It’s bold. It’s minimal. It’s functional. After a hundred years, Bauhaus design continues to inspire artists, graphic designers and architects across the globe.
It outlasted a century’s worth of competing styles, survived the initial criticisms from traditionalists, and although the Nazis shut down the institution in 1933, the Bauhaus movement itself lives on to this day.
And 2019 marks the 100th anniversary since this one-of-a-kind design revolution first started. To celebrate its impact, both then and now, we’ve asked our community of graphic designers to reimagine the most popular logos of today in the Bauhaus design style.
Aside from being fun, educational and demonstrative of their skill, what our designers created just goes to show how the timeless principles of Bauhaus design still hold up after all this time.
What is Bauhaus?
The full history of Bauhaus design is as elaborate and colorful as the prevailing styles it unseated. To keep it short, here’s a quick, minimalist overview of the necessities, in true Bauhaus style.
The time was 1919. The world was abuzz with the latest new tech disruptor—electricity—and it was changing the way everyday people lived their lives. Thanks to electricity and the industrial revolution, mass production quickly became the new norm.
Artists were worried this new way of manufacturing was the end of art as we knew it, but a small community in Weimar, Germany, saw the situation from a different angle.
Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus art school under the principle that form and function should work together, not separately. His school sought to merge the aesthetics of fine art with the practicality of modern industry—products that looked as good as they functioned. In the words of the founder himself:
Let us together create the new building of the future which will be all in one: architecture and sculpture and painting.
“The artist is a heightened manifestation of the craftsman. Let us form… a new guild of craftsmen without the class divisions that set out to raise an arrogant barrier between craftsmen and artists! Let us together create the new building of the future which will be all in one: architecture and sculpture and painting.”
Another central concept in Bauhaus design is incorporating many different art forms “all in one,” chasing what they called “Gesamtkunstwerk,” or a “total work of art.” Bauhaus artists were encouraged to train in multiple disciplines and combine techniques whenever possible.
The political climate, at least momentarily, provided an open window: after World War I, the desperate and war-ravaged Germans supported the liberal-leaning and art-friendly Weimar Republic. The world of design was ripe for a new approach as well, as Bauhaus’s primary influence Art Nouveau made evident decades earlier.
The school only operated for 14 years until it was closed by the Nazi party, with the police forcibly closing its doors to its Berlin location on April 11, 1933. Threatened by all things liberal, the Third Reich had spun public opinion of the Bauhaus movement, calling them communists and their work “cosmopolitan rubbish.”
Still, in its short time it changed the entire world. Bauhaus design defined and advanced the modernist style that had begun in the late 1800s, and it laid a solid foundation for minimalism and styles that marry form to function. Even its educational style, which favored experimentation and trial-and-error, left a lasting mark.
Although Bauhaus is most readily linked with architecture, the truth is it had a monumental impact on all art, and commercial design in particular. The Bauhaus movement changed the way manufacturers thought about product design and aesthetics, while making huge advancements in graphic design, such as changing what’s “acceptable” usage for typography.
Bauhaus design seems almost cyclical—like it always comes back every few decades or so. Considering its influence, that’s not surprising. After all, even the modern logos below can learn a thing or two from Bauhaus’s pivotal movement.
Famous logos reimagined in the Bauhaus design style
It’s arguable which characteristics constitute Bauhaus design—it’s more of a “know-it-when-you-see-it” deal. That said, these are the five common threads that almost every Bauhaus design follows:
- Form follows function
- Revolutionary typography
- Passion for geometry
- Primary colors
To help you understand Bauhaus design in action, here’s how our designer community used these five principles to reimagine logos we all know and love in true Bauhaus fashion.
1. Form follows function
Just by looking at its visual art, you can see the guiding principle of Bauhaus design—a “total” work combining multiple disciplines. “Form follows function” is a tenet of the movement’s more utilitarian fields like architecture or product design, but when applied to visual art it has a profound effect.
Bauhaus artists created new imagery by stripping away the inessentials, and they were able to create complex visuals using only a few strategically placed shapes. Just look below at Asaad™’s Bauhaus rendition of the Ferrari stallion or gajsky’s rendition of the Johnnie Walker walker.
An early evangelist for minimalism, Bauhaus design ascribed to “less is more”—but not at the cost of function. For product design, Bauhaus designers saw minimalism as a tool to improve effectivity, but for the visual arts that same principle allowed new opportunities for expressionism and aesthetics. Just look at some of the creative visuals below that use less elements to enhance the logos’ effects.
