EAST Germany’s Most Famous Graphic Designer

In 1951 Klaus Wittkugel was head designer for the German Democratic Republic’s Office of Information, his famous Five Year Plan poster highlighted the GDR’s Soviet-style economic goals ahead of an exhibition it advertised. After the event ended—a local newspaper of note ran a piece condemning Wittkugel’s work: “An abstract, intellectual play with numbers and format takes precedence over depictions of people and clear symbols… This ever-dominant formalist approach to visual communication continues to find its expression in other experiments that show a hatred of mankind.”

Over the years, Wittkugel designed some of the most recognisable work from the Soviet era. But after his censure at the hands of the 'hatred of mankind' label, Wittkugel’s work began to embrace the human form over his more typical Modernist use of typography. One famous poster shows a young coal miner emerging from the darkness, his face covered in soot, the words “Ich bin Bergmann! Wer ist mehr? (Translation: “I am a miner! Who is better?”) written below him as a call to action. 

On the whole, Wittkugel’s designs were more playful than you might guess for someone who worked for Stalinist East Germany.