Tomas Maldonado (1922–2018) was an Italian design theorist and industrial designer. He was considered one of the most important design theorists of the legendary Ulm Model. This model was created while he was teaching at the Ulm School of Design in Germany from 1954 to 1967.
Education | Early Years
He was born in the Argentine city of Buenos Aires, Maldonado’s artistic formation occurred at Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes Prilidiano Pueyrredón.
During this time, he was part of the Argentine Avant Gardes. He was one of the people who started the Arte Concreto-Invención movement of painters.
Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm
Tomas Maldonado had a big impact on the growing field of high-tech industrial design, which includes computers, typewriters, word processors, electro-medical equipment, and optical equipment. However, his most lasting contribution was to the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm, West Germany, where he was Professor and then Rector from 1954 to 1966.
As a design theorist and teacher, Maldonado led a revolt in design thinking that came to be associated with the school at Ulm. This revolt set a course against the idea that aesthetic taste and functional problem-solving are the most important things for successful practice.
In 1951, a school was opened in Ulm (closed in 1968). Max Bill was its first leader, and the goal was to bring back the Bauhaus ideas and make Germany the centre of design again after the war. When Maldonado came to the school in the mid-1950s from Argentina, where he worked as a painter, designer, and editor, there were signs that the school’s way of teaching had changed a lot. The focus on building forms, the basis of the Bauhaus discipline, was replaced with a focus on the social sciences, mathematics, and semiology. The Fine and Graphic Art Departments were also gone, and courses on visual and verbal communication replaced them. Architecture was taken from its place as the mother of the arts and turned into a more egalitarian field that included all parts of the built environment. (Pendergast, 1997)
Between 1964 and 1967, he and his German colleague Gui Bonsiepe made a system of codes for the design programme of the Italian company Olivetti and the department store La Rinascente. In 1967, he moved to Milan and continued to teach at the University of Bologna’s Faculty of Philosophy and Literature. He did almost all of his work in philosophy and criticism, influenced by semiotics. In “The Heterodox,” one of his last essays, he says that the role of the intellectual is to wake up or show the collective conscience.
Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing. https://amzn.to/3ElmSlL
Pendergast, S. (1997, August 31). Contemporary Designers.
Tomás Maldonado. (2023, January 13). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom%C3%A1s_Maldonado