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(Early Modern)

Shortly after the turn of the century Berlin became the center of commerce, and the birth place of the art movement called Plakatstil (poster style). The standout artist/ posterist in Berlin at the birth of this movement was Lucian Bernhard. Bernhard in 1906 was the first to move away from the decorative tendencies of Art Nouveau and focused on one product image combined with bold minimal lettering. This approach became known as the Sachplakat or Object Poster.

Lucian Bernhard (1883-1972)
Was born Emil Kahn and adopted the name Lucian Bernhard in 1905. Bernhard was fifteen when he attended and Exhibition of Interior design in Munich. The use of color being used at this exhibition was so new and exciting to Bernhard that he was inspired to go home and paint everything in sight (walls, ceilings, furniture). Needless to say This did not go over big with Bernhard’s father who severely rebuked Bernhard. As as result Bernhard ran away from home at fifteen. Bernhard ran to Berlin, where after a couple of tough years he saw an advertisement for a poster contest. This contest was for Priester Matches, and after many modifications to his poster Bernhard submitted a simple poster with 2 matches on a dark background with the word “Priester” above. Bernhard’s submission was originally rejected until one of the judges, Emil Growald, who had been late to the judging, saw it. Growald who worked for a lithography firm convinced the rest of the panel that Bernhard’s poster should be the winner. So Bernhard’s first poster became his most famous. This was produced in 1905.

Bernhard was self-taught and with this one poster he moved “graphic communications one step further in the simplification and reduction of an object into a visual language of shape and sign.” Influences on Bernhard was Toulouse-Lautrec and the
Beggarstaffs, actually continuing on with where their work left off. Characteristics
of Bernhard’s style are; a flat color background combined with flat color shapes to illustrate the product and the product name. Simplicity can be considered his trademark.

Bernhard created a sans-serif lettering style that he painted in broad brush strokes, repeated this style over and over again in his many posters. Impressed with his lettering style, the type foundry in Berlin called Berthold designed a typeface based on Bernhard’s style. This font was called Block Type and was released in 1910. After this Bernhard himself designed some typefaces these were called; Antiqua (1911) and Fraktur (1913).

Along with Hans Sach, Bernhard established the magazine Das Plakat (The Poster) in
1910. From 1914 to 1918 much of Bernhard’s work was posters for the German war
effort, and in 1920 he did some teaching in Berlin. Bernhard moved on to other ares
of design; furniture, rugs, wallpapers, lighting fixtures and architecture.

In 1923, Bernhard moved to New York, where after struggling for acceptance (considered too modern), he also taught and co-founded a graphic/interior design company with Rockwell Kent, Paul Poiret and Bruno Paul. In 1928, Bernhard began his long professional relationship with American Type Founders, designing typefaces including; the sans serif Gothic (1929-30) and Fashion (1929), and the script font Tango (1933).

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Ludwig Hohlwein (1874-1949)

Was also one of the most important artists of the Plakatstil (poster style). His career spanned both World Wars with his style developing in response to the dramatic and
cultural pressures.

Hohlwein began his studies with architecture turning to graphic design in 1906. Hohlwein designed for restaurants, cafés, and the clothing industry. Some of his more famous work was for Hermann Sherrer a men’s clothes line.

Like Bernhard, Hohlwein’s style was influenced by the Beggarstaff Brothers. There was a powerful composition balance to his work, which he combined with realism and again flat bold color. During WWI, Hohlwein produced emotional posters for fundraising and propaganda purposes. Between the wars Hohlwein designed travel posters, getting more involved with photography and airbrushing. And during WWII Hohlwein produced posters for the Nazis. Hohlwein, War posters for the Nazi's. He became known as a master propaganda artist.

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Plakatstil became an universal style without having any direct links to a specific school or movement. The characteristics of this style were bold lettering, a simple central image, and distinctive eye-catching color. Because this style allowed its message to be easliy accessible it was aesthetically pleasing.

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