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

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.

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

Hans Gugelot, 1956

Tomás Maldonado

Tomás Maldonado, 1955

Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart

Friedrich Vordemberge-Gildewart, 1955


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.

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

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

Teaching structure for the Ulm School of Design, 1951

Foundation Course

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.


Poster, 1954

Poster, 1954


HfG building, 1955

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

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

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.


1958. Exhibition


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

Students' housing, 1961


Exhibition poster, 1963

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.

Poster »paix et amitie« Poster »paix et amitie« Poster «paix et amitie,»

Posters «paix et amitie,» 1964


The HfG touring exhibition opens in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

Nappe surfaces orientated on a grid

Nappe surfaces orientated on a grid
Walter Zeischegg


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

«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

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

Bus stop, 1968