For many students and educators, the Bauhaus has become a symbolic point of entry to art and design education. In The ABC’s of Bauhaus, The Bauhaus and Design Theory, Ellen Lupton credits the movement as being “the mythic origin of modernism.”
One of the central inventions of the Bauhaus was the use of industrial techniques, such as the grid. Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and artist László Moholy-Nagy devoted themselves to creating a “universal language” that embraced and mirrored methods of mass production. The Bauhaus put emphasis on the grid as a structure upon which forms can be precisely placed, reflected, balanced, or imbalanced.
For the Bauhaus the grid was not only an organizational structure, but a structure that could be easily multiplied and reproduced. By understanding the relationship between the grid and the organizational requirements of automation and mass replication, the Bauhaus is responsible for a design aesthetic that became popular in the 1920s and is still noticeable today.
Formulating an abstract concept from simple lines and planes is a practice in translating visual cues into language-based meanings. It is the goal of any visual communicator to learn to do this, as both the reader of the message and the generator of visual content.
Fig 4.1 Counter-Composition XXI, Theo van Doesburg, oil on canvas, 1923. Bauhaus members were aware of and influenced by De Stijl.
Fig 4.2 The Cardplayers, Theo van Doesburg, oil on canvas, 1916-1917. The Hague, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag. In this painting, van Doesburg illustrates card players with vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines and flat fields of color.
Exercise 01: Using guides to create a grid
Create a new Illustrator document (File > New) using the Print pull-down menu. Choose 1 Artboard, letter size, portrait orientation (8.5 by 11 inches, as opposed to landscape orientation of 11 by 8.5 inches), and type the name the_grid. (Fig 4.3)
Fig 4.3 Create and name a new document.
Rulers can be turned on or off. They appear at the top and left side of the document window. If the rulers are off, choose View > Rulers. (Fig 4.4) Right-click or Control-click on the ruler to see all of the available units of measurement. Choose inches from the pull-down menu.
Fig 4.4 Choose Show Rulers in the View menu.
The rulers now show that the Artboard measures 8.5 by 11 inches. Sometimes the horizontal rulers load with the origin at the top left edge of the document, but the vertical ruler origin is at the lower left corner of the document. To reposition the ruler origin so that it is located in the same place both vertically and horizontally, put the mouse in the top left corner of the ruler area, where the vertical and horizontal rulers seem to overlap, then click and drag to the top left corner of the page on the Artboard. (Fig 4.5) Clicking and dragging from this area repositions zero on the Artboard. We do this so that we have a constant point of origin to work from and do not have to change values later.
Fig 4.5 Reposition artboard to zero.
In this step we will pull guides from within the document rulers.
Click on the Selection tool, then place your mouse cursor within the ruler area at the top of the document. Click on the ruler and drag the mouse downward. A guide will be set in place where you release the mouse. Release the first guide at 5 inches on the ruler against the left edge of the page. (Fig 4.6)
Fig 4.6 Pull guides from document rulers.
- Repeat this step for the vertical guide, by pulling from the vertical ruler on the left edge and releasing the mouse at 4 inches on the ruler against the top edge of the page.