How German Design Made Its Way to the US

20.09.2023 Admin 260

The US has had many different design periods throughout its history. One thing that most people don’t think about is the influence of German design in the USA. The main reason German kitchen design, art, and graphic design have become so popular in the US is because of elements like simplicity and innovation.


While you might be aware of the German designs around you integrated with American ways of design, you might not know how it all started. This guide will show you how German design first came to America and how it’s stayed for so long. 

The Bauhaus School 


Walter Grotius was the person to open the Bauhaus school in Germany in 1919. It was one of the top art schools in the area and it aimed to teach students about all different forms of art and how art can be mass-produced. 


Because of the Nazis taking over the country, the school was closed in 1933. As a result, many of the Bauhaus teachers decided to immigrate to the US to find work and teach students about art. These teachers were the first ones who influenced American architecture and art with German designs. They also influenced other areas of the art world including interior design, industrial design, and graphic design. 


Another major influential designer who came to the USA was Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. His work was said not to be German enough which is why the Nazis rejected him and told him he could no longer be an art teacher at the school. 


Instead, he also came to the USA and became the head of the Department of Architecture. He was the one who made the Second Chicago School and was the one who completely changed the way the USA made skyscrapers. 

German Graphic Design 


Graphic design has been an emerging field in the last couple of years thanks to many German designers including Julius Klinger and Pete Behrens. Lucian Bernard is one of the most notable German Graphic designers and made many different American logos and posters that you are probably familiar with including General Motors, Audi, and Bosch. 


Many of the graphic designers from Germany came to the USA because Nazi Germany was banning design and many different elements that artists wished to depict. 

Art and Nazi Germany 


Many of the posters and art created by artists during Nazi Germany were very simplistic and straight to the point. Although American artists and politicians did not agree with the message of the posters of Nazi Germany, they appreciated the simple design and wanted German artists to make similar posters and advertisements for their company. 


One such artist was Ludwig Hohlwein. He had a large portfolio of Nazi Germany propaganda including Hitler Youth posters, League of German Girls posters, and many posters depicting the Swastika. 


He later designed similar posters for companies like Audi. They were not similar in their politics and message, but the colors and shapes used to make a simple design were all very similar. 

German Designers and The Second World War 


After the war ended, many German companies and designers decided to stay in the USA because they were worried about going back home or simply did not want to travel back to Germany. Most German designers working in America shortly after the war ended advertised and made posters for car campaigns. 


American designers also began to use the Nazi war posters as inspiration to make art themselves. For example, the American company DDB based their 1959 Volkswagen campaign on Hitler’s posters of himself with a Volkswagen. However, they made the car more pedestrian-friendly and advertised it as a car that could be used to take the family on fun vacations. 


This eventually turned into the company opening offices in Germany where German art influenced American art and vice versa. 

German Design and Apple Products 


Most people know of Apple products and Steve Jobs. They are some of the most commonly used technology in the world and people from all countries use their phones and computers. What most do not know is that the design for almost all Apple products is based on German design. 


The person who designed the first iPods and iPhones is Jonathan Ive. Even though he is based in America and British-born, he is very open about how his Apple designs are based on the German designer, Dieter Rams. Rams on the other hand is also known for saying that he doesn’t like American design, but the Apple products have a well crafted design. 


You can take an iPod and put it next to some of the products that Rams designed in the 50s and 60s and see how similar they look to one another. One of the main principles for design as said by Rams is that designs need to be simple and they need to have as little design as possible. All of Apple’s products are incredibly simple by design and they focus more on function than just having something look good. 

German Design and Modern Homes 


All of the German designs mostly focus on modernism which is embraced in many different American buildings including office spaces and homes. One main place you can see German Modern design is in American kitchens. 


The kitchens are simple and focused on function. There is little decoration and one color palette so that everything matches and is in harmony. Seen not only in the kitchen, some Americans choose to make their whole homes based on Modern design. 


The modern design applies to interior and exterior design and is something that Germans do well. 

Final Thoughts 


German design first came to the USA during World War II as the Nazis pushed artists out of the country. Since then, German principles of art and design have remained in the USA and can be seen in homes, advertising, and office spaces. 


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