Industrial design

Industrial design is a field of design which evolved to meet the requirements faced by industrial production. It traditionally involves designing products and product systems (consumer and investment goods) with consideration for aesthetic, ergonomic, technical, economic, cultural and social aspects.

Additionally, designers are involved in developments which profoundly affect the way in which we live and work. Besides conceptualising and designing products and systems, they plan, develop and communicate design solutions for processes and services in cooperation with industry, service companies and public institutions. This expansion of the areas of study is accompanied by increasingly complex tasks and leads to a stronger segmentation of subject areas. The course is therefore less easily defined as leading to a specific vocation, but aims to prepare students for the demands of various fields of work by taking into account all the necessary skills and abilities.


Established two- and three-dimensional presentation techniques (sketching, drawing, rendering and modelling) are complemented by additional computer-based skills and abilities. The intensive use of CAD, visualisation and animation software supports the drafting process and the communication of technical and structural quality.

Communication design

Communication design is a discipline that has developed alongside the continually growing demands in terms of the visual and verbal communication of information within the social emancipation process.

The aim of communication design is the drafting and design of visuals, posters, analogue and digital publications, visualisations, information and orientation systems, exhibitions and events. This is done by drawing on all the media available to it (text, graphics, typography, photo, film, video, two- and three-dimensional animation, sound).

In addition to single-medium products, both in traditional advertising and in the digital arena, we are seeing the rise of increasingly physically intangible electronic spaces with complex interaction and navigation opportunities, which require the relevant planning, setting and programming.

The course has aligned its programme with this concept and thus assigns great importance to new media and technologies.

The activities in communication design and industrial design are also linked with aesthetic, ergonomic, technical, economic, cultural and social requirements.

This expansion of the areas of study is accompanied by increasingly complex tasks and leads to a stronger segmentation of subject areas. The course is therefore less easily defined as leading to a specific vocation, but aims to prepare students for the demands of various fields of work by taking into account all the necessary skills and abilities.


Photography is a focus at the Faculty of Design. In a media world in which a competent and responsible handling of photographic images becomes more and more important, the students will develop a sensibility for image media using photographic, typographical and graphic design principles and an accompanying theoretical debate. Attention has to be learned first.

In addition to the classical and analog techniques, the students also learn how to handle digital image technologies and their processing. The technical and creative competences acquired in the basic studies are focused on photography in the service of creative design processes for both artistic and applied projects.

Note: Photography is taught at our department as a focus within the Communication-Design course. It is therefore expected that the students will also deal intensively with the basic subjects of communication design. In accordance with today's complex requirements of the medium of photography, the students acquire fundamental practical competences.

Study advice is recommended.


Requirements to study at the Faculty
Baseline :
A recording for 1st semester in courses industrial design and communication design of the University of Darmstadt is only possible for the winter semester . 
Requirements for admission to study in the Department of Design of h_da :

  • Passing the aptitude test at the Department of Design of the University of Darmstadt in the relevant     degree course ;
  • Evidence of the appropriate placement ;
  • The university entrance qualification (not required if the aptitude test " with distinction " is passed )

How does the aptitude test work?  

The artistic aptitude test is usually held in mid- June and lasts one to two days . 

The selection process at the Department of Design consists of a practical examination and a personal interview.There is the entrance examination of several design tasks that have to be processed locally. In the subsequent discussion with the Board of Examiners , you have the opportunity to present yourself and your wallet . The portfolio should contain brought home-made works , which are not older than two years.

Further information

The current calendar for people interested in studying with us can be found under the news heading ‘Courses’.

You can find an in-depth
information brochure here.

If you have any questions about the pre-study internship, please contact the internship office.

History and profile

The faculty of design is located at Mathildenhöhe – the former residence of the world-renowned Darmstadt artists’ colony. Its roots go back to 1907, when the artists’ colony set up the Großherzogliches Lehratelier für angewandte Kunst (‘grand ducal teaching workshop for the applied arts’). We owe a lot to this tradition: the highest quality in terms of design, sustainability and maximum human empathy remain the mutual goals of our teaching staff to this day. Openness and personal dialogue beyond that offered by strict ‘models’ define the working atmosphere: thinking outside the box, changing parameters, lateral thinking and revised concepts are welcomed here. This enables us to offer our students the opportunity to approach problems from an analytical or rational point of view, as well as from a sensory perspective, so that they can develop their organisational skills as well as their own unique artistic talents. Our communication design and industrial design courses are based on a solid, specialist artistic education, which enables our graduates to survive fleeting fashions and trends thanks to their lasting design skills. We set great store by independent, responsible work and personality development in all fields. Both courses are practical and project-oriented, which is reflected in our many partnerships with external contacts from the world of media, business and society. The success of the faculty in high-profile design competitions, which is unique in Germany, is a testament to our exceptional teaching standards.

