In the 1950's, the Ulm School (Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm) was interested in the implication of design in the world of industry and the shaping of our material culture. Designers there were motivated not by economic prosperity but, on the contrary, by a profound crisis in regards to values and resources. This gave them the opportunity to rethink what it means to give something form in the modern world and about how to democratize access to design.
‘The school accepted industry as a substrate of contemporary society and saw industry and technology as a cultural phenomenon’ (Gui Bonsiepe). The adoption of this position resulted in a new definition of the design profession that had never been seen before. Until then, the purpose of design-related schools was to teach students to bestow beauty upon the objects of daily life. William Morris’s studio, the Deutscher Werkbund and the Bauhaus were filled with artists.
The step taken by the HfG Ulm marked a radical and definitive break with the profession as it had formerly been understood, and linked it indissolubly to industry and technology. Ulm focused on the design, not of individual objects, but of systems of objects in a bid to bring order to the world of products and communication.
The school was a pioneer in the transformation of design in electronics, communications, the corporate image and industrialized construction, but its innovative research did not appear out of nowhere: it had its roots in the Central European industrial culture of the Thonet furniture firm and AEG, and went on to have a multitude of colleagues and followers such as Braun, ERCO, Gardena, Lufthansa, USM Haller or the Bilbao Metro.
Neus Moyano, Javier Nieto, Guillermo Zuaznabar