The living legacy of Bauhaus in digital design.
This year - in case anyone has not noticed - it’s the 100-year celebration of the Bauhaus School. There are hundreds of books covering the history of Bauhaus. I find it more relevant to focus on the living legacy of the school. Bauhaus might be regarded as a movement of the past, but I’d argue we are more affected by the Bauhaus movements in our time than at the time of Bauhaus itself.
There are two types of legacies from Bauhaus, the philosophical and the aesthetic. The philosophy is highly connected with modernism in general. Bauhaus artists believed that form and function should be in harmony, corresponding with each other, without any need for excessive decoration. This is a legacy I see in interaction design of any UX/UI - where the aesthetic is based on function and leaves no room for ornamentation which does not give purpose. In a way it's an empirical and cold approach to design where you want to guide users in a designed maze; those who create an app usually want something out of their users, and therefore the design is stripped from anything but the essential to direct users into a desired action. Much like the grand ideas of modern city planning or the way residential apartment living was planned according to functionalism; every part of a home was designed with the support of data of how people lived and what the primary need in general was.
Moreover; the iterative design process has been highly spoken of in the last decade as a new type of design thinking, but it's not - it was practised in the Bauhaus school as a way of learning and understanding the impact of design in our life. I believe this is one of the main reasons we’ve seen so many different disciplines practices at the school, resulting in several design icons - of which many are still in production.
Secondly, there is the aesthetic legacy of Bauhaus - which we see picked up as a trend every now and then. The most significant modern Bauhaus flirt come from tech giant Google who chose the colours from the Bauhaus palette for their logo. Red, blue, yellow and green.
In their logo update in 2015 (to the right), they altered the tone of the colours, but compensated by changing the font which left out the serifs - remember? - No need for excessive decoration which does not give purpose.
Google went even as far as adopting the iconic geometric Bauhaus shapes for the UI of the Google Home App. See the video below and reflect on the similarities with the following picture of a wooden construction set Bauspeil designed in 1923 by Georg Muche for the Weimar Bauhaus exhibition in 1923.
If you are not convinced about the link between Google Home and Bauspeil, see this animation of Bauspeil created for a Kids Design Festival in Poland.
Below you can see a film of yet another example of how Bauhaus is made relevant to this day. It's from Adobe presenting their collection "Hidden Treasures Dessau Bauhaus", where legendary Erik Spiekermann speaks about how they revived archival typeface sketches into working fonts.
During the year of 2019, we will probably see a lot of celebration of the Bauhaus movement, and I encourage to reflect on how the design from Bauhaus links to designs of today. Let's not regard the Bauhaus movement as a chapter in history, but rather the springboard of modern design - just as The Beatles did for contemporary music.
If you want to learn more about Bauhaus, I recommend the Taschen book: Bauhaus.
I also recommend the documentary series on YouTube: Architecture, art and design - 100 years of the Bauhaus. The documentary shows a broad perspective of the school and its legacy.