Graphic Design History

The Bauhaus, De Stjil and Swiss Movements

The Bauhaus

I believed that the Bauhaus was a reference to the chain store “Bauhaus”. It’s actually called after an art school that was founded in Germany in 1919 by Walter Gropius. The main reason that the Bauhaus has its standing in graphic design history is because of the role it played in developing the sans-serif typography. The school preferred sans-serif fonts because it provided an alternative to the standard that was in Germany at the time: black-letter typography.

Herbert Bayer is one name that is highly connected to the Bauhaus movement. He worked as a teacher at the school and is known for his love of mixing upper and lowercase characters, an example his experimental universal typefact: architype bayer.

One current design that is heavily influenced by the school and era is in fact the first think that came to my mind when I read “the Bauhaus”.

Not only can we recognize the style from the mere name of the store, but the sans-serif fonts and the geometrical structure next to the name is very similar to the type of art Herbert Bayer created.

De Stilj

This movement was founded in 2017 and means “The Style” in Dutch. The group’s theories and most important graphic design works from the movement was published by Van Doesburg, the most recognized artist, in a journal called De Stilj.

The movement was all about ultimate simplicity and abstraction. They tried to reach harmony and order by reducing elements into pure geometric forms and using primary colors.

Doesburg, Theo van: Composition IX, Opus 18: Abstract Version of Card Players

Here’s some examples of “De Stilj” inspired designs from today. You notice it by the use of sans-serif fonts, simple geometric designs and strong colors.

Swiss Movements

The Swiss Movements are the base of the mid-20th century graphic design style. They were defined by simplicity, legibility and objectivity. The movement was led by two designers, Josef Müller‑Brockmann from Zurich School of Arts and Crafts and Armin Hofmann from Basel School of Design. The two schools developed the use of grids, assymetrical latyouts and sans-serif typography. They were also in the forefront of combining typography and photography for visual communication and their most influential work was in the form of posters.

Here are some designs inspired by the Swiss movement.

What all of these images have in common is the use of geometry. The posters on the left and the right are very different from the one in the middle. They’re more minimalistic and use colors in a way to make the geometric shapes to take form, while the middle poster at a first glance looks more chaotic and like it’s mainly using lines to create the geometric shapes. However, if you look at the blue in the picture you start to see the Swiss Movement.

These three styles have something in common. They focus on sans-serif fonts, geometry and simplicity and we can see all of them in our current desing climate.

Just take a look at wordpress’ new basic theme twentytwenty. The use of patterns, shapes and color together with the sans-serif font reminds me of all the different movements mentioned in this post. It’s clean and less abstract but still uses the same simple geometry and color. If rearranged with the different patterns and text on one page as a poster this could be a good example of Swiss Movement inspired Design.

Student materials provided by Noroff