‘Research in Development of Universal Type’ by Herbert Bayer, 1927. Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Examples of Bauhaus Graphic Design That Shaped the Movement

The Bauhaus archive launched by Harvard Art Museums is a treasure trove of type + print

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By Madeleine Morley

BBauhaus design’s impact on today’s graphics is hard to overestimate. Associated with primary colors, thick straight lines slashing across white space, and that emphatically modern trilogy of circle, triangle and square, the movement’s legacy has now become easier to trace due to an online tool via Harvard Art Museums. Thanks to the digital archive, exceptional and marginal objects from the period are more accessible, and so today we look at 5 examples of graphic design from the collection that might be of surprise or buck the cliché.

The museum is home to one of the largest collections devoted to the Bauhaus, and more than 32,000 Bauhaus-related objects of a variety of media are now searchable by keyword, title, artist, medium, and date. You can browse through the paintings and photographs of Lyonel Feininger, admire typographic experiments and stark magazine spreads by László Moholy-Nagy, or simply stumble across unexpected objects like this three-tier Bauhaus Dessau building cake made for the 80th birthday of the movement’s founder, Walter Gropius. There’s artworks, sketches, and prints by the masters of the school (Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Mies van der Rohe, etc.), and also extensive examples of student output that allows you to engage with lesser-known elements from the period.

For those not familiar with the school’s history, a number of essays and a timeline with visual aids give a solid overview of the Bauhaus’ approach and developments, starting with its founding in 1919 to its dissolution in 1933. The online collection also traces the legacy of the school and its close ties with Harvard and Cambridge, MA, where Gropius settled in 1937 to teach at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Herbert Bayer, a key designer and typographer from the period, is known for developing the typeface Universal that was commissioned by Gropius in 1925. Its simplicity supported the ideals of functionalism and accessibility that the school famously championed, and its name underlined the idea of design as something that should be accessible to all. With the Harvard…

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