Bauhaus poster

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Before ‘Bauhaus’ was a movement, it was a house. Well, actually it was a school. (Maybe today we would consider it a Hippie school with all of the emphasis on unity, but really, these guys were some serious forward-thinkers.) It was founded in 1919 in a city called Weimar by a German architect named Walter Gropius. The Bauhaus combined the mastery of fine arts with design education, Gropius’ original intent was to achieve unification of the arts through crafts, and as he states so artistically in The Proclamation of The Bauhaus:  “Together let us desire, conceive, and create the new structure of the future, which will embrace architecture and sculpture and painting in one unity and which will one day rise toward heaven from the hands of a million workers like the crystal symbol of a new faith.”

However, within a few years the emphasis moved toward designing for mass production and the school then adopted the slogan “Art into Industry.” That’s not to say they turned their backs on Gropius’ original intentions, however. The school included specializations in multiple art forms.

Bauhaus Armchair

Armchair, 1922. Marcel Breuer aimed to use minimal materials at minimal expense while maintaining the comfort of a chair.

The cabinet-making workshop was one of the most popular, and students there did much more than make cabinets– they looked at furniture at it’s very essence and sought to redesign and refine how we think they should look and feel.

In the textile workshop students were encouraged to experiment and explore new materials including cellophane and fiberglass. There they created abstract materials that were used, in some cases, as art in The Bauhaus building.

Metalworking was also quite popular.  While there

Tea infuser and strainer. 1924.

Marianne Brandt's metallic tea-bearer did everything that a consumer would expect-- but it looked much nicer while doing it.

weren’t many women in the program, there was one, and she not only existed as a female-representative in the male-dominated field, but actually was quite successful with designs that are iconic of the Bauhaus metalworking.

Marianne Brandt’s metallic tea-bearer did everything that a used would expect it to– it poured the tea, it was well-balanced– but it also showed the influence of the Bauhaus movement with it’s simplistic styling of geometric shapes, where the object is it’s own decoration.


Herbert Bayer's cover for the book 'Staatliches Bauhaus, Weimar, 1919–1923.'

The Typography workshop became more important under the leadership of figures such as Moholi-Nagy and Herbert Bayer, the designer of the typeface on the left.

The Bauhaus typography, with it’s experiments in combining communication and expression, caused uproar among critics of the time, but it’s bold, simplistic and clean style is still influencing design today. (Take for example my decision to use this influence in my poster project.)

The Bauhaus changed hands a couple times in the following years and eventually closed down before the beginning of WWII due to financial hardships (and maybe the fact that a war was about to break out..). Many of the previous faculty of the school moved to the United States and continued to teach in their fields at various Universities around the country.  Moholy-Nagy continued the official school in Chicago, opening the New Bauhaus in 1937.


So much history. On to the present.

I wanted to keep it simple. I wanted to use dynamic diagonal lines and make an object (a bike) using shapes, which I think is fairly successful in my poster.  I tried to keep the type in column-like spacing so that it was almost just like some more shapes, but I’m not sure I was quite as successful there. Much of Bauhaus design used reds, blues, yellows and blacks, so I knew I wanted to use those. Choosing typefaces is usually my favorite part of any design, but I had some trouble with this one. I wanted include the classic Bauhaus type face, but most that I found were pretty wide of character which makes it seem more like display type and not so much the best to use for giving information. I ended up using a nice wide one for the main title and a slimmer Bauhaus-y type for the secondary type. Still not sure if they look weird together.

I ended up doing everything in Illustrator and it wasn’t so bad. For a poster, my first thought would have been to use InDesign, but Illustrator worked out well and it was good to get even more familiar with it. I started out just shaping the bike out of circles and lines and some pen-tooled shapes to make the handlebars and seat.

I already see things that I would change–the text with the website doesn’t mesh with the style of the other text since it’s horizontal and just off by itself, the front tire is a bit crowded by shapes and lines– but alas, another learning experience.

This post is wildly late. I’ll be happy to have any credit for it at all.


Little 500 x Mel Kadel

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It all began when illustrator and collage artist Mel Kadel, at 15, asked her father for a bigger desk and brighter lamp. “Drawing was something I began to spend all my time on, and inspired me to focus,” she said in an interview with online magazine Hook and Line.

Kadel, born 1973 in Philadelphia, now lives in a cabin in Los Angeles, where she makes art with Micron pens, ink washes and paper she stains with coffee and exposure to natural elements – “whether it be raindrops, squirrel prints or the baking sun.”

She paints pastel shapes, cuts them out and creates collages portraying idyllic settings that typically contain some form of whimsy. Kadel describes her work as colorful, detailed and positive, but with underlying feelings of struggle. She uses the same character in varying forms across her works, in order to portray a protagonist – sometimes in representation of Kadel’s own life – living out a story. The successfully consistent tone throughout her work relies, in part, on the texture created by interposing the light of pale pastel colors with the shadows of layered, carefully cut paper.

LA-based illustrator and collage artist Mel Kadel

I’ve always been drawn to Kadel’s aesthetic of muted colors and the heavy use of repetition, patterns, circular shapes and simple lines. I love how all the elements tie together to create a very raw, sincere feel – a visual expression that is approachable and easily relatable. As a child and later graphic designer, collage-making had always been an instinct I returned to, whether it be with paper or pixels. Kadel’s rough-around-the-edges style, therefore, fits into my own aesthetic.

