Prehistory | 1945–52
Inge Scholl, Otl Aicher, Max Bill, and Inge Scholl, Otl Aicher and well-known persons develop work on the concept, financing, and structure for a new institution of higher learning.
«School of design: Its range of activity consists of those areas of design which largely determine the way of life of our technical and industrial age. The form of the instruments we use, our dwellings, the plan of a housing development, city, or region, the printed and spoken word in the press and radio, the effect of images in publications, advertising, exhibitions, and film constitute crucial foundations for the mentality of our society.»
Abstract of the Geschwister-Scholl-Stiftung, 1951
Inge Aicher-Scholl and Otl Aicher, 1955
Beginnings | 1953–55
The Ulm School of Design, with Max Bill as its director, begins classes in provisional rooms at the adult education center. On October 2, 1955 the school, and the first exhibition, are officially opened in the new building at the Oberer Kuhberg. The school establishes itself as academically competent and truly international right from the start.
The program started with the one-year Foundation Course. Students were subsequently able to decide which major to take: Information, Visual Design (later Visual Communication), Product Design, Architecture, or Town Planning. These departments all overlapped and complemented each other in their work, together forming a closed circle. The theoretical subjects sociology, economics, politics, psychology, and philosophy supplemented the main program.
Lecturers in the first few years of the HfG include Aicher, Albers, Bense, Bellmann, Bill, Curjel, Gugelot, Maldonado, Nonné-Schmidt, Peterhans, Pfeil, Portmann, Vordemberge-Gildewart, and Zeischegg.
Max Bense, 1953
Max Bill teaching, 1953
Walter Peterhans, 1953
Visitors to the HfG at this time include:
Mies van der Rohe, Hugo Häring, Herbert Bayer, Konrad Wachsmann, Charles and Ray Eames.
Technological design | 1956–58
The younger lecturers initiate a new phase at the HfG, striving for a closer relationship between design, theory, and science. The Ulm model is already appearing on the horizon with the introduction of development groups and the central role of cooperation with science, industry, and technology both in the classroom and the results produced.
Between 1956 and 1958 lecturers include Aicher, Bense, Bill, Frøshaug, Gugelot, Kesting, Leowald, Maldonado, Pfeil, Scheidegger, Staub, Vordemberge-Gildewart, Wachsmann, and Zeischegg.
Hans Gugelot, 1956
Tomás Maldonado, 1955
Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, 1955
Among the commissioning companies and products resulting from the development groups were:
Junghans: kitchen clock (Bill, Möckl) Max Braun AG: lounge lighting (Zeischegg) Gralglas: ashtray (Schild) Max Braun AG: audio equipment (Gugelot) Grünzig: toy furniture for children (Gugelot) Wohnbedarf AG Zurich and Bofinger Stuttgart: furniture kit system M125 (Gugelot).
Visitors to the HfG at this time include:
Reyner Banham, Buckminster Fuller, Theodor Heuss, Mia Seeger and Norbert Wiener.
Cybernetic design and positivism* | 1959–61
(*Quoted from Otl Aicher's «phase model,» archithese 15, 1975)
Developments in the classroom lead to rigid working hypotheses and pragmatic work on detail. Scientific positivism, and an «over-emphasis on science in teaching,» pervade the school and take precedence over the activity of design.
Students from the Information Department, 1958
Lecturers in the time from 1959 to 1962 include Aicher, Doernach, Frøshaug, Gugelot, Kalow, Kesting, Leowald, Lindinger, Maldonado, Ohl, Rittel, Siol, Staub, Uittenhout, Vordemberge-Gildewart, and Zeischegg.
Value-driven design and program design* | 1962–66
(*Quotation from Otl Aicher's «phase model,» archithese 15, 1975)
The aim is a balanced relationship between science and design, between theory and practice. New subjects of instruction include mass transportation, electronics, and ecology. The financial situation becomes critical.
Life at the HfG, around 1964
Lecturers between 1962 and 1966 include
Aicher, Bonsiepe, Doernach, Gugelot, Huff, Kalow, Lindinger, Maldonado, Ohl, Rittel, Schnaidt, Staub, Sugiura, Vordemberge-Gildewart and Zeischegg.
Herbert Ohl, 1963
Claude Schnaidt, 1963
Gui Bonsiepe, 1963
Kohei Sugiura, 1964
William S. Huff, 1963
The End | 1967–68
Rescue attempts and new programs seek to preserve the HfG. Pressure from outside grows. Following a reduction in the number of both classes and lecturers, the remaining faculty members refuse to continue working, for financial and personal reasons. In October 1968 the state legislature resolves to no longer support the HfG.
