The Daily Heller: Hans Hillmann Made Posters That Hold Up When They Are Hung Up

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Jens Müller, partner of the design studio vista/Dusseldorf, visiting lecturer at the Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences and author of design history books, has released a new website and book on the posters of German graphic designer Hans Hillmann (1925–2014). Hillmann's work defines the postwar West German design language.

In 1954 Hillmann began working with Walter Kirchner, a film enthusiast from Göttingen, who brought masterpieces of international cinema history and young arthouse works to Germany through his company Neue Filmkunst. By the mid-1970s, more than 150 posters for films by Akira Kurosawa, Jean-Luc Godard, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Luis Buñuel and Ingmar Bergman had been designed.

Art director Willy Fleckhaus commissioned Hillmann as illustrator for iconic twen magazine and, from 1980, for the magazine Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. For many years Hillmann drew the covers of the German editions of the books by John Updike, but also covers for Ernest Hemingway and Jack London. In the mid-1970s, Hillmann's idea of realizing a complete film in paper form became tangible. In a work lasting several years, he transferred the plot of a Dashiell Hammett thriller into hyper-realistic watercolor drawings. The illustrated novel by Dashiell Hammett, Flypaper, was published in 1982, and set new standards in the field of graphic novels. As a teacher at the Kassel design school, he also influenced countless students for nearly three decades.

"I got in touch with him when I did an exhibition on modern film posters of West Germany in my student days," Müller told me in an email. "We became friends and kept in touch until he died in 2014 at the age of 88." Together with Hillmann's widow, Müller and his studio partner Katharina Sussek have turned 60 years of creative work into a browsable online archive: www.hanshillmann.de. The site can be viewed as a total oeuvre or in specific motifs.

Although the website is in German only, the browse-through capability for non-German speakers is a gift (and it also works well with Google Translate).

In addition, Müller has published a new volume, Moving Pictures: The Complete Film Posters of Hans Hillmann/Sämtliche Filmplakate von Hans Hillmann, through the optik press imprint (published in English and German). This is the first book to showcase all of Hillmann's film posters and delve deeply into his process of finding intriguing graphic solutions. The book documents the "act" of finding ideas and the different design approaches in illustration, photography and typography, using the posters as examples. For further information, contact jens@studiovista.de.

partner of the design studio vista/Dusseldorf, visiting lecturer at the Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences and author of design history books, has released a new website and book on the posters of German graphic designer Hans Hillmann (1925–2014)