Normalized Letterheads

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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By 1936 the Nazis were firmly in place in all aspects of government, society and culture. Gleichschaltung was the term for standardizing or normalizing the Nazi aberration. It meant that every aspect of the Third Reich followed the dictates of the ideological wing of the state and party. These innocent-looking letterheads, void of political references, were examples of that Gleichschaltung imposed on the design and printing industries.

Sure, there is some gothic, Futura-styled lettering, but for a while that was the tail-end of the so-called Bolshevik style scripts, and black letter was used in a manner that rejected Bauhaus Modernism in favor of more conservative approaches.

Normalization of abnormal things is a type of human nature. People need to adapt to the status quo. In Nazi Germany it was felt in almost every walk of life. And ultimately it was normal to deport immigrants and later put them to death. You may think that letterheads had little to do with the final solution, but it’s a start. It’s the small things that make the large things possible and acceptable.


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About Steven HellerSteven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →