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Historic Figures In Typography

László Moholy-Nagy


László Moholy-Nagy was born on July 20, 1895 and lived until November 24, 1946.  He was a Hungarian painter and photographer as well as professor in the Bauhaus school. He was highly influenced by constructivism and a strong advocate of the integration of technology and industry into the arts.  In 1923, Moholy-Nagy replaced Johannes Itten as the instructor of the foundation course at the Bauhaus. The Bauhaus became known for the versatility of its artists, and Moholy-Nagy was no exception. Throughout his career, he became proficient and innovative in the fields of photography, typography, sculpture, painting, printmaking, and industrial design.

Perhaps his most enduring achievement is the construction of the “Lichtrequisit einer elektrischen Bühne” [Light Prop for an Electric Stage] (completed 1930), a device with moving parts meant to have light projected through it in order to create mobile light reflections and shadows on nearby surfaces.  After his death, it was dubbed the “Light-Space Modulator” and was seen as a pioneer achievement of kinetic sculpture.  He resigned from the Bauhaus early in 1928 and worked free-lance as a highly sought-after designer in Berlin.  He designed stage sets for successful and controversial operatic and theatrical productions, designed exhibitions and books, created ad campaigns, wrote articles and made films.  After the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, and, as a foreign citizen, he was no longer allowed to work, he operated for a time in the Netherlands (doing mostly commercial work) before moving to London in 1935.

In 1937, at the invitation of Walter Paepcke, the Chairman of the Container Corporation of America, Moholy-Nagy moved to Chicago to become the director of the New Bauhaus. Unfortunately, the school lost the financial backing of its supporters after only a single academic year, and it closed in 1938. Moholy-Nagy was also the Art Advisor for the mail-order house of Spiegel in Chicago. Paepcke, however, continued his own support, and in 1939, Moholy-Nagy opened the School of Design. In 1944, this became the Institute of Design.

In 1949 the Institute of Design became a part of Illinois Institute of Technology and became the first institution in the United States to offer a PhD in design. Moholy-Nagy authored an account of his efforts to develop the curriculum of the School of Design in his book Vision in Motion.  Moholy-Nagy died of leukemia in Chicago in 1946. The software company Laszlo Systems (developers of the open source programming language OpenLaszlo) was named in part in honor of Moholy-Nagy. In 1998, he received a Tribute Marker from the City of Chicago.

Herbert Bayer

Herbert Bayer

Herbert Bayer

–          Bayer studied for four years at the Bauhaus under such teachers as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.

–          (1) Herbert Bayer, cover design, Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimer, 1919-1923, 1923. Geometrically constructed letterforms printed in red and blue on a black background are compressed into a square.

–          Bayer was then appointed to director of printing and advertising at the Bauhaus where they produced their own printworks.

(2) Herbert Bayer, universal alphabet, 1925.  This experiment in reducing the alphabet to one set of geometrically constructed characters maximizes differences between letters for greater legibility.

–          Sans serif fonts were used exclusively and Bayer developed a universal type that reduced the alphabet to clear and simple constructed forms.  Bayer omitted capital letters and argued that capital and lowercase are incompatible in design.

–          (3) The lower letterforms show different weights.  Later variations include the bold, condensed, typewriter, and handwriting styles shown.  Bayer’s design of a universal typeface eventually inspired the creation of Architype Bayer and ITC Bauhaus typefaces.

–          (4) Herbert Bayer, cover for Bauhaus magazine, 1928. A page of typography joins the designer’s tools and basic geometric forms in a photographic still life.

–          (5) Herbert Bayer, Die Neue Linie, March 1937.  Bayer fled Nazi Germany this same year.  In 1938 Bayer settled in New York City where he arranged the exhibition “Bauhaus 1919-1928” at the New York Museum of Modern Art.


4950       Staatliches_Bauhaus_Weimar_1919-1923

universal      later universal rare type and image

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