In the vibrant city of Chicago, the Institute of Design has left an indelible mark on the design world. Established in 1939 by the visionary László Moholy-Nagy, the institute stands as a testament to the fusion of art, science, and technology. Its roots can be traced back to the New Bauhaus, which began in 1937 under the direction of Moholy-Nagy and with the guidance of Walter Gropius, a former member of the Bauhaus. Despite initial financial challenges, the Institute of Design found its footing thanks to the unwavering commitment of individuals like Walter P. Paepcke. This article explores the institution’s fascinating history, transformative evolution, and enduring contributions to the design field.
The New Bauhaus in Chicago
László Moholy-Nagy’s visionary spirit found expression in establishing the New Bauhaus in Chicago in 1937. Building on the groundbreaking principles of the original Bauhaus in Germany, Moholy-Nagy sought to create a haven for the convergence of art, science, and technology in the United States.
Closure and the School of Design
Despite its promising beginnings, the New Bauhaus faced financial challenges that led to its closure in 1938. Undeterred, Moholy-Nagy founded the School of Design in Chicago in 1939, using his own financial resources to support his former New Bauhaus colleagues. This pivotal move ensured the continuity of the institution’s mission and laid the foundation for its future success.
Walter P. Paepcke: A Key Sponsor
Walter P. Paepcke, an esteemed Chicago industrialist and the founder of the design-conscious Container Corporation of America, played a crucial role in sustaining the financial viability of the Institute of Design. Paepcke’s dedication to promoting design as a transformative force contributed significantly to the institute’s growth and success.
The Legacy of the Bauhaus
The Institute of Design in Chicago inherited the spirit of the German Bauhaus movement, which emphasized the integration of art, science, and technology. László Moholy-Nagy’s influential posthumous book, “Vision in Motion” (1947), further solidified the institute’s commitment to the Bauhaus principles and provided a guiding light for future designers.
Institute of Design
In 1944, the institution changed its name to the Institute of Design, signifying a new era in its development. This renaming marked the institute’s determination to carve out its unique identity while building upon the legacy of the New Bauhaus.
Serge Chermayeff’s Directorship
Following Moholy-Nagy’s passing in 1946, Serge Chermayeff assumed the director role, ushering in a period of growth and innovation for the Institute of Design. Chermayeff’s leadership propelled the institute forward, inspiring students and faculty alike to push the boundaries of design.
Illinois Institute of Design
In 1949, the Institute of Design was incorporated into the Illinois Institute of Design in Chicago, attaining university status. This transition solidified the institute’s place as a recognized hub of design education and research, attracting bright minds worldwide.
Jay Doblin’s Influence
After a brief interregnum in 1951, Jay Doblin assumed the position of head of the Institute of Design. Doblin’s visionary approach and fresh perspectives breathed new life into the institution, ensuring its continued relevance in the ever-evolving design landscape.
Visual Design Departments
The Institute of Design offered four significant visual design departments: product design, photography, and art education. These specialized departments provided students with focused areas of study after completing the compulsory foundation course, equipping them with the skills and knowledge necessary to excel in their chosen disciplines.
The Chicago Institute of Design stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of the New Bauhaus and the innovative spirit of László Moholy-Nagy. Thanks to the unwavering commitment of individuals like Walter P. Paepcke and the visionary leadership of figures such as Serge Chermayeff and Jay Doblin, the institute has established itself as a pioneering force in design education. With its strong emphasis on integrating art, science, and technology, the Chicago Institute of Design continues to shape the design world and inspire the next generation of creative minds. As the institute’s rich history intertwines with its ongoing contributions, it remains a cherished institution and a beacon of creativity within the design community.
Woodham, J. (2004). Institute of Design. In A Dictionary of Modern Design. : Oxford University Press. Retrieved 10 Feb. 2021
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