For a variety of reasons, graphic designers who left Germany during the rise of Hitler and made a new life elsewhere have received much more attention from historians and biographers than those who stayed.
Gerald Cinamon, design historian and former chief designer at Penguin books, wants to right that balance. While many designers were forced to escape Hitler's Germany due to their religion or political activities, he says, "others were too young at the time to consider emigrating, or simply chose not to because of their beliefs, their patriotism – call it what you will - and remained in the Third Reich.
"A number of established designers, nevertheless, lost their teaching positions - and the possibility of commissions and exhibitions of their work - and worked alone in their studios, or made that ‘inner exile’ to their country cottages, if they were so lucky. If their luck continued, they were able to resume their careers only when the war ended."
Cinamon argues that "simply because these designers lived in Nazi Germany is no reason to ignore their work or consider it as all 'bad' (and thus a reversal of the Nazis’ concept of 'Entartete Kunst' – degenerate art). Any history of twentieth-century graphic design – and Germany’s particularly – must take note of them and their work."
To that end he's begun an ambitious web project entitled German graphic designers during the Hitler period (opens in new tab) - a biographic and bibliographic reference to German designers who stayed in Germany during the period.
The site is being developed by Berlin-based developer Matt Patterson who explains that it's still early days for the projet. "There’s lots more to do to it - for one thing," he says. "It’s built by transforming and post-processing MS Word documents, and there are still some rough edges to knock off that process." But don't be put off - there's plenty worth looking at on the site already, and we look forward to see how this inspiring project develops.
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