Demonstration in front of the Stuttgart regional parliament building, 1968
The legacy of the HfG
«There was a hope for democracy at the beginning of the Ulm School… Max Bill created the space for this, and it was probably the sudden end to the pedagogical experiment that ensured the worldwide dissemination of ideas, in a similar way to the Bauhaus. Young men and women flowed in from Europe, North and South America, Great Britain, and Japan to the Swabian province, to the fount of a presumed knowledge which was there to be gained. All of them took this program back with them to their own countries.»
(Margit Weinberg Staber, former HfG student)
Teaching structure for the Ulm School of Design, 1951
Town planning, Information, Architecture, Product form, Visual design
Sociology, Economics, Politics, Psychology, Philosophy
April 1. Max Bill becomes the first rector of the HfG Ulm.
April 29. The state budget for Baden-Württemberg is passed by a plenum of the regional parliament. It approves 800,000 Deutschmarks for the HfG’s running costs for the next three years.
August 03. Classes begin with a basic course taught by Walter Peterhans.
September 08. Building work begins on the grounds at the Oberer Kuhberg.
July 5. Topping-out ceremony for the new building
July 31. Celebrations for the 1,100th anniversary of the city of Ulm. Otl Aicher and HfG students design posters and printed material.
«spiel gut» exhibition at Ulm Museum
HfG building, 1955
First classes take place in the building at the Oberer Kuhberg.
July. Baden-Württemberg state exhibition in Stuttgart. The Pavilion of the City of Ulm is designed by Max Bill, Otl Aicher, and Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart.
August. German Radio, Television, and Phonographic Fair in Düsseldorf: the Braun company causes a sensation with its modern phonographic equipment, especially the «Snow White’s coffin» model. These were designed at the HfG under the direction of Hans Gugelot.
October 2. Official dedication of HfG building on the Oberer Kuhberg. Walter Gropius holds the inaugural address. Exhibition of HfG products in the new building.
March. Max Bill resigns as rector of the HfG. The board of governors, consisting of Otl Aicher, Tomás Maldonado, Hans Gugelot, and Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, takes over the running of the school.
Ulm stool, 1955
Max Bill leaves the HfG as a result of irreconcilable differences of opinion regarding the pedagogical structure and teaching program.
July 6. Interbau opens in Berlin. The HfG furnishes two show apartments in Berlin under the supervision of Hans Gugelot.
SK 4, 1956
July. Braun wins the Grand prix at the XI Milan Triennale for eight products; Hans Gugelot and Otl Aicher are significantly involved in the design.
October. Werkbund conference of the SWB and DWB Baden-Württemberg.
October. First issue of the HfG magazine ulm.
Internal exhibition, held in the refectory of the HfG building, to mark the school’s fifth anniversary.
A brochure appears, Presenting the HfG.
First radio and TV programs about the HfG.
July.HfG exhibition at the Milan Triennale.
Organization and development of a Film Section within the Visual Communication Department.
HfG lecturers give talks at the World Congress for Design in Tokyo.
Roughly 12% of students are women.
Roughly 40% of students are non-German.
First issue of the student magazine «output.»
Specialization of the Foundation Course.
The Culture Prize of the Federation of German Industries is awarded to Hans Roericht for his final-year project, «hotel tableware design.»
TC 100, 1959
A new HfG constitution comes into effect. The board of governors is replaced by a single rector, Otl Aicher.
Students' housing, 1961
Exhibition poster, 1963
HfG touring exhibition held in Stuttgart and Ulm.
Catalogue of a Touring Exhibition is published.
The film/television sector is extended.
March. Vehement attacks on the school in the press. The state legislature presents a 10-point ultimatum threatening to cut the school’s subsidies. The school complies with the stipulations.
The brochure Information 63 is published.
The touring exhibition opens in the Neue Sammlung Munich.
Posters «paix et amitie,» 1964
The HfG touring exhibition opens in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
Nappe surfaces orientated on a grid
Two former HfG students present a new type of automobile, the «autonova fam,» at the IAA in Frankfurt, 1966.
The Geschwister-Scholl-Stiftung is deeply in debt.
«Autonova fam,» 1966
Otl Aicher relocates his development activities to Munich. Work begins on the corporate identity for the 1972 Munich Olympics.
The Film Department becomes the independent Institute for Film Design.
The regional parliament demands that the HfG is integrated into the engineering school. National subsidies are abolished. The financial situation becomes untenable.
Stackable ashtray, 1967
October. The HfG lecturers refuse to work their regular timetables, claiming that financial and personnel preconditions have not been fulfilled. The rector announces that there are insufficient staff and resources to allow teaching to begin in accordance with the regulations.
November. The cabinet of the state legislature decides to end all subsidies to the HfG. The school consequently ceases to operate.
Bus stop, 1968