Ulm School of Design is where great ideas came from

Young students sat around the arched entrance of the Chitrakala Parishath where a unique exhibition by the Max Mueller Bhavan, of the Ulm School of Design, 1953-68 is on display. Ulm is a town on the edge of Bavaria, Germany and is situated on the banks of the River Danube. Famous for its tallest church spire in the world of a Gothic medieval church, Ulm is also the birth place of Albert Einstein.

Marcela Quijano, the curator of the event, brought the whole display to life with ease. She explained the archived pictures of the Ulm School beginning from a stunning black-and-white picture of Ulm bombed during the Second World War, it's spire standing tall amidst the rubble of bombed buildings around.

“Despite the school having such a short history, of only 16 years, the Ulm model has been used by architecture schools across the world,” said Marcela. Three founding members – Inge Aicher Scholl, Otl Aicher and Max Bill started the school in 1953 and it is considered one of the most influential design schools in the world. The exhibition recreates the history of the Ulm School and the path-breaking projects. Poster designs of the corporate identity of the Munich and the Frankfurt Zoo came out of the Ulm School. There is an intriguing showcase with enormous hand-held walkie-talkies of the day. The Ulm design section manually worked on the perforations of these early instruments, which helped with the clarity of sound in these electronic devices. “Everything was handmade in those days,” elaborates Marcela, “ today one click of the mouse on the computer and in five minutes we can design what we please.”

The decidedly-ingenious Ulm stool is another hot idea on display. It was designed by Max Bill one of the founders and Hans Gugelot. Designed to be used in the school, it could be a seat, piece of furniture, shelf or portable tray. One picture shows a professor using it as a lectern! The stool consisted of three spruce boards connected by mechanical dovetailing, with a strip of beech for the edge.

Another interesting exhibit was Stackable Crockery. A concept designed by a Hans Roericht student of the School. “Today, Rosenthal, one of the best ceramic makers in the world, makes this crockery, which is used in bulk especially in hotels,” explained Marcela. “All the measurements are co-ordinated and all the pieces are of the same diameter making stacking possible.”

Check out a real futuristic streetlight design made by Walter Zerschegg from the Industrial design division of the school. Remember these were designs made in the ‘60's and surely outpace our outdated street lights of today in 2010 in the city.

“The school was connected to industry in a big way,” explains Marcela. This was because there was a desire to showcase the fact that academics and education has strong connections with reality and industry in the real world of manufacture.”

And if you are into corporate design, then check out how the brilliant Otl Aicher developed the entire corporate identity of Lufthansa in 1962. He designed not only the font of the company logo, he was the mind behind the colours, the crane logo, tickets, ads, luggage labels, posters, uniforms, cutlery — essentially the whole Lufthansa design package was created at the Ulm School.

This school on a hill, overlooking the Danube has had the privilege of educating designers whose designs are still in use in 2010. If you are a student of graphic design or architecture, this is an ideal exhibit to see and spend time as Marcela says, sitting with head sets listening in to some of the greats who worked in that school. The exhibition is on at CKP till March 28 from 10.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. everyday.