July 13, 2011

Ludwig Hohlwein and the Hermann Scherrer style

Design Visionary

Author: Richard Poulin

Topics: Design Reference, Profiles

Ludwig Hohlwein (1847–1949) was trained and practiced as an architect until 1906, when he became interested in graphic design and the visual arts. During the 1890s, he lived in Munich, where he was part of the United Workshops for Arts and Crafts, an avant-garde group of artists and craftsmen dedicated to the tenets and principles of the Arts and Crafts movement. Hohlwein moved to Berlin in 1911 and started working as a graphic designer primarily designing advertisements and posters for the men's clothing company Hermann Scherrer.

Hohlwein's most creative phase of work and a large variety of his best-known posters were created between 1912 and 1925. It was during this critical period that he developed his own unique visual style. By 1925, he had already designed 3,000 different advertisements and became the best-known German commercial artist of his time.

Poster historian Alain Weill comments that "Hohlwein was the most prolific and brilliant German posterist of the twentieth century. . . Beginning with his first efforts, Hohlwein found his style with disconcerting facility. It would vary little for the next forty years. The drawing was perfect from the start, nothing seemed alien to him, and in any case, nothing posed a problem for him. His figures are full of touches of color and a play of light and shade that brings them out of their background and gives them substance."

Hohlwein's work relied mostly on strong figurative elements with reductive qualities of high contrast, intense flat color, and bold patterns of geometric elements. This is evident in his iconographic poster for Hermann Scherrer. The figurative element of the man is optically centered in the field of the poster with no apparent horizon line. The well-dressed gentleman and his riding accessories, as well as his pure-bred dog, are all represented in a reductive, stark manner combined with vivid color and an abstract, black-and-white checkerboard pattern. Here, Hohlwein treats this distinctive pattern as a two-dimensional plane. It is in extreme contrast to the surrounding three-dimensional compositional elements, creating a strong and memorable focal point for the poster.

His adaptation of photographic images was based on a deep and intuitive understanding of visual design principles. His creative use of color and architectural compositions dispels any suggestion that he used photographs as the basis of his creative output. Additionally, his use of high tonal contrasts, interlocking shapes, and distinctive graphic patterns made his work instantly recognizable and memorable.

Aside from Lucian Bernhard, LudwigHohlwein was one of the most successful and celebrated designers of the Plakatstil and Sachplakat modes or "poster" and "object poster" styles in Germany during this time period.

Source: The Language of Graphic Design