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Herbert Bayer banknote 1923

Page history last edited by Marianela Ramos Capelo 11 years, 6 months ago

 About Herbert Bayer



(Born 1900 Haag, Austria // Died 1985 Montecito California, USA) Austrian graphic designer, painter, photographer and architect considered the most innovative propaganda designer of  the Bauhaus school (whose signature trademark design still lives in our days) happening in the first half of the 1900s. His innovations in propaganda design where such that gained him the direction position on the publicity and advertising in such school. Also famous for the early incorporation of  photography in his work (strongly influencing Herbert Matter's poster work). He'd later leave the Bauhaus school to become the director of Vogue magazine in Berlin.



Herbert Bayer's timeline


  • 1900 - Herbert Bayer was born at Haag, near Salzbur in Austria
  • 1919 - Bayer returns to Linz (where he lived as a child) to become an apprentice to the architect Schmidthammer. He later in the year moves to Germany to work in Emanuel Margold's office designing from packaging to interiors
  • 1921 - Bayer enrols as a student at the Bauhaus in Weimar (student of Kandinsky and Moholy-Nagy)
  • 1923 - Bayer is commissioned by the State of Thringia to design its bank-notes.
  • 1923 - He designs symbol for Kraus stained-glass workshop, which is meant to convey harmony of proportion

  • 1924 - The Bauhaus school in Weimar was closed 
  • 1925 - The Bauhaus school is transferred from Weimar to Dessau. Bayer is appointed teacher
  • 1925 - In 1925 the Bauhaus began to abandon the use of capital letters in its publications. Bayer commences his first designs for a minimal sanserif type-face in which all the letters were built out of a few selected arcs and straight lines. Only parts considered structurally essential were retained.
  • 1925 Bayer designs the Universal Alphabet, an experiment in reducing the alphabet to one set of geometrically constructed characters
  • 1925 Bayer omits capital letters, experimenters with flush left-ragged right typesetting, uses extreme contrasts of type size and weight, bars, rules, points, and squares to subdivide space and unify elements to emphasize importance. 
  • 1926 -  He designs the Dessau Bauhaus building opening party invitation and a poster commemorating the celebration of Wassili Kandinsky's 60th birthday. Bothe are exemplars of Bauhaus economy.
  • 1926 - He is in charge of the typography and graphic design workshop at the Bauhaus Dessau.
  • 1925-1928 Bayer designs Bauhaus Printing posters and postcards
  • 1929-30 He worked as art manager of Vogue (click here for more magazine design George Lois Esquire covers 1968)  and as director of the Dorland advertising agency. 
  • 1930 -  With Walter Gropius, Moholy-Nagy, and Marcel Breuer, they design display, exhibition circulation catalogue and poster for the Section Allemande of the German Werkbund Exhibition at the Paris Exposition de la Societe des Artistes Decorateurs
  • 1931 - With Gropius Breuer and Moholy-Nagy design the Baugewerkschafts Ausstenllung (Building Workers Union Exhibition) in Berlin. Wins first prize in the inaugural international exhibition of advertising photography representing fifty photographers from eight European nations
  • 1932 - Participates in-group show at the Julien Levy Gallery, New York where he will be represented until 1940. Separates from Irene Bayer
  • 1933 Bayer type manufactured and distributed by H. Berthold, Berlin
  • 1934 -  PM (production manager), a house organ of the Composing Room, NY, and America's foremost graphic arts journal begins publishing. It's the first in the US to publish articles by Herbert Bayer
  • 1935 - Bayer designs Pontresina poster using photomontage
  • 1936 1937 Begins “Dunstlocher” series basses on Austrian peasant architectural motifs. Three works removed by German Nazis and exhibited as Degenerate Art (Entartete Kunst)
  • 1937 Travels from London with Breuer to US to explore possibilities of employment after emigration. Meets with Gropius, Moholy-Nagy, Alexander Drner, John McAndrew (then director
  • 1938 Emigrated to USA
  • 1939 - CCA (Container Corporation of America) commissions Herbert Bayer, Fernand Leger, Man Ray, Herbert Matter and Jean Carlu to work on advertising campaigns.
  • 1947 - Bayer becomes design consultant for Container corporation of America (CCA)
  • 1959 Designed his “fonetik alfabet” (san-serif and without capital letters).
  • 1985 - Bayer dies


