Technology: Bauhaus works were to be designed for mass production that made them accessible to many. Further, it's okay to leave "evidence" of technological creation in one's design.
  • Simplicity: Art was most effective when it could be understood simply, without much effort by the viewer.

To emulate the Bauhaus style, one should use straight lines, incorporate geometric shapes and avoid curvilinear design, employ simple and bold use of color (primaries were preferred), be unafraid to incorporate evidence of the design process into the work, and ultimately, worry about the function of the design first and the style later.

Bauhaus in the 21st century

While things may have evolved since Bauhaus was first introduced, the visual style associated with the movement remains fresh and chic, a testament to how forward-thinking it was to begin with. No matter what kind of Bauhaus-inspired design project you have in mind, CorelDRAW tutorials make it easy to turn your ideas into reality. We can't wait to see what you come up with!

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