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Zero - Hans Schleger: A Life of Design

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review

By Pat Schleger. Lund Humphries, 2001. 271pp. £30.

A related exhibition is at the London Institute, 65 Davies St, London W1 until 14 March This book and exhibition may come as a surprise, writes Andrew Mead, in revealing just how pervasive Hans Schleger's designs were in the 20th century, and how prominent they are still today. The London bus stop sign and the symbol for Penguin Books - these are Schleger's; just two enduring products from his 50-year career, which began in the New York of the 1920s and prospered in London until his death in 1976.

Schleger's clients were hugely varied: the Ministry of Agriculture 'digging for victory' in the Second World War; the Design Council; the Edinburgh Festival; Fisons Chemicals, Martini, and MacFisheries. Those MacFisheries posters, while successful at the time, look whimsical and dated. As a rule, though, Schleger's search for graphic simplicity, his reductionist impulse, holds sway; and from the Bauhaus-ethos Pro Industra booklet cover of 1930, when he worked briefly in Berlin, to the penguins and logos of the 1960s, they still look fresh. A group of such reductive designs, hung together on one wall of the gallery, are particularly strong. They communicate in an instant, but hold your attention with their elegance, economy and wit.

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