Since 2013 the faculty of design has presented its students’ work in an annual work-in-progress show entitled ‘Stand der Dinge’ (‘status quo’). In addition, there are countless other exhibitions that arise from projects with students, as well as through the artistic and academic activities of teaching staff. Three research institutes form the basis for our intensive research and development work, which successfully links practical aspects of design with theoretical methods. Integrated into Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences with their aim to develop solutions for industrial, economic and social problems, the faculty today sees itself as an integral, forward-looking element of the Mathildenhöhe residences. With designers such as Peter Behrens, Joseph Maria Olbrich and Friedrich Wilhelm Kleukens, the artists’ colony founded in 1899 by Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig set new standards in architecture and arts and crafts. In June 2014 the Kultusministerkonferenz (a conference of ministers of education) decided to nominate the Mathildenhöhe artists’ colony in Darmstadt for recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In this situation, we want to use targeted measures (including designers in residence and integration of student living quarters) to position ourselves even more strongly as the living heritage of innovative design tradition at Mathildenhöhe.

Roots in early modernism

In 1899 Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and seven prestigious representatives of the art nouveau movement founded the Darmstadt artists’ colony in order to draw on the exemplary arts and crafts work for the economic development of the region. Joseph Maria Olbrich quickly became established as the leader of the group. He was also the only one who did not leave the artists’ colony quickly as a result of more attractive offers or due to dissent in the group.

In order to prevent the continuous turnover of artists, in 1906 the group primarily appointed members with teaching experience and set up the teaching workshop for the applied arts, which was opened on 1 January 1907. The four new members Albin Müller, Friedrich Wilhelm Kleukens, Ernst Riegel and Heinrich Jobst taught the main subjects. Under the pretext of having too much work to do, Olbrich was freed from any teaching duties; in actual fact, he was very critical of a school with a strict curriculum.

He believed that his aim of forming the character of his scholars, awakening their social responsibility and making them ‘strong and useful’ to society was only possible through the training he was previously able to give in his workshop. In 1908 the new teaching institute took part in the Hesse state exhibition with its own space at Mathildenhöhe. But by 1910 the number of scholars had decreased so sharply that the teaching workshop had to be closed again in spring 1911.

Fig. 0: Friedrich Wilhelm Kleukens: Draft for a signet for the Darmstadt schools for applied arts, ca. 1907
Fig. 1: Staff of the Darmstadt artists’ colony; far left: Olbrich’s scholar Friedrich Wilhelm Jochem, 1901
Fig. 2: Adolf Beyer exhibition, Kunsthalle Darmstadt gallery, 1934

Between the wars

After the dismissal of the grand duke in November 1918, the Ständiger Rat zur Pflege der Kunst in Hessen (‘permanent council for maintaining art in Hesse’) was formed in Darmstadt. Its task was to shape cultural policy against a backdrop of changing cultural conditions. The remaining members of the artists’ colony also took major roles with the council.

However, all efforts to restore arts and crafts to its former glory proved to be in vain. In 1919 an initiative was launched to promote cooperation between arts and crafts enterprises with the remaining members of the colony, but the companies approached showed no interest. The project envisaged in 1920 by the council that would involve a major arts and crafts exhibition also came to nothing as a result of a lack of interest from the companies. Individual apprentices continued to be trained in the workshops of the remaining members of the artists’ colony, however. For example, the world-renowned graphic designer Herbert Bayer – who later went to the Bauhaus – worked with Emanuel Josef Margold between 1919 and 1920.

After the formal closure of the artists’ colony in Darmstadt in 1929, the once trailblazing arts and crafts tradition in Darmstadt was laid dormant during the time of the Third Reich. The low significance of Darmstadt arts and crafts during this period was, however, not a result of National Socialist policy, but was simply the end of a development that started after the First World War and, as a result of the economic situation, led to the liberal arts outstripping the arts and crafts movement in Darmstadt in terms of cultural policy.

