From old to new: Different letters from the Bauhaus archive like the “Universal” from Herbert Bayer (1926) were used for... Photo © L2M3
From old to new: Different letters from the Bauhaus archive like the “Universal” from Herbert Bayer (1926) were used for... Photo © L2M3
… the new font „bayer next“ which is used on the website of the Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin and in the print products.
… the new font „bayer next“ which is used on the website of the Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin and in the print products.
300 posters are on show on the streets of Berlin for the introduction of the new corporate design.
Photo © Dr. Stephan Consemüller Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung, L2M3
Bauhaus-Master Herbert Bayer, circa 1933. Photo © Bauhaus‐Archiv Berlin
Respelling Bauhaus
by Martina Metzner
Jul 25, 2014

Only last month Bauhaus master and graphic artist Herbert Bayer would have rubbed his eyes is dismay on visiting the Berlin Bauhaus-Archiv’s Website. For all that was up-to-date were the exhibition announcements, while the remainder of the site stood out above all for its miserable appearance: a black background, plain utilitarian graphics, dished up with only the most basic functions and content. It really was not very attractive, but was in keeping with an archive and the spirit of the Bauhaus, with its focus on functionality.

As of a few days ago the site has been resplendent in new robes: bright, friendly, contemporary, and yet typically Bauhaus. So what happened? Bauhaus-Archiv has gone for a new corporate design including a newly developed font called “bayer next” that will in future be used on the Website and for printed matter and the Archiv’s magazines. The launch is going hand in hand with an ad campaign in Berlin: Since last week, 300 posters have been drawing attention to the Bauhaus Archive, its collections, exhibitions – and new look.

The rejuvenated Bauhaus-Archiv corporate design marks the start of the celebrations on the centenary in 2019 of the college founded by Walter Gropius – with Annemarie Jaeggi as its director, the institution seeks to reposition itself. Plans include improving the building’s energy balance (it was built and opened in 1979 in line with a Walter Gropius design) and adding an extension – the federal government and the State of Berlin have made EUR 44 million available for the project. There’s an obvious reason for all this: Alongside the Bauhaus facilities in Weimar and Dessau it is above all the Bauhaus-Archiv, which was established in 1960 by art historian Hans Maria Wingler in Darmstadt and relocated in 1971 to Berlin, that keeps the “Bauhaus myth” alive and kicking. The archive is one of the most popular destinations among the museums in Berlin – collectively the Bauhaus institutions have since 2006 been included on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List as the “City of Design”. They attract more than 100,000 visitors a year, by no means only academics and specialists, but increasingly tourists with a keen interest in design.

Press spokesman Ulrich Weigand comments that the Bauhaus-Archiv has also chosen the new corporate design to woo the lay audience, as it is not limited to graphics, but will lead to the Website offering more content. Moreover, the Walter Gropius archive – including photographs, drawings, and correspondence – is currently being digitalized and will soon be online. With this move to render archive materials digitally accessible Berlin is following the path long since taken by other museums, such as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam or Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt.

The really surprising aspect of the new Bauhaus-Archiv image is the new font: Developed by Stuttgart designers L2M3, “bayer next” borrows strongly from the Universal font Herbert Bayer created back in 1926 and transposes it lovingly and with care into the present. The idea is the brainchild of L2M3 Director Sascha Lobe, an expert in font design and whose client-base includes the likes of David Chipperfield and Daniel Liebeskind – when he’s not teaching typography at Offenbach’s Academy of Art and Design. Lobe and his team have developed 500 new characters (so-called glyphs) on the basis of the Bauhaus fonts and Herbert Bayer’s Universal font. They devoted a year to the task, sifted through the archives, and drew characters, Lobe narrates enthusiastically: “It was a dream assignment, but also a nightmare,” given the Bauhaus’ historical significance.

At the time, the sans-serif grotesque font, derived from basic geometrical shapes, used primarily from 1929 onwards for the “Die Neue Linie” magazine devised at the Bauhaus, was a veritable innovation. Given the consistent efforts made at L2M3 to follow the Bauhaus’ design principles, it is hardly surprising that the polished “bayer next” version derived from Universal (and it includes special characters derived from Bauhaus typographies) is not only very legible and graciously emphasizes the roots of the Bauhaus-Archiv, but also seems very up-to-date.

At the same time, the one or other will be critical of the transformation of Herbert Bayer’s Universal font, above all the question as to the copyright and the inviolability of the Bauhaus’ oeuvre. By contrast, the example of the reconstruction of the masters’ houses in Dessau, where the red tape was recently cut, show how a more complicated heritage can be adjusted to the present without suffering as a consequence – new lightweight concrete elements, coated glass panes, and a more open spatial structure were all added (Stylepark reported on May 19, 2014). Naturally, one could complain that instead of resorting to historical models something new could have been created. But such an objection gets nowhere given an institution like the Bauhaus-Archiv, whose task is to enliven debates about the Bauhaus heritage.

Past and present in the rejuvenated Bauhaus-Archiv corporate design are skilfully wed, as can be seen not least from the Bauhaus Archive logo – back in the 1970s Herbert Bayer created it using the iconic “A” and it has been left untouched during the relaunch. Only the line “Museum für Gestaltung” has been transposed into “bayer next” – and rendered in larger characters to emphasize design and thus appeal more to a lay audience.

Herbert Bayer, who established the new profession of graphic design at the Bauhaus and with his imaginative designs, so infused with wit and surreal elements, became a pioneer of the then nascent world of advertising, would no doubt have really enjoyed this new, playfully fun Bauhaus-Archiv corporate design – which is sure to attract the attention of the experts and the general public alike. After all, Bayer considered it a matter of course that graphic design and ads should not only have a catchy design, but should get the message across, a stance that drove him on to greater things.

Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung
Klingelhöferstraße 14, 10785 Berlin, Germany
Opening Times: Wednesday – Monday: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; closed Tuesdays

MORE on Stylepark:

The dreamed-up house: With the Director’s Villa and the Moholy-Nagy House the ensemble of the master houses in Dessau is complete again – reconstruction or radical reinterpretation?
(19 May 2014)

Bauhaus master with speared heart: The “Herbert Bayer: Berliner Jahre – Werbegrafik 1928 – 1938” show at the Bauhaus-Archiv in Berlin presents the creative output of the designer.
(29 December 2013)