Vintage German Travel Posters – A Golden Age
Vintage German travel posters are part of the “Plakatstil” movement, an early style of poster art that originated in Germany in the early twentieth century.
The common characteristics of this style were bold eye-catching lettering with flat colors. Before this time, persuasive simplicity was a rare thing in most advertising: posters, especially, tended to be wordy and rather ornate in design.
The style was heavily influenced by a German graphic designer named Lucian Bernhard who was born in Stuttgart in 1883. He was influential in helping create the design style known as Plakatstil (Poster Style), which used reductive imagery and flat-color as well as Sachplakat (‘object poster’) which restricted the image to simply the object being advertised and the brand name.
Over the course of his career, which lasted from the turn of the 20th century to the 1950s, Lucian Bernhard became a prolific designer not only of innovative posters but of trademarks, packaging, type, textiles, furniture, and interior design. In 1920 he emigrated to New York where he established a new design studio, providing graphic design services to some of America’s leading companies and brands, as well creating a large number of new typefaces, including Bernhard Gothic.
Plakatstil was used widely for the promotion of tourism and travel in Germany in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Ocean liners, trains and airplanes were among the technological marvels of the early 20th century that made pleasure travel feasible and luxurious, and they are often featured in vintage travel posters. These innovations sparked a Golden Age of Travel that would last – despite The Great War and Depression – until the outbreak of World War II.
The lithographic poster came into being just as the explosion in pleasure travel was dawning, and this new means of advertising was ideally suited to educate and tempt the consumer. Plakatstil took a huge leap into the advertising market, making posters easily understood with mass production easy. Combining large images and bold text, the vintage travel poster was a uniquely effective medium to inspire travelers to see the world, and posters promoting every mode of transportation and destination became fixtures on the kiosks and the train stations of Germany, Europe and America.
Free from marketing gimmicks or stylised shoots, these adverts are reminiscent of a time when a landscape drawing was enough to encourage people to buy a ticket for a train or ocean liner. Vintage German travel posters from this innocent era are especially beautiful due to their breathtaking lithography: