The Bauhaus movement in Germany, roughly 1919-1933, marked a major turning point for design and its role in society. It exerted a powerful and influential role in the development of artist style. But today, for many designers, it is more of a historical curiosity than a role model. Why? What has changed?
The Bauhaus grew out of crafts and the fine arts. Its focus was style and form. Although it had a huge amount of influence, today that influence is muted by the heavy artistic emphasis. There was little emphasis upon the people for whom the objects were being designed, no discussion about practicality or everyday usage. Even in architecture, the emphasis was form, not the people who had to suffer living and working in the clean, sterile environment that the architects championed.
The Bauhaus movement provides an interesting paradox. Although it had a great cultural impact upon design as art, it failed to produce any single object that changed people’s lives in any fundamental way. Why didn't the Bauhaus rethink the nature of things, of the way that products impact people’s lives and activities? Today, designers relish the opportunity to invent entirely new ways of working, playing, and living. Instead, at the Bauhaus, the emphasis was on simplicity, which is fine as long as one is designing simple things, such as kitchen tools, tableware, and jewelry. But the world is complex, so too must be the things that enable us to work within this world (Norman, 2010). Complexity is a fact of life. Simplicity, on the other hand, is in the mind – it is the designer’s task to make the complex understandable and usable. And when a complex thing is easy to understand, we call it “simple.”
Read more (Don Norman, LinkedIn)