[Compilation of data from [5] [9]]



Although he did design some work for the 1936 German olympics, which celebrated the Third Reich, a year later his designs were included in the nazi "The Entartete Kunst exhibit" or Degenerate Art Exhibit, which showed artwork considered adverse to the Reich. [1]


The Bauhaus type influence

Contemporary to  Kurt Schwitters and Jan Tschichold, his style in type aimed for a clean, universal and 'phonetic' type which featured san serif and no capital letters (for Bauhaus publications) and later on a development of his own typeface (the 'universal', 1925) [1], now issued in digital form as Bayer Universal[3].  Later, in 1945 (already living in the US having escaped from the Nazi domination) he'd use this same base to create the English Phonetic alphabet, "...which featured a combination of capital letters an lowercase characters, as well as symbols for for the endings -ed, -ory, -ing, and -ion, as well as the digraphs "ch", "sh", and "ng". An underline indicated the doubling of a consonant in traditional orthography." This latter inspired the 'archetype Bayer' . [2]




"The Bauhaus stressed a single Modern Movement approach to design, a dedication to pure geometric forms based on the circle and the square, the primary colours of red, blue and yellow..." [11](see  Theo van Doesburg cover of de Stijl 1922 for the influence and similarities in between the DeStijil movement and the Bauhaus), "...modern materials and industrial production techniques. But that view edited out the complex and diverse arguments that beset the school, and the fact that the hardline Modernist position was always balanced by Expressionist theories..." [11] (see John Heartfield Yuletide poster for German Expressionism example). 


World events in 1923 surrounding the creation of Bayer's bank-note


  •  January – Despite strong British protests, troops from France and  Belgium occupy the Ruhr area  to force Germany to pay its reparation payments.


  • August 13 – Gustav Stresemann is named Chancellor of Germany and founds a coalition government  for the Weimar Republic.
  • November 15 – The hyperinflation in Germany reaches its height. One United States dollar is worth 4,200,000,000,000,000 Papiermark (4.2 quadrillion). Gustav Stresemann abolishes the old currency (see inflation in the Weimar Republic).


  • November 23 – Gustav Stresemann's coalition government collapses in Germany.


From wikipedia and Google timeline.


Bank-note design and the hyperinflation in Germany





After the First World War concluded, Germany was left devastated and with heavy economic problems. "Prices of goods were rising dramatically and the demand for currency with larger denomination was a necessity."[2] Germany found itself in the middle of what is known as a "hyperinflation" from mid 1922 until 1923, where they had to take extreme actions to deal with the economy downturn. "Until 1923 the value of the mark deteriorated faster and faster and new money in higher denominations was issued constantly. The central bank could not cope with the logistics of providing the necessary supply of money, and Notgeld (Papiermark) was issued again - this time in denominations of thousands, millions and billions of Marks. Because the Mark became so unstable, Notgeld was also issued in the form of commodities or other currencies: wheat, rye, sugar, coal, wood, natural gas, electricity, gold, or US dollars."[12]


It is important to note that every region had it's own Notgeld version, the economy was so unstable it was impossible to deal with it in a national level.


In 1923, Weimar (district of Thuringia), the capital city of Germany at the time and where the Bauhaus school was first established, Herbert Bayer ("who was 23 at the time" [13]) was called  to design almost from one day to another a series of Notgeld or emergency money for  the region of Thuringia, a liberal stronghold and then capital of Germany . The inflation demanded currency ranging on the "millions", otherwise nothing could be bought with lower denominations. "Virtually overnight, Bayer created a full range of banknotes with a full display of modernist design representative of the Bauhaus style of minimalism, functionality, geometric exactitude, beauty, grid arrangement and modern look."[4]  "His designs were a complete departure from tradition and made use of a bold sanserif type. They were issued two days later with the ink still wet."[9]


photos from [13]