This set-up was what propelled Adolf Beyer – who headed the courses in figure drawing at the Großherzogliches Lehratelier für angewandte Kunst (‘grand ducal teaching workshop for the applied arts’) between 1907 and 1911 – to the top of the Darmstadt arts scene. He was one of the first members of the Militant League for German Culture (KfdK), founded in 1928, to fight against the ‘bastardisation and degeneration’ of life. From 1933, his membership in the Nazi Party gave Beyer access to the post of a councillor and thus influence over a broad range of cultural policy issues.

New beginning for design education

After the war various initiators associated with the painter Paul Thesing attempted to restart art and design education at Mathildenhöhe. In February 1946 they installed the ‘Lehrwerkstätten der bildenden Kunst’ (‘teaching workshops for the visual arts’), the first basic operation with a practical programme. In 1949 the school joined the Arbeitsgemeinschaft deutscher Werkkunstschulen (‘federation of German art colleges’) and was renamed Werkkunstschule (‘art college’) Darmstadt.

Under the director Hans Hartl, who was appointed in 1951, an attractive prospect opened up in 1954. The architect Karl Otto presented a complex concept for a ‘model university college’ in Darmstadt on behalf of the minister of education and the arts and the recently founded German design council. The concept was based on close links with the technical college. As a result of personal quarrels relating to Hans Hartl, but also due to the hesitation of the ministry, these ambitious plans never came to fruition and a major opportunity was lost.

In 1960 the art college acquired a new director: Friedrich G Hüffner. He systematically expanded the school with new posts for photography, commercial art and typography and developed plans for a new film class. At the same time, Heinz Georg Pfaender was able to raise the profile of the industrial design department as one of the few practical training schools in this region of Germany.

Theoretical subjects such as political aesthetics and the sociology of art supplemented the lecture programme. Thus the school had shed its old artistic past and now presented itself as a modern design school – albeit without a clear status. As a result of his autocratic leadership and lack of willingness to adopt reforms, Hüffner lost the confidence of his lecturers and students in 1969.

From the winter semester of that year, the school operated as a model university college with prior approval of the ministry in line with the brand-new basic programme for design colleges. Integrating the college as an autonomous faculty of the technical college was also considered. The president of the technical college, Max Guther, who had followed the destiny of the HfG Ulm School of Design as head of urban planning, was familiar with all the details of contemporary design education and supported the project.

Believing in a future comprehensive university, an inexperienced member of the state parliament pushed for the absorption of the art college into the newly formed technical college. In order to prevent later difficulties in the affiliation with the technical university, the art college was to be transferred as an independent faculty with the necessary features of art and design education (such as the admissions test). On 1 August 1971 the faculty of design at Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences was founded, headed by Heinz Habermann.

Fig. 3: Darmstadt artists collect rubble for the new build which would become the Mathildenhöhe Institute artists’ workshop (second from left: Peter Raacke), 1952
Fig. 4: Student strike at the Werkkunstschule Darmstadt art college, 1969
Fig. 4: Student strike at the Werkkunstschule Darmstadt art college, 1969
ecturers at the faculty of design in Darmstadt, 1973
Fig. 5: Lecturers at the faculty of design in Darmstadt, just before a group photo (left to right: Klaus Keller, Kurt Heldmann, Günter Hugo Magnus, Claus Schmid, Hans Gekeler, Alexander Carroux, Heinz Georg Pfaender), 1973

A new profile is born

In line with general trends, the course is set up with the demands of industry in mind. This results in a three-pronged course approach covering industrial design, communication design (graphics, photography and film) and interior architecture. This last discipline was later transferred to the faculty of architecture. In order to advertise this new approach, Habermann held the exhibition entitled ‘Gestalterische Grundlagen – Syntaktik’ (‘the principles of design – syntactics’) in 1972. Supplementary lectures on current issues in the worlds of information theory and design science with high-profile speakers such as Max Bense, Max Bill, Oskar Holweck, Wolfgang Metzger and Fritz Seitz provided in-depth content and opportunities for debate. When the anniversary show ‘Ein Dokument Deutscher Kunst 1901–1976’ was celebrated in the neighbouring exhibition building, the faculty kept a modest profile. This was an exhibition of ‘everyday design’. In the darkened auditorium lined with black velvet, the visitors were greeted by around 100 inconspicuous, everyday objects, positioned on individual columns underneath Plexiglas cloches: a shuttlecock, a white plastic beaker, a car registration plate. They were objects that were not created by famous designers, yet were perfectly integrated into people’s everyday lives – so perfectly integrated, in fact, that people never noticed them.The exhibition, which received exceptional reviews from the press, was a potent reminder that design is not just something to be made for companies or museums, but also belongs to everyone.

