Ulm, Hochschule für Gestaltung post WW2 Design Academy

Hochschule für Gestaltung
Hochschule für Gestaltung

After WWII, Ulm, Hochschule für Gestaltung, a forward-thinking West German institution, was closely associated with a more scientific, logical, and productive design approach. It shifted away from the traditional reliance on existing notions of the innovative individual designer’s dominance and towards a problem-solving approach to design that included the use of multidisciplinary expertise. The HfG in Ulm had a huge influence on design education and practise around the world.

Concept of International School of Design

Inge Scholl, whose brother and sister had been executed by the Nazis in 1943, wanted to revive the concept of an international school of design in the new age of democracy and reconstruction in postwar West Germany. The Bauhaus, created by Walter Gropius in Weimar Germany in 1919 and closed down by the authoritarian Nazi regime in 1933 on ideological grounds, had inspired this vision. Ironically, the HfG at Ulm was also brought to a premature end nearly 40 years later due to political demands and funding issues.

Foundation Established

The new design academy in Ulm was funded by a foundation established by Scholl in 1950 and financial support from the US government, German federal and regional governments, and the private sector. It was formally established in 1953 under architect and designer Max Bill’s direction, and it lived up to its initial vision as a new Bauhaus by employing former Bauhaus teachers as visiting tutors. Josef Albers, Johannes Itten, and Mies Van Der Rohe were among them.

Conflict over direction

Bill was tasked with designing new structures for the school, which were completed in 1955. However, younger Ulm staff members began to doubt the validity of a programme that was closely linked to what they saw as outmoded ideas of innovation embodied by the existing Bauhaus method within a short period of time. They believed that a more systematic, scientific, and scientifically grounded approach to design would better meet the real needs of contemporary designers rather than a continued focus on studio and workshop-based work. Sociology, anthropology, and cultural history and a foundation of quantitative, statistical, and analytical methods became increasingly important components of the curriculum.

However, the organisation faced a number of crises in the 1960s as a result of its progressive design policy, German educational system politics, and a funding shortage. In 1968, workers and students voted to close the HfG in response to a challenging and unexpected ultimatum from the regional government.


Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.

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