HfG at night, 1956
HfG at night, 1956
Photographer: Wolfgang Siol, © HfG Archive / Museum Ulm, inventory number: HfG-Archiv 56/0258

The social responsibility of designers: Why the HfG Ulm was founded

The HfG was not founded to remedy an aesthetic deficit. Its founders Otl Aicher, Inge Scholl and Max Bill were not primarily interested in designing beautiful posters and lamps. Rather, they wanted to shape society. To be more precise: They wanted to help ensure that a peaceful, democratic and free society could emerge in Germany after the end of the Second World War.

German society was in ruins in 1945. The houses were destroyed, the streets and squares of the cities were full of rubble and ash. The country was occupied and divided by the four leading victorious powers. The destruction was almost total. It extended not only to the material environment. The families and friends mourned their dead and missing people.

In addition, the intellectual foundations of society were fundamentally damaged. The world had changed so fundamentally as a result of the Nazi regime that, from Aicher's point of view, the Germans were not allowed to seamlessly continue the period up to 1933. He wanted to use the catastrophe as an opportunity and critically question all the traditions and certainties that had up until then taken German society for granted. All social values appeared questionable because they did not give people the strength to resist the Nazis. This chance for a completely new beginning was called “zero hour”.

Source: www.renespitz.de, “Ulm school of design: Notes on the relationship between politics and design, 1953–1968”, May 22, 2017

gathering in the small lecture hall
HfG Ulm
© Stiftung Hochschule für Gestaltung HfG Ulm / photo: Martin Rudau