The Daily Heller: Lucian Bernhard Pumped Gas

Posted inThe Daily Heller

Lucian Bernhard, the poster pioneer who devised the Sachplakat in 1906 Berlin, designed a distinctive identity for Amoco (and it subsidiaries in the American Oil Company). Assisted by his son, Karl, Bernhard employed his brush script and roman lettering and did most of the titling by hand. Arguably, Amoco was the first contemporary graphic standards campaign in the United States.

Amoco Corporation, originally Standard Oil Company of Indiana, a global chemical and oil company founded in 1889, later absorbed the American Oil Company, founded in 1910 and incorporated in 1922 by Louis Blaustein and his son Jacob. They worked directly with Bernhard, allowing him the freedom to develop the brand to his specifications.

Amoco’s innovations included two essential parts of the modern industry: the gasoline tanker truck and the drive-through filling station. Ultimately, the company merged with British Petroleum in December 1998. Shortly after the merger, Amoco stations began a rebranding to the BP logo while continuing to sell Amoco-branded fuel. Eventually, all traces of the Amoco brand name were eliminated.

Bernhard (1883–1972) was born in Stuttgart as Emil Kahn, but changed his name. He was influential in helping create the design style known as Plakatstil (Poster Style), which used reductive imagery and flat color as well as the aforementioned Sachplakat (object poster), which restricted the image to simply the object being advertised and the brand name. He was largely self-taught, which accounted for the ease with which he upended traditions of advertising and posters. He emigrated to New York City in 1921, and in 1928 helped found the Contempora Studio with Rockwell Kent, Paul Poiret, Bruno Paul and Erich Mendelsohn, where he worked as a graphic artist and interior designer. Bernhard did extensive typographic work for the American Type Founders Company, as well as other advertisers.

Although he had many clients in the U.S., losing Amoco impacted his influence as a contemporary designer.

Below are some of the artifacts Bernhard and Karl left behind. They also worked on White Flash and American Oil, retaining the basic elements of Amoco as continuity.

Posted inHistory The Daily Heller