Still modern: The Ulm School of Design at RMIT Gallery

Aerial view of the Ulm School of Design

From 1953 until it closed in 1968 the Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung or HfG – pictured above in 1955) was one of the world’s most important contemporary design academies. Regarded as being second only to the Bauhaus, the Ulm School of Design reflected the spirit of change in Germany in the postwar years, and revolutionised artistic and architectural thinking and production.

The influence of Germany’s Ulm School of Design will be explored in an international touring exhibition at RMIT Gallery from 1-30 August 2014. RMIT Gallery Director Suzanne Davies said the exhibition reflected the designer’s role in helping to build a democratic society in a technologically driven age of mass production.

white rose IMG_4627

One of the displays in the exhibition pays tribute to one of the founders, Inge Scholl, whose commitment for the foundation of the Ulm School of Design cannot be separated from her experience during the Third Reich. Her siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl were given death sentences and executed in 1943 for their ‘White Rose’ resistance campaign. Inge Scholl documented the movement in her book The White Rose (pictured above) in 1952. It went on to be published in many editions and to be translated into numerous languages.

As documented in the substantial catalogue (available to purchase at RMIT Gallery), the anti-Facist, humanistic efforts of co-founders Inge Scholl and her future husband, designer Otl Aicher toward the construction of a democratic society formed the essential impulse behind the founding of the Ulm School.

Otl Aicher in class

The legacy is evident in Ulm School co-founder Otl Aicher’s (pictured above, with students) designs such as the system of pictograms for the 1972 Munich Olympics; the Rotis type font and the design for German airline Lufthansa’s corporate branding which involved graphic design, logos, typography and packaging.

Lufthansa corporate identity

The Ulm School of Design exhibition at RMIT Gallery was assembled by the Hochschule für Gestaltung Archive, a department of the Ulm Museum, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Ulm School of Design, and ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) the German institute for international cultural relations. Ms Davies the relationship between RMIT Gallery and the Goethe-Institut, and Ifa, is finely matched and mutually rewarding.

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