Plakatstil was an early poster style of art that began in the early 1900s and originated out of Germany. First started by Lucian Bernard in 1906. “Plakatstil” means “poster style” in German. The traits of this style of art are usually bold, straight font with very simple design. Shapes and objects are simplified while the subject of the poster remains detailed. Plakatstil incorporated color combinations not seen in other art forms such as Art Nouveau. Plakatstil shied away from the complexity of Art Nouveau and helped emphasize a more modern outlook on poster art. Famous Plakatstil artists include Berliner Lucian Bernhard and artist Ludwig Hohlwein.

Plakatstil, German “Poster Style” begun in 1905 by Lucien Bernhard in Berlin and in Munich by Ludwig Hohlwein. For a poster competition sponsored by Preister matches Bernhard took the novel approach of drawing two large matches and writing the brand name above them in clean, bold letters. The stark simplicity of the design won him the competition. Bernhard’s minimalized naturalism and emphasis on flat colors and shapes made his work the next step towards creating an abstract – and modern – visual language.



Heraldry  is the general name of the  professions carried on by the officer of arms, dating back to Middle Ages. As a symbol system, its origins can be traced back to predynastic Egypt which made use of the symbol serekh to signify a variety of meanings from labels to military alliances.  It is now a complex historical study regarding the art of devising, granting and blazoning arms as  on questions of ruling, ranking and protocol.  Heraldry comes from Anglo-Norman word herald, from the Germanic compound harja-waldaz, “army commander”.  The word, in its most general sense, encompasses all matters relating to the duties and responsibilities of officers of arms. From a visual communication perspective; however,  heraldry is the practice of designing, displaying, describing, and recording coats of arms and badges. The origins of heraldry address an identification problem: the need for distinguishing participants in combat when their faces were hidden by iron and steel helmets.

The rules and terminology of heraldry differ from country to country and different national styles had developed by the end of the Middle Ages, but there are some aspects that carry over internationally. Over all heraldry make use of a complex and not-always-consistent rules of signification, webs of symbols to enhance this design system with meanings in reference to ranks and hierarchies, social networks, property rights, etc.   Though heraldry is nearly 900 years old, it is still very much in use. Many cities and towns in Europe and around the world still make use of arms.

Heraldry is an endless subject for exploration with increasingly complex rules, different national styles, debates on genealogy and dynamic systems of signs and symbols. For those who want to dig deeper on the subject:

A  20 page “Manifesto of Complete Arms of the Russian Empire” (1800) & various examples of heraldic design:

*click to enlarge

Peter Max (born Peter Max Finkelstein; October 19, 1937) is a German-born American artist best known for his iconic art style in the 1960s. At first, his “Cosmic 60s” art, as it came to be known, appeared on posters and were seen on the walls of college dorms all across America. Max then became fascinated with new printing techniques that allowed for four-color reproduction on product merchandise. Following his success with a line of art clocks for General Electric, Max’s art was licensed by 72 corporations and he became a household name.

Pyschedelic Art is any kind of visual artwork inspired by psychedelic experiences induced by drugs such as LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin. The word “psychedelic” (coined by British psychologist Humphrey Osmond) means “mind manifesting”. By that definition all artistic efforts to depict the inner world of the psyche may be considered “psychedelic”. However, in common parlance “Psychedelic Art” refers above all to the art movement of the 1960s counterculture. Psychedelic visual arts were a counterpart to psychedelic rock music. Concert posters, album covers, lightshows, murals, comic books, underground newspapers and more reflected not only the kaleidoscopically swirling patterns of LSD hallucinations, but also revolutionary political, social and spiritual sentiments inspired by insights derived from these psychedelic states of consciousness.

Max’s art work was a part of the psychedelic movement in graphic design. His work was much imitated in commercial illustration in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He works in multiple media, including oil, acrylics, water colors, fingerpaints, dyes, pastels, charcoal, pen, multi-colored pencils, etchings, engravings, animation cels, lithographs, serigraphs, ceramics, sculpture, collage, video, xerox, fax, and computer graphics. He also includes mass media as a “canvas” for his creative expression.

Max often uses American symbols in his artwork and has done paintings and projects for Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush. Recently he created his 100 Clintons, a multiple portrait installation whose images were used through the four days of the Presidential inauguration. More recently, Max completed his fourth Grammy-Award poster, redesigned NBC television’s symbolic peacock, was appointed as the official artist for the World Cup USA 1994 and created a “Peace Accord” painting for the White House to commemorate a historic signing.