Collage by Kadel

I spent a lot of time at the Armstrong Stadium and around riders earlier this year shooting Little 500 events; for this assignment, I wanted to portray Little 500 the way it means to me.  Firstly, Little 500 is an IU, as well as a Hoosier, institution. The event boasts history, prestige and renown; yet, it caters mainly to college students during a weekend of wild partying. I planned to create an old-world sense of style, depicting a storied tradition, yet one that was clean-cut and modern to depict  the race’s association with college culture.

Secondly, Little 500 is a highly organized event centered around a highly competitive, historic annual competition. Each year, people travel to Bloomington from all around the country for “the best college weekend.” I wanted to reflect the large-scale, business-like execution of the event with simplicity and smoothness in my design.

Lastly, I wanted to portray the atmosphere of being at the races. To me, the combination of gritty dirt track, neatly trimmed grass, clear blue skies, cool weather and the sun beating down is the best part. I felt that Kadel’s muted palette and simplistic illustrations matched all my needs.

"Carry Your Weight" by Kadel

I started out intending to build upon Kadel’s style of concentric circles, illustrating a sunset with a rider in its midst. I tried using vectored, outstretched shapes as rays of sunlight, as well as bicycle spokes. As I continued piecing things together in Adobe Illustrator, however, I decided that it was more effective to focus on Kadel’s design trait of symmetry.

I traced the main element of the design – a rider – from a picture I took from the races in the spring. I positioned two riders head-to-head to reflect the stiff competition and main aesthetic at the races – riders in a line, head down, circling around the track. The shapes above and below the riders represent the sun’s rays and the rings of dirt track. The downward angle points toward the most important part of the artwork – the name of and information for the event.

"Drip Drip" by Kadel

Kadel constantly uses various shades of colors, but rarely gradients, in her work. Although I followed her muted palette closely, I used multiple gradients to create fluidity in my work. Although she tends to use multiple patterns in her designs, I used only two patterns in mine. The first, the monochrome checkered pattern, is a direct depiction of the flags used in the Little 500 race. I created a blue two-tone pattern for the sky to give the design more dimension. The blocks in the sky pattern also loosely resemble the flag pattern, thus creating cohesiveness.

I think my design is rather successful in representing Kadel’s style as an influence. There is a variety of detailed and simple images, the use of clean lines and spherical shapes, and wide but controlled use of color. The message conveyed in my poster, like in her works, has multiple layers. It is at once cheery and positive, but also contains an underlying sense of struggle, of tension and fierce competition. I created shadows between my layers to emulate those in Kadel’s work.

I do think that I could have worked on my use of textures – which are featured heavily in her work – to create a more downhome, raw setting for the scene. I may have used too much detail in depicting the riders, but lacked in detail in other parts of the poster.

All in all, I believe I was able to fuse her style with my own to create an influence poster that steered clear of mere parody.

Influence Poster – Glasgow School of Art

Influence Poster - click for large version.

I’m in love with the Glasgow School of Design and the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, so I chose that specific variety of Art Nouveau for my influence. As Mackintosh was mainly an architect/furniture designer, I tried to draw on some motifs from his work rather than to imitate an illustration (although he did create some beautiful watercolors and other pieces of art). To begin, I looked through the online collection of his work that the Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery maintains – it’s a great resource and chock-full of all types of his work.

Mackintosh font

I have an old bookshelf with archway cutouts reminiscent of the general art nouveau movement, so I took a photo and used the pen tool to make it my background. This was a simple, symmetrical layout, and then I just found a couple of free fonts similar to the one Mackintosh himself designed and popularized (he did ALL the things). These font types often include offset lines and small squares above or below, so the axles of the bike in “500” are square to try to tie it to the font and movement. In his illustrations and architectural sketches, Mackintosh often tucks the text away in a small, out-of-the-way space, so I tried to work most of the text in this way.

architectural design

Mackintosh lived from 1868-1928, and up until more efficient bikes overtook it in the 1880s, the penny farthing was typically used. Because this bike type loosely fit the movement’s time period, I did a rough illustration of it, warped it slightly for a more organic shape, and filled in the wheels with a shape Mackintosh often uses.

example of the Mackintosh rose

His signature motif is the Mackintosh Rose, a loosely drawn collection of shapes. Besides the more organic shapes typical of art nouveau, he also uses geometric shapes frequently, especially groupings of squares. I tried to combine these for a rose border along the archways without letting the illustration become too much of a pastiche of Mackintosh motifs. Although I really just wanted to draw Mackintosh roses just for the sake of it, I do think the flowers have the feel of springtime, the season of Little 500.

While the cream color was meant to look somewhat like the plain paper he would sketch on, the other colors were my own choice and not really linked to the art movement. I went for a flat, graphical approach.

I was worried that the poster was too simple and that I should add a texture or continue the rose border to make a complete rectangle, which gives it a very different feel, but ultimately decided not to. Still, even though it’s my preference, I should probably stop working just in flat, simple design all the time and at least branch out for the sake of developing my technical skills.