Jay Rutherford
Professor of Visual Communications, Bauhaus University Weimar

Teaching typography at the Bauhaus: research as method

A new faculty of art and design was founded in 1993 in Weimar, Germany, where the original Bauhaus broke ground in 1919. An addition to existing faculties of architecture and civil engineering, this new endeavour attracted 18 professors from around the world to teach fine art, product design, and visual communications. After the founding of this new faculty, a name change was a natural development. We became in 1996 Bauhaus Universität Weimar.

When the Bauhaus is mentioned in connection with education, one thinks immediately of the foundation studies initiated by Johannes Itten at the original Bauhaus. During the 20th century Itten's method spread rapidly around the world and became the de facto standard for art and design courses. When our faculty was founded we decided upon a different approach - an interdisciplinary project studies method with no foundation course. A "learning by doing" method - learning to swim by diving into the deep end. While it's not for everyone, we have in the last few years turned out a number of independent, creative graduates who are out there surprising the world in agencies, studios and ateliers. During my talk in Leipzig, I will show some of the work produced by our students as well as ask a few questions about the nature of design education.

Born in 1950 of a family of sign painters and opticians, Jay Rutherford grew up in central Canada where he studied graphic design, worked as a silk-screen printer, sign painter, guitar player, teacher and graphic designer. At the end of the seventies he moved to Nova Scotia, eventually went back to school to find out what visual communications was, and then opened his own design studio. After teaching at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design for a few years, he visited Germany for the first time in 1992 where he had been invited to teach a type design workshop at the Fachhochschule Bielefeld. Further fame and fortune awaited him at MetaDesign in Berlin where he worked on several type design projects, in '92 and '93. While at Meta he heard about the opening of the new faculty of art and design at what was once, and is now once again, the Bauhaus in Weimar. In spite of his serious lack of German at the time, he became one of the founding faculty in '93 and is still there, attempting to teach typography.

In his personal work Rutherford continues to create out-of-the-ordinary design with current projects including an interactive introduction to typography, collaboration with Canadian choreographer Marise Vachon on her "Luddite's Lullaby" project, and his own "Palimpsest" project, documenting the disappearing commercial wall lettering of eastern Europe.