As a trained painter and sculptor, Joost Schmidt began teaching in 1925 as a junior master at the Bauhaus Dessau. As of 1928 he headed the advertising department and the printing workshop and from 1929 he also headed the sculpture workshop and taught courses on lettering design and figure drawing.

Portrait of Joost Schmidt, photo: unknown, 1930. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.
Portrait of Joost Schmidt, photo: unknown, 1930. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin.

Joost Schmidt received his degree in painting in 1914 at the Großherzoglich-Sächsische Kunstgewerbeschule (Grand Ducal Saxonian school of arts and crafts) in Weimar. He then continued his studies from 1919 to 1925 at the Staatliches Bauhaus in Weimar in the preliminary course taught by Johannes Itten. In 1922, he passed his journeyman’s examination in wood sculpture, along with Itten and Schlemmer. He successfully participated in the poster competition for the Bauhaus exhibition of 1923 and worked intensively on typography projects from 1924.

Within the scope of the preliminary course at the Bauhaus Dessau (1925–1932), all students were required to attend two semesters of the lettering design course taught by Joost Schmidt. Here, Schmidt explored the structure of letters – circle, square and rectangle – and their flexibility in terms of shape and size as well as the treatment of colour and surface. In addition, he had his students examine aspects of advertising such as language, visual effect, psychology and economy. With his teaching, Joost Schmidt strove for the comprehensive reform of lettering, which was to be validated and standardised internationally.

Change of effects in elements of the same shape by changing their size, Class by Joost Schmidt, part of a series of 52 exercises – No. 32, author: Friedrich Reimann, 1932. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Friedrich Reimann Estate, Margareta Raabe.
Change of effects in elements of the same shape by changing their size, Class by Joost Schmidt, part of a series of 52 exercises – No. 32, author: Friedrich Reimann, 1932. Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Friedrich Reimann Estate, Margareta Raabe.

As head of the sculpture workshop and the advertising department, Schmidt integrated his increasingly extensive teaching programme into the activities of the workshops. This was his way of countering the tendency which became apparent in the late 1920s, whereby teaching and practical work in the workshops drifted apart. He eventually also included life drawing and figure drawing in his curriculum for the higher semesters. In his colour theory, he concentrated – by contrast to his teacher Itten – on the most recent scientific findings on colour. Like László Moholy-Nagy and Josef Albers, Schmidt’s goal of teaching was the user-friendly functionality and technical standardisation of objects.