The Ulm School of Design (Raven Row)

The Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm, also know as the Ulm School of Design, was founded in 1953, established in Ulm, Southern Germany, by Inge Aicher-Scholl, Otl Aicher and Max Bill. Bill, the president of  Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm (HfG), had a huge influence on the teaching approach of the school, as he was an alumni from Bauhaus, an evolutionary architecture and design school, which was closed by the Nazis in 1933. The teaching at HfG was guided by the principles of Bauhaus, which its curriculum became focused mainly on industrial design after the arrival of Max Bill, combining design with everyday life, embracing design with beauty and convenience.

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HfG Ulm Building from the west, (1956), by Wolfgang Siol

The exhibition The Ulm Model, shows the new conception (fundamentally differed from Bauhaus’ curriculum) of the designer’s role within the production process was reflected in the school’s curriculum and the structured relation of departments from HfG: Product Design, Visual Communication, Information, Film and Industrialised Building (Kapos, 2016). The designs presented at the exhibition clearly shows the association of the products and functionalism.

The following drawing of fan-like blades shows a geometrical concept and a serial composition. The leaf of one icon perfectly fit into the adjacent fans’ leaf gaps, which greatly cut down the external space needed for the drawing. All together, the fourteen blades form a bigger imagery with no external spaces in-between them. The bottom left annotated image clearly shows the shaded parts being symmetrical to each other, and the instructional hexagon shapes on top of the design shows the total amount of space being saved up from coherently connect all blades together, by filling-the-gap.

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The following collection of work designed by Walter Zeischegg is an actualisation of Zeischegg’s exploratory research in the numerous designs produced by Helit. The office supplies presented on the table are rather mundane, however the rounded and harmonious edges of some of the objects,  along with the black and white tone. What really caught my attention is the design of the ashtrays: the curvy top of the design, coherently stacked up with one and another, together form a flawless structural design, with a wise use of space, which definitely emphasise the beauty of simplicity in the designs of office organisational equipments.

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Ashtray, Walter Zeisgg (1966-c.1970)

Another series of design, TC 100, created by Hans Roericht, are Stackable Tableware created in 1959, originally for a diploma project. However it was taken up by the manufacturer, Rosenthal, in 1962, and was continuously being produced until 2006. The appearance of the design seems rather ubiquitous to the audience, due to the fact that it has been in serial production since 1962. Other than that, it’s been set as an the icon of HfG, and in the same year brought into the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of their collection. The design of TC 100 is considered to be important and influential to the modern tableware design, due to the fact that at the design stage, it’s integrated production process, transportation and storage issues (Ulm School of Design Insight – Stackable Tableware TC 100, 2014). Similar to the concept of the ashtray design by Walter Zeischegg, both designs resolve storage issues greatly, maximising the availability of space that can be used.

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The Ulm Model – Raven Row

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Photo from RMIT Gallery

A set of visual identity guidelines and standards, cabin tag, comment card, economy boarding pass, first class boarding pass and seating plan are presented on the second floor of the exhibition. The series of work was designed by Hans Conrad, a student at HgF, whom had cooperated with Hans Gugelot and Otl Aicher to develop these designs as a new visual identity and product programme for Braun.  The entire set of work is visually strong with the fundamental colours, accompanied by the format, composition and typography. This is another evidence of how simplicity can enrich the beauty of design- and it is not simply visually pleasant, but also simple in the operation and functionality of the products.

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The Ulm Model Exhibition features a range of original designs from HfG from the period of 1953 to 1968 (Mercedes, 2016). The works include students’ designs of model and product, as well as drawing, radiographs and weighing machines, petrol cans, bed frames and kitchenware. The exhibition shows a great diversion in the fields, industries and departments from HfG, all show a strong designer spirit educated under The Ulm School of Design’s curriculum and teaching approaches, which are further being passed on and holds a irreplaceable place in influencing the modern day designs. From the Ulm Model Exhibition at Raven Row, I have witnessed impressive designs, in various fields, which in common have combined beauty, simplicity, efficiency and convenience in all.


References

Aicher, O. (1994). The world as design. Berlin: Ernst & Sohn.

Barnet, S. (2008). A short guide to writing about art. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson.

En.wikipedia.org. (2016). Ulm School of Design. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulm_School_of_Design#Background_and_early_political_history [Accessed 5 Nov. 2016].

Hfg-archiv.ulm.de. (2016). HfG-Archiv Ulm | The HfG Ulm. [online] Available at: http://www.hfg-archiv.ulm.de/english/the_hfg_ulm/ [Accessed 5 Nov. 2016].

Max Bill – Ulm/Bauhaus. (2016). [image] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JiCKkowXwg [Accessed 6 Nov. 2016].

Mercedes, L. (2016). IN THE KNOW: Fine Art lecturer curates exhibition of iconic design school at Raven Row. [online] Camberwell College of Arts Blog. Available at: http://blogs.arts.ac.uk/camberwell/2016/10/25/in-the-know-the-ulm-model-exhibition/ [Accessed 7 Nov. 2016].

Peter Kapos and Raven Row, (2016). The Ulm Model.

Pohl, E. (2016). The Ulm School. [online] domusweb.it. Available at: http://www.domusweb.it/en/design/2012/02/13/the-ulm-school.html [Accessed 5 Nov. 2016].

Ravenrow.org. (2016). Raven Row. [online] Available at: http://www.ravenrow.org/events/the_ulm_model_exhibition_tours_with_peter_kapos/ [Accessed 6 Nov. 2016].

RMIT Gallery. (2016). Ulm School of Design Insight – Stackable Tableware TC 100. [online] Available at: https://rmitgallery.com/2014/08/28/ulm-school-of-design-insight-stackable-tableware-tc-100/ [Accessed 6 Nov. 2016].

Tate.org.uk. (2016). Bauhaus. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/b/bauhaus#introduction [Accessed 5 Nov. 2016].

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