Piet Zwart

Piet Zwart (Zaandijk, 28 May 1885 – Wassenaar, 24 September 1977) was a Dutch photographer, typographer, and industrial designer. Eventhough he did not adhere to traditional typography rules, he used the basic principles of Russian constructivism and “De Stijl” in his commercial work. His work can be recognized by its primary colors, geometrical shapes, repeated word patterns and an early use of photomontage. In the 1920s, when Piet Zwart began to work for the progressive Nederlandsche Kabelfabriek In Delft (a cable company in the Netherlands), he was able for the first time to experiment with upper and lower case, lines, circles and screens. He used alliteration, the visual reworking of letter shapes, repetition and combinations of figures and letters, creating his own unique new style that still has great influence today. He created a total of 275 designs in 10 years for the NKF Company , almost all typographical works. He resigned in 1933 to become an interior, industrial and furniture designer.

Piet Zwart preferred to call himself a form engineer or form technician rather than a designer. He believed in functionality, standardisation and machine production, and profiled himself as one of the first industrial designers in the Netherlands. In his eyes, a design must take account both of ergonomics and user-friendliness, and of the demands of mass production. The kitchen he designed for Bruynzeel in 1938 is a good example. It was highly progressive for its time. This was the first time that domestic appliances like a refrigerator and stove could be integrated in the design in a practical way. All the elements were designed with logical proportions, and customers could combine them as they wished. Handy details like glass containers, a pull-out bread board and storage racks made the kitchen a textbook example of comfort and efficiency.

Paul Laffoley

Paul Laffoley (born August 14, 1940) is a U.S. artist and architect. As an architect, Laffoley worked for 18 months on design for the World Trade Center Tower II. As a painter, his work is usually classified as visionary art or outsider art. Most of Laffoley’s pieces are painted on large canvases and combine words and imagery to depict a spiritual architecture of explanation, tackling concepts like dimensionality, time travel through hacking relativity, connecting conceptual threads shared by philosophers through the millennia, and theories about the cosmic origins of mankind.

Paul Laffoley began a highly original approach to the construction of the painted surface. Based on extensive hand written journals documenting his research, diagrams, and footnoted predecessors to various theoretical developments, Laffoley began to first organize his ideas in a format related to eastern mandalas that had captivated his interest in the spiritual. This format quickly developed into Laffoley’s three sub-groupings of work: operating Systems, psychotronic devices and lucid dreams related to them. Conceived of as “structured singularities”, Laffoley never works in series, but rather approached each project freshly, and individually.



The lubok is the name of a specialized type of folk art, a colorful print made either from a woodcut or a copper engraving. This form of art became popular in Russia at the beginning of the sixteenth century during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. One of the earliest surviving lubki (1619-24) represents the Dormition of the Mother of God. As this lubok suggests, the content of the lubki was initially mainly religious (they provided cheap alternatives to expensive icons), but they soon came to depict a variety of secular subjects. Usually rendered in three or four contrasting colors, lubki are bright, cheerful, and expressive; they typically contain both images and text. Drawings on the lubki are simple, with no real consideration given to scale or perspective. Street merchants would sell the lubki outside monasteries, in markets, and at fairs.

No one is certain where the word “lubok” comes from, but it is possible that the word is connected to “lub,” which is the name for bast, or the inner bark of the lime tree. This bark is used in Russia for many purposes; it is used, for example, as roofing for homes, material for making baskets, as writing tablets, etc. Especially in the nineteenth century, the term “lubok” was associated with low-grade, common art as opposed to professional art; however, by the end of the nineteenth-century and the beginning of the twentieth century, the term had lost its derogatory value. This was due in part to the study of the art form by scholars and artists and the efforts of individual collectors.

Russian Futurism is accepted to emerge in 1912, lead by a Moscow based group called Hylaea. Even though Hylaea did not consider themselves as futurists around the time they were formed, by 1912 they issued a manifesto, “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste”  which was majorly influenced by Italian Futuristic movement.

The Russian Futurists had much in common with the Italians – they too romanticized technology. But there were differences from the start.  Russian Futurism movement was also highly influenced by neo-primitivism and French Cubism, and therefore was also called Cubo-Futurism. Against its Italian counterparts, the Russians saw the future in schematic, distorted figures drawn by anonymous peasant artists. Paintings and book illustrations by Kasimir Malevich and Natalia Goncharova show the influence of Russian folk art, particularly the “lubok”, or woodcut.

Some notable Russian Cubo – Futurists are Kazimir MalevichAlexander Archipenko, Wladimir Baranoff-Rossine and Aleksandra Ekster. It’s also notable, considering Marinetti’s inclusion of “scorn for woman” in his Futurist Manifesto, that nearly half the Russian Futurists were female – Varvara Stepanova, Olga Rozanova, Lyubov Popova and Natalia Goncharova being the most known.

Russian artists who engaged with cubo-futurism has also originated and/or followed art movements like  Suprematism and Russian constructivism. Therefore some of  their work reflects the transitions between these latter art movements.