• Transform magazine
  • September 25, 2018

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The type writer: Bauhaus inspired design

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Bruno Maag explores the history of typeface, architecture and product design through Bauhaus inspired craft

‘Form follows function’ was the mantra of the Bauhaus, the design school and movement founded in Germany in the 1920s. From this movement emerged many influential people, such as Mies van der Rohe, Paul Renner, Jan Tschichold, Walter Gropius and more, who would shape modern architecture, product and graphic design and typography.

The Bauhaus was based on the mediaeval concept of the ‘Bauhütte,’ the place where the master craftsmen would meet with the architect each day during the planning and construction of a cathedral to discuss how best to convert the aesthetic ideas into an actual building. This enabled different craft disciplines to work together and to benefit from each other’s skills. Without this dialogue, it would not have been possible to create and construct the defining features of gothic architecture.

A literal interpretation of the Bauhaus mantra would means that function always dictates form, but this leads to minimalist and repetitive work based on dogmatic grids and structures. A more generous interpretation is that form and function are mutually supportive, with appropriateness and purpose being the shared forces. By properly understanding the purpose of a work – furniture, product, fashion or graphic – we can find an appropriate form which not only reflects the function, but enhances it.

The same principle applies to typefaces. What some may describe, in isolation, as bland and boring is in fact the correct application of form and function: the forms of the letters have been perfectly crafted to support and enhance the function of the letters. When the requirement is a typeface that demands attention, the letter shapes will be more dynamic, and possibly handwritten, because that also supports and enhances the function. Typeface design which only operates at one level and only shouts at one volume isn’t design at all, and isn’t form following function.

Bruno Maag, chairman, Dalton Maag