Brian's History of Communication Design Blog

Weekly exposition on recent learnings.


Bauhaus Thoughts

We reviewed the Bauhaus last week, moving, as we are, in reverse chronological order through the history of design schools.

Although it was not touched upon in class, it was clear how the Bauhaus was the genesis of the streamlined school of design that eventually led to product design such as Braun and Olivetti, and thenceforth to Apple, under the direction of Sir Jonathan Ive.

The other thing that struck me, as we reviewed Bauhaus architecture, was how there were echoes in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, whose designs both preceded and followed the Bauhaus movement.

One particularly striking moment was when we looked at the work of the De Stijl architect, Rietveld.

The Rietveld Schroedhuis

For me this 1924 work very much prefigures Wright’s Fallingwater house, which was built much later in 1937.


To compare apples to apples, we can look at what Wright did in 1923, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo:

The Imperial Hotel

This is much more reminiscent of Rennie Mackintosh than Rietveld, so I think that the Bauhaus/De Stijl impact on Wright occurred only after Wright started developing his Mature Organic Style in the late 1920s and early 1930s.


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Sir Jonathan Ive

Jonathan Ive began working for Apple and designed the Newton’s MessagePad110. His breakthrough assignment was when he was tasked to design the first generation of iMacs. He has subsequently designed the iPod, the iPhone and more. He is now chief designer at Apple.

He is heavily influenced by Braun’s Dieter Rams, and in particular by Rams’ ten principles of good design.

According to Rams, good design:

  • is innovative
  • makes a product useful
  • is aesthetic
  • makes a product understandable
  • is unobtrusive
  • is honest
  • is long-lasting
  • is thorough down to the last detail
  • is environmentally friendly
  • is as little design as possible


Although I have no citation to back this up, Rams, and therefore Ive, may have have been influenced by the Bauhaus movement in their approach to design. The clarity and simplicity and modernism directly stems from the Bauhaus approach. (Thanks to Chris for pointing me in that direction.)