The opportunities of diversity

In the recent past, the faculty of design has proven to be a place of diversity with a wide range of teaching positions. The objective technocratic style, which had become typical of Darmstadt over recent decades, continues to shape the faculty today. The symposium entitled ‘Standpunkte zu Schrift und Typografie’ (‘viewpoints on typeface and typography’) took place in partnership with the Institut für Neue Technische Form in November 1990. The primary topic was examining the influence of computer technology on typeface and typography. In summary, the teaching staff aims to continue to maintain the dialogue about new perspectives, attitudes and aims of design via events such as these. The photography department in the communication design course is proving particularly fruitful. Graduates have now set up the Darmstädter Tage der Fotografie photography exhibition, widely regarded across Germany, thus underlining the growing reputation of the institute, which has boasted internationally well-regarded photographer Barbara Klemm as honorary professor since 2000. After the new millennium, the faculty of design replaced more than half of its professorships.

Excerpt from Kai Buchholz and Justus Theinert: Designlehren – Wege deutscher Gestaltungsausbildung.
Cross section: contributions from research and development. 23 (2009). pp. 94–111.

Figs. 7 and 8 (photos: Stefan Bayer)

Workshops and labs

Modelling workshop

A 400 sq. m modelling workshop is available to students pursuing the industrial design course. This involves professional support in the form finding stage of the draft process and in turning drafts into design models. The workshop is equipped with cutting-edge conventional machine tools. Laser cutting and engraving machines, a 3D printer and a CNC milling machine complete the machinery available and guarantee cutting-edge modelling of the highest standards.


Headed by/staffed by:
Armin Dries
Christian Westarp
Frank Weidmann

Contact hours
Monday to Friday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Print workshop

Print workshop at the Darmstadt faculty of design

The print workshop enables students to work with various print techniques to learn about the production, design and artistic aspects of printing. From historical letterpress printing with a large lead typesetting department and the artistic etching and linocut printing methods to modern offset, digital printing and Risographic printing, the students have a wide range of options at their disposal for creating printed materials of all kinds. In terms of bookbinding, there is also a wide range of options for bookbinding by hand.

Headed by:

Headed by:
Margarete Lindau
Tel.: +49 (0)6151 16 38342

Teaching assistants

Contact hours
Monday to Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Photo studios

The bright white studio on the ground floor, flooded with natural light and with its integrated chamfer, is ideal for human subject and fashion shoots, as well as for larger objects or models (e.g. from industrial design).

The black basement studio can be divided flexibly in up to five separate areas so that people can work simultaneously and undisturbed in several areas (e.g. tabletop, portrait and human subject photography).


Headed by:
Stefan Bayer
Tel.: +49 (0)6151 16 38375

Contact hours
Tuesdays and Wednesdays: 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. and by appointment

Stefan Elges

Photo lab

In the computer lab of the photo studio, the entire workflow – from the digital or analogue image file to the exhibition-ready photographs –boasts and exceptionally high technical standard. All screens are calibrated for accurate colour. Students also have access to modern workstations with large-format inkjet printers. In the analogue area, students can use the darkroom and develop black-and-white film. The films can also be scanned in and processed digitally.


Headed by:
Heinrich Völkel
Tel.: +49 (0)6151 16 33336

Contact hours
Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.


Screen-printing workshop

In the screen-printing workshop, foundation courses teach the various possibilities and aspects of screen-printing and serigraphy. This knowledge can then be deepened through more in-depth courses or through free experimentation.


Print templates via inkjet plotter
Screen with different substrates in A3, A2, A1 and A0 formats
Manual screen coating
Exposure unit for formats up to A0
Dip tanks and washout booths
Light table for retouching
Manual printing tables for A1 and A0


Headed by:
Ericson Krüger
Tel.: +49 (0)6151 16 38342

Teaching assistant

Contact hours
By appointment only