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

Acquainting yourself with the work process

Conduct research

When designing a product of working with a client it is important to do research. What kind of research depends on budget and product.

You may need to do some research before naming the product or company and then do some extra research when you need to come up with the overall strategy of the brand. Also keep in mind that the research should be focused and relevant, for example, you do not need to do global research if the brand is a little hair salon in a small town. The different forms of research will be handled in detail during this course, the important thing to understand at this point, is that a designer should not grab ideas from thin air, but rather build ideas on sound research. It is definitely possible to get ideas from divine inspiration or observation, but then again, these ideas should be backed by research.

So how do we do this? How do we gather information?

If you’re a student working on a project you should use the cheapest means. Use search engines or an online cyclepedia to define target audience and what speaks to them. You can also go out and look and analyze what is being done already. Are you creating a logo for a clothing brand? Is it a chain like H&M, is it exclusive or is it retro? Hand-made and one of a kind? Are you creating a brand stategy for a new or excisting restaurant? Visit similar brands businesses and look at what they’re doing. How are things placed? How are you being met by their employees?

If you’re working on a budget there are other ways to gather information. You can have study groups and have people answer questions and fill in forms. You can do individual interviews with members from your target audience to find out how to really speak to them. If you have a large budget you can and should do all of the above. The more research you do the clearer you will see the final product and the easier it will be to create.

Clarify the Strategy

Now that you’ve collected all of this data you need to apply it. It’s important that you explain the strategy, or the plan.

strategy: a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.

How will you market this product? How will your designs market to the audience?

What’s important to me when creating a strategy is to clearly define the target audience. For example: generation Z. Explain what defines gen Z and how they differ from those who came before. How do we plan to share our product with them and why? What is important when purchasing for this target audience? What designs appeal to them and why? (Remember to include colors, fonts, layout etc.) On what media can we reach them the best and how will we use that media to do so?

In the strategic brief you should also clarify which direction your brand is going. This is something that should have been discussed with all design parties involved before put into writing. The brief is your best tool when communicating your thoguhts and designs with your client. When there are doubts and questions you can always go back to the brief and show why things are being done a certain way.

In conclusion: the strategic brief should work as a guide on how your brand should be portrayed and work as the backbone of your product.

Design the Identity

Now that the strategy is done it’s time to create the visual aesthetics of the brand you’re working with. How do you approach the findings from the research?

My first steps would be to start sketching. You probably got some sort of idea and vision of what you want to create after doing all this work. Create different types of design that are very different to properly explore where you want to take the product.

When you’ve created the final sketches (made them presentable) you need to develop a brand architecture. What is the most important aspect of the visual strategy? What colors identify the brand? How should the visual designs be applied on different elements?

Note: You don’t make any final designs in this step. You create sketches and mock-ups and present to the client and after that you go forward with the project.

Create Touchpoints

Before you can create them you need to know what they are.

Touchpoints are those areas and moments that the consumer comes in contact with the service or product or company itself. It also follows that these are the areas that consumers interact with the brand (such as the business’ advertising material and even employees).

I think that touchpoints are the key points on how you connect with your clients. How do you market? How do you present yourself? Do you intend to market mainly through social media? How are you going to do this? What are the key elements when doing so? How do you create engagement with your content?

Touchpoints could be how we structure our posts and the tonality of our brand. If we’re a “funny” brand then our posts intent are to make our customers laugh. How do we intend to structure these? One touchpoint here could be: create content on social media platforms that makes our customers laugh.

We also need to create internal touchpoints. What goals are the employees working for and what tone do we have at the workplace? Do we have a dresscode? Do we organize monthly get-togethers? Do our employees get birthday gifts? How should they meet with our customer?

The touchpoints should function as a way to help guide employers and employees to always present the brand in the same way so that it can build brand recognition and trust with the customers. This pahse should allow for development as the company grows.

Manage the Assets

This phase is the nurturing phase, so you need to grow the brand and make sure that everyone involved is constantly reminded of the goal, purpose and integrity of the brand identity. 

How I would nurture and grow a brand I’ve created depends on what type of brand it is. I would most likely create engaging content on social media to get to know the audience better and let them be a part of the journey.

If I had a clothing brand or a coffee shop (say I owned H&M) I would create contests where the community would submit designs that gets voted on by the audience. The winner gets their design on a limited T-shirt (or coffe cup) and the profit of that T-shirt would go to a charity organisation, probably one that helps with global things that the fashion industry help destroy. That way I create engaging content, involve my community and also create a brand that helps with taking care of our planet (as H&M is already focusing on with the concious collections) and the employees get to feel that they are apart of something bigger.