Design education once again finds itself in flux, under pressure from its demanding customers (aka students with crippling tuition fees) and a government with little regard for the creative industries. Add the results-driven culture within the institutions (and Brexit) to the mix and it's little wonder that existing methodologies are being questioned and alternative educational avenues explored.
In times like this we often look to the past for guidance, and Raven Row's current exhibition The Ulm Model certainly feels very timely. The Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) in Ulm, Germany, was founded in 1953 by Inge Aicher-Scholl, Otl Aicher and Max Bill. Its pioneering interdisciplinary approach which became known as the 'Ulm Model' was a huge influence on design education around the globe. Building on the strengths of the Bauhaus, The Ulm Model was unique in the way that subjects such as politics, economics, philosophy, sociology and psychology were integrated with art, craft and technology. Students stayed for four years, and visiting lecturers included Charles and Ray Eames, Walter Gropius, Buckminster Fuller and Josef Müller-Brockmann. From 1955, the HfG was based in a striking building designed by rector Max Bill.
The mid-1950s saw HfG collaborate with manufacturer Braun on a unique new series of design-led products, along with Braun's designer Dieter Rams. Ulm students also designed everything from weighing machines to petrol cans, bed frames, kitchenware and traffic lights.
Curated by Peter Kapos, the exhibition at Raven Row includes original drawings and models made by the students, as well as a selection of the designs commissioned from the school by clients such as Lufthansa and of course Braun, displayed in some of the original (and super-rare) D 55 display units.
The Ulm Model runs at Raven Row, 56 Artillery Lane, London E1 7LS, until 18 December 2016.