These bills differ extremely from the tradition, which usually had swirls, serifs, images of national symbols, emblems, local cotes d'arms, and other national or regional elements. "The only non-typographic element present is a modestly scaled crest of the Weimar Republic, with the sole functional purpose to serve as the official seal."[13]  Seen by some as a removal of a romanticized idea of nationalism, the display of the "Bauhaus ideology of beauty, functionality and honesty"[13] is seen by others as the representation of the need of the nation at the time,therefore being deeply nationalist and idealistic. Ironically, these banknotes were quickly useless (and even said, worth more as wallpapers) and had to be replace with some others with higher denomination to cope with the dramatic rise in prices.




The Bauhaus strongly picks up influence from the Russian Constructivism (see: geometric patterns, poster propaganda, simplification of art, purpose in art, art as a tool to improve social wellbeing) and also gives and takes influence with its contemporary Dada movement and post-modern trends (see photographic influences Herbert Matter Swiss tourism poster 1934) that saw in the Bauhaus grid guided and sleek industrial style a departing point for  the visual manifestation of their  ideals (see Expressionism John Heartfield Yuletide poster). As it is, the Bauhaus  bridges the industrialism with the arts and crafts movements and the Art Noveau (seeMackmurdo chair 1881 or Koloman Moser poster for the 13th Vienna Secession exhibition) trying to incorporate art into industry.


The Bauhaus also has a strong influence in current furniture design (Ikea being a very good example), and the LP art from the 60s-80s (see the influence in the geometric, cutout, poster-like, simplified,shapes and composition using mostly primary colours)





  1. Cohen, Arthur Allen. Herbert Bayer: The Complete Work. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1984.
  2. Bauhaus Weimar Designs for the Future edited by Michael Siebenbrodt 2000 Page 251 #364.
  3. Chanzit, Gwen. From Bauhaus to Aspen: Herbert Bayer and Modernist Design in America. Denver, CO: Johnson Press and Denver Art 
    Museum, 2005 (originally published as Herbert Bayer and Modernist Design in America. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1987)
  4. Bauhaus Weimar Werkstattarbeiten by Walter Scheidig Leipiz 1966 page 63 #16
  5. Graphic design time line: a century of design milestones‬ By Steven Heller, Elinor Pettit
  6. Bauhaus 1919-1923 catalogue of 1988 Brussels exposition on the Bauhaus Page 92 # 62
  7. Quittenbaum Munich Highlight of Design- Made in Germany 27 November 2006 Lot 13
  8. Some extracts Reprinted from The Nightmare German Inflation by Scientific Market Analysis, 1970.
  9. Pioneers of modern typography By Herbert Spencer, Rick Poynor. MIT PRESS 1982.
  10. Smock, William, "The Bauhaus Ideal, Then and Now: An Illustrated Guide to Modern Design". Academy of Chicago, 2004.
  11. McDermott, Catherine, "The Key Concepts" Routledge pg.29
  12. ^ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Notgeld (not sourced) (still active Nov 29th, 09)


Comments (2)

Blair said

at 11:48 pm on Oct 11, 2009


Your Herbert was very influential on my Herbert

Marianela Ramos Capelo said

at 12:54 pm on Oct 13, 2009


-El Lissitzky Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge - And the poster-like, dada and constructivist inspired artwork. Strong influence from the Bauhaus.
-Theo van Doesburg cover of de Stijl 1922 (a year before the banknotes were issued... strongly influenced by Bauhaus colours and geometric shapes)
-Jan Tschichold was also working a phonetic typeface just like:
-Kurt Switters (dada! also worked developing a phonetic alphabet)
-Theo Ballmer and swiss design... he was influenced and worked with a master of the Bauhaus Desseau Mohiky-Nagy (contemporary and colleague of Bayer) who also had a design centered furniture store (which links to the Mackmurdo chair and the art meeting everyday life -achieving a Bauhaus goal: art meets industry)

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