The first decisive blow against the Art Nouveau movement came from Lucian Bernhard in 1906 in the form of a poster. The designer entered a competition to design an advertisement for a German match company, first illustrating a poster using the popular German Jugendstil style. Upon rejection, Bernhard entered a second poster – this one compiled of a plain black background, a pair of matches, and the company’s name. The strategy was addition by subtraction; the designer wished to have control of the viewer’s attention. By showing only the two most important advertising elements on the poster, he was able to do so; and so, the Sachplakat style was born.
Rather than designing with ornamental complexity through the use of Art Nouveau, Sachplakat portrayed products directly, aiming to convey blunt messages to consumers through simplified advertisements. The concept was a revolutionary change in the design world, embracing the concept of addition by subtraction. Companies were no longer able to hire designers that would obscure their product through the complex designs of recent styles. While the style was not well-accepted by all, it was indeed progressive.
Although it was not realized at first, Sachplakat was beneficial to product sales and was a colossal accomplishment in the world of poster design. In comparison to previous styles, this was the first time that the product was the focal point as opposed to a message. Companies aimed to gain customers through the effectiveness of their product instead of the design of their poster. If this change were to occur today, this would also be effective. Companies could hire designers and product photographers, rather than illustrators. It would take less time to design a poster since there was no need for illustration. The style was greatly effective for product design; however, Sachplakat is not easily transferable to event or service posters. Simplistic design for these things is effective; however, it requires more thought and effort than just portraying a product.
Although introduced over 100 years ago, Sachplakat is used widely in 2016. Many advertisements today use a variation of this style, gaining the attention of passer-bys with plain backgrounds and thoroughly planned typography. Technology companies use this strategy quite often, Apple specifically. Using one sans-serif typeface and a light-colored background, designers illustrate the product name, a catchphrase, and a photograph of the product. Today, designers face issues of which typefaces to use, whether or not to introduce photographs, and color schemes. Like twentieth century Germany, these challenges are faced by trial and error. It is a matter of learning the product audience and trying different strategies to learn what works best for your product. Sachplakat was a revolutionary step in the world of design and paved the way for simplistic blunt design.
Lucian Bernhard was a German designer and graphic artist from the early 20th century. He studied at the Munich Art Academy and later moved to Berlin and New York to pursue commercial work. The Beggarstaff Brothers, and British artists William Nicholson and James Pryde mainly influenced him in his work in advertising and modern design. His client list included names such as Cat’s Paw, Westinghouse, Bosh, Priester, Manoli, and many more. Before Bernhard started his work, posters in Berlin were more ornate and wordy; Bernhard’s posters simplified design. The style of Berhard’s work is most clearly described from his quote: “You see with your eyes, not your brain”. He emphasized working by instinct, and his work reflected that.
Early on in his career Berhard did very simple design work, making pieces that would change the history of poster design. When he won the Priester Matches Company poster contest he created the first Sachplakat, or object poster. This piece highlights the match company with minimal bold letters and a plain image. The companies name along with a simplistic image of matches is placed in the center of a black background. These two features are both shown in bold color. The only other subject matter on the page is Bernhard’s usual signature, bold BERN and HARD in the lower left corner of the frame. Later in Bernhard’s career, he turned towards early German gothic poster style. During World War 1, he worked for the German government making poster propaganda. His work during this time is recognized by its stark images and bright colored letters to highlight important words, like in his poster: This is the way to peace—the enemy wants it that way. This piece in particular, and others during this period, are more dramatic than his earlier work, and used an older-looking textura font.
During his career, Lucian Bernhard shaped the style of product and advertising posters. He’s one of the most important German poster artists in history, being very influential in the development of the Sachplakat, or object poster.
Lucian Bernhard was a German designer who earned his place in the art world with his poster design. He began working in poster and advertising because this was the work that he had been doing before he became a name in the art world. Emerging as an artist following the Art Nouveau period, his designs were simple, clean, and minimal in color. Bernhard, as an emerging design, was paving the way for a new style of art and he didn’t even realize that it was happening. Bernhard also did not have a lot of confidence in his work, he did not think that he was good at his craft and had almost given up on design before being discovered. As his artistic career developed, he expanded his horizons and began designing typography, packaging, and textiles as well.
One of his early works was an advertisement done for Manoli cigarettes. This advertisement features a heavy, dark background with a teal type treatment of the company name at the top of the image that spans the width of the image. The next aspect of this design is the flat image of the cigarette box and cigarettes, which is located in the left third of the picture plane. The purpose of this advertisement was to picture only the brand name and the product that they produced. This advertisement, and the others like it that he created, are significant because they were the early development as what eventually would be known as an object poster.
Many companies used this poster style at this time in order to advertise their product. Over time, this flat style that Bernhard had developed expanded into a more colorful, realistic style. The way that Bernhard treated his typography remained mostly the same. He used bold, capital letters that then had another border around them as well to allow for more thickness and more attention. In the advertisement design that he did for Bosch, a car parts company, we can see a much more developed style with more dynamic colors and textures throughout the piece.
While Bernhard’s style was simple, his principle was a legacy in its own. His style was simple and to the point with the display of the company name and then an image of a product that they sold or manufactured. We see this style applied in our own time now because many companies basically use this same principle. For example, in a perfume ad for Moschino and their fragrance Couture, you can see that the product and the brand name are the main focal points of the advertisement. This advertisement does have modern trends of influence but at a basic level of understanding it uses the same principle the Bernhard did. This method of advertisement that he developed clearly works which is why it is still influential to us in modern day.
For more reading: http://www.designishistory.com/1920/lucian-bernhard/
Information was also taken for class lectures and the class textbook.