3. Revolutionary typography
At the time, German typography was highly regimented; heavy and ornamental fonts were the standard, and there were proper dos and don’ts for how typography was handled. And while Bauhaus design had its own rules for typography (no combining upper- and lower-cases, only use sans-serif fonts, etc.), they’re largely responsible for first breaking the laws of typography and opening the doors for more artistic usage of text.
For example, Bauhaus designers were among the first to set type vertically and diagonally, as well as wrapping text around images. The look of the letters themselves showed creativity, too, with exaggerated stems, geometrical influence and minimalist composition.
4. Passion for geometry
Just off the heels of Cubism, Bauhaus design incorporated an unbridled enthusiasm for geometry—basic shapes, bisecting lines, and emphasizing these structural choices with inventive color usage. Bauhaus artists reduced imagery down to their bare-bone essentials, a staple of minimalism, and that style ushered in a then-new aesthetic—an aesthetic whose influence we can recognize in our current logo design trends.
5. Primary colors
As experimental and open-minded as Bauhaus design was, it had very distinct preferences for colors: red, blue and yellow, along with black and white. With such emphasis on effectiveness and efficiency, it’s no surprise they chose primary colors as their go-to palette.
Of course we see variation in hues as well as masterful usage of contrast. Moreover, Johannes Itten, who taught at Bauhaus from 1919 to 1922, even implemented psychoanalysis into color theory. Rather than dwelling on their limitations, it’s more impressive to see what they could accomplish with just these five colors.
Bauhaus design and modern branding
For modern brands that identify with the Bauhaus design style, there are two options:
- use the classic Bauhaus design aesthetic
- pick and choose which Bauhaus design elements to use
The first option, to use the Bauhaus design style as is, may not be a good choice for every brand. Bauhaus’s popularity holds it back a little in this respect: because the style is so recognizable, it imprints itself on any brands that use it. This could be a huge advantage for brands that want to cash in on modern era ideals or seem old-fashioned, but it’ll be a step back for brands that want to seem futuristic, particularly tech companies.
But if traditional Bauhaus design doesn’t fit, you can always select individual aspects you like. Maybe you like the minimalist, geographic shape compositions—give it a metallic texture and maybe some 3D imagery and suddenly you have a logo that’s both traditional and cutting edge. You can choose from subtle elements, like the primary color pallette, or more obvious ones, like extending the stems of letters.
When you know what to look for, it’s easy to see the influence of Bauhaus on today’s marketing. See for yourself with the designs below.
These first two show unique interpretations of Bauhaus’s passion for geometry and emphasis on creative typography. Even the color scheme would be familiar to a Bauhaus artist, even though it strays from tradition with more flamboyant hues.
But the current era has double the demand for graphic design than 100 years ago. Today, designers have to account for formats the Bauhaus school could have never predicted: web design, printed clothing, vehicle wrappers, mammoth billboards, etc. Still, modern designers carry over the Bauhaus style by selectively choosing certain principles over others.
In the web page design by Welnnov8 on the right, we see the dominant reds and yellows of Bauhaus, as well as its usage of basic shapes. However, the rounded edges and pastel hues make it unmistakably modern (the video player doesn’t hurt either), creating a hybrid aesthetic.
Likewise, Anselmo Alef’s design for Uco’s Playground wine uses a distinct Bauhaus style, with bold primary colors and blocky shapes. But by superimposing a real photo of a dog over the design, it creates a style that’s completely original—something Bauhaus, by not only Bauhaus.
If the Bauhaus methodology has taught us one thing, it’s to experiment—so get out of your comfort zone and find the sweet spot between form and function. If you hire a capable designer, they’ll be able to share their professional insight and find the style that’s best for you.
Conclusion: the legacy of Bauhaus design
We see the influence of Bauhaus design every day. We walk beneath the same buildings designed by Bauhaus architects, we sit in Bauhaus-style chairs, we turn Bauhaus-inspired door knobs without even acknowledging them as a product of design. Its influence on mass media is even more apparent, with marketing posters still using Bauhaus typography trends and the recent resurgence of minimalism in web design.
This year we look back on 100 years of Bauhaus design, but all things considered, we’re probably looking ahead at another 100 more to come.