The Ulm School

An exhibition at the Design Hub sheds light onto the methodology and legacy of the famous German school.

The Ulm School of Design was founded in 1953 by Inge Aicher-Scholl, Otl Aicher and Max Bill, with the main task of incorporate design into industry and to shape our material culture. In the post-war years, the process was marked by a crisis of values and resources, and this fact drove the Ulm School to re-think the meaning of creating forms in the contemporary world and to democratize the access to design. The exhibition explores the concept of "system", related with a set of rationally components capable of generating an object, and also the systematic approach of the school, which included for the first time, the integration of science and art.

The importance of the Ulm School in the history of design comes from the strict methodology they imposed on project development. Focusing on an inter-disciplinary work and objective design analysis, it rejected design as an artistic activity and spread through industry to all walks of life. The school was recognized worldwide for its approach of focusing on the design of the system rather than the object. As they pointed:

"A look back at the as yet unwritten history of design in the late 1980s reveals a number of paradigmatic design schools with an international influence which include the HfG Ulm. Many of the innovations which those schools introduced in tuition and the analytic and methodological approach is now common knowledge, part and parcel of the tuition and professional practice of design. Systems design has become a necessity in the contemporary, urbanised world, while design tuition has adapted to this need for methodological evolution. "
Top: Dieter Rams, <em>Braun TP1</em>, Portable radio, 1959.
Alfaro Hofmann Collection, Godella. Above: Richard Fischer
and Dieter Rams, 
<em>Braun KM2 Multiwerk</em>, 1965. 
Alfaro Hofmann Collection, Godella
Top: Dieter Rams, Braun TP1 , Portable radio, 1959. Alfaro Hofmann Collection, Godella. Above: Richard Fischer and Dieter Rams, Braun KM2 Multiwerk , 1965. Alfaro Hofmann Collection, Godella
We can see through the exhibition a total of 70 works, a complete range of objects which represent the various branches of work of the school. Under the title of "simple systems", it can be found the most elementary objects, made up as a basic exercise primarily geared to reconciling the harmonious union and connection between different elements. In the section of "furniture systems" we can see chairs, tables and several objects focused mostly on flexible products, constructed under the principle of interchangeable elements. On "construction systems", from their Department of Industrialized Construction, where they worked on integrating building into industry through processes of mechanisation and prefabrication which had begun in an earlier period under the direction of Konrad Wachsmann (1901–1980). Starting in 1957, the division of "systems in electronics" was involved in exploring the possibility of combining devices in units that could be stacked in columns or aligned with a wall or on a table. One of the most important works of this part of school happened in 1963, under the direction of Dieter Rams , when he was chief of design at Braun and he ushered in a new approach to domestic products, forever changing the relationship between design and the consumer. On these years Braun began manufacturing a combined synthesizer, tape recorder and amplifiers, among other products.
Wilhelm Wagenfeld, <em>Kubus</em>, 1945.
Museu de les Arts Decoratives de Barcelona-DHUB
Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Kubus , 1945. Museu de les Arts Decoratives de Barcelona-DHUB
When talking about corporate identity, the well know airline Lufthansa commissioned the school the task of designing their identity, which involved graphic design, logos, typography, packaging, among others. Related with graphic design, the Ulm school also worked on projects related with communication systems, based on a methodological analysis of communication problems beyond an artistic approach and with a deeply understanding of semiotics that was then applied to communication analysis. Otl Aicher have designed the The system of pictograms designed for the 1972 Munich Olympics and in recent years, Norman Foster commissioned Otl Aicher to design the corporate image and communication system for the Bilbao metro.
Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams, <em>Braun SK4</em>, radio and record player, 1958.
Museu de les Arts Decoratives de Barcelona-DHUB
Hans Gugelot and Dieter Rams, Braun SK4 , radio and record player, 1958. Museu de les Arts Decoratives de Barcelona-DHUB
The exhibition has been designed to explain all the ranges included in the academic program of the school, with the objects separated in sections and chronological order, from a Portable Record Player from 1959 to the Braun KM2 Multiwerk; the main idea behind is to show us how our furniture, cars, signs in cities and airports, corporate image and visual communication in computing or telephony are designed as systems. After visiting the exhibition we understand that in short, our lives will be completely organized by systems. Ethel Baraona Pohl (@ethel_baraona)

Systems design. The Ulm school
Design Hub Barcelona
Through 28 February
Hans Gugelot and
Herbert Lindinger, <em>Braun AG Studio 1</em>, radio and record player, 1956.
Ulmer Museum, HfG–Archiv, Ulm
Hans Gugelot and Herbert Lindinger, Braun AG Studio 1 , radio and record player, 1956. Ulmer Museum, HfG–Archiv, Ulm
Hans (Nick) Roericht, 
<em>TC100</em> tableware for Thomas Rosenthal, degree project,
1958–1959. 
Ulmer Museum, HfG–Archiv, Ulm
Hans (Nick) Roericht, TC100 tableware for Thomas Rosenthal, degree project, 1958–1959. Ulmer Museum, HfG–Archiv, Ulm
Corporate identity for West German airline Lufthansa
Corporate identity for West German airline Lufthansa
Corporate identity for West German airline Lufthansa
Corporate identity for West German airline Lufthansa

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