Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bernhard’s cat

When Daughter Number Three identified the typeface on an old title page as Bernhard Gothic, she suggested that I look up the designer, Lucian Bernhard (1883–1972). So I did.

My first discovery: Bernhard was a graphic designer as well as a type designer. The second: Bernhard was an important figure in the development of the modern advertising poster, particularly the Sachplakat or object poster, which depicted an object, a brand name, and little or nothing more.¹ It didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d seen Bernhard’s work before, in an early-twentieth-century Pelikan advertisement. What I didn’t know is that Bernhard’s work was to be found in the advertising of my childhood, most memorably as the logo of the Cat’s Paw Rubber Company, maker of heels and soles.² Here are two versions of Bernhard’s cat, patron cat of "master shoe repairers” and “favorite shoe rebuilders”:

[Life, April 4, 1960. Click for a larger view.]

[Life, October 4, 1963. Click for a larger view.]

The best items about Lucian Bernhard that I found: an essay and a slideshow-lecture by Steven Heller.

¹ Apple advertisements seem to me to owe something to the Sachplakat. I’m not alone.

² I found three different dates for the cat design: 1936, 1941, 1947. Choose the one you like.

[I’ve tinkered with the color in the second ad to make up for Google’s lousy scan. Cat’s Paw products are still available.]

comments: 2

Anonymous said...

Back in the 60's and early 70's, my husband, a photographer, assisted Ruth Bernhard, also a photographer, and Lucian's daughter. This was in San Francisco, and before my husband left SF for the east coast, Ruth gave him a black and white photo of her father. We only recently identified the man in the photo as Lucian, but I'm not sure if Ruth took the photograph or someone else did. He was a very distinguished looking man.

Michael Leddy said...

Mari, what a great story. Thanks for sharing it here.