So the Dow is in free-fall, banks are failing and nearly everyone seems to be feeling pessimistic about the state of our economy. But the leanest times are often the best times for innovation and creative progress-so if you view things in this light, we have a lot of cultural innovation to look forward to in the coming years. The legendary German Modern art & design school, the Bauhaus, turns 90 this year, and this anniversary is a reminder of the need for optimism and idealism in trying times.??
In 1919, after World War 1, the German economy was decimated and facing a bleak future. In response to this situation, a young architect named Walter Gropius wrote a manifesto and founded a new kind of art school with a surprisingly pragmatic Utopian vision for a better world through design. The movement of the Bauhaus was founded on the principal that design is art, and that design has the power to shape psychology, society and culture for the better. The ideas of the Bauhaus inspired designers around the world and influenced everything we touch to this day: from New York skyscrapers to IKEA chairs, modern automobiles to Sans Serif typefaces and Apple computers. Ninety years later, through various wars and cultural movements, Gropius' vision still shapes almost every aspect of design culture today.??
It is often said that the Great Depression was America's most trying time in the last century, but it spawned companies such as Hewlett Packard, Motorola, Xerox and Polaroid and gave birth to innovations like the fluorescent lightbulb and scotch tape. Trying economic times will focus our priorities and test our discipline, and we will emerge better and more creative on the other side.??
For more Bauhaus inspiration for tough economic times, read Der Speigel's anniversary look back at the Modernist design movement, and look forward to MoMA's upcoming Bauhaus exhibit in Fall 2009.