Herbert Leupin - Poster Artist
An ecstatic parrot, a smug cow and a cheeky snag are the guests at Herbert Leupin’s 100th birthday.
Unfortunately the man himself is no longer with us [he passed away in 1999], but we can still celebrate the work of probably the most vibrant, direct and downright hilarious poster artist you’ll ever come across.
So join me at a celebratory Herbert Leupin party.
The Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich has published a fabulous book on Leupin with Lars Müller Publishers [get hold of a copy here], and dedicated a vast wall to some of his finest posters. There's an even larger collection online.
Unfortunately, due to the public nature of the exhibition site, you can’t see the originals, but the Artifische Gallery has a fantastic collection if you want to see them first hand, or buy one for your wall.
Come on then, let’s mingle with some of Herbet Leupin’s poster art characters.
Drinks and nibbles are provided.
Herbert Leupin's Posters
Hard to believe now, but the above poster - Leupin's first big commission - for Bell’s delicatessen in Bern caused a storm in Switzerland upon its release.
The chopping board featured in this image didn’t exist prior to this poster, but legend has it that customer demand led to it being created – and it sold in droves.
Twenty five years later, Leupin had evolved his style, but was still working for the same meat company.
The stunning, minimal design of his 'fork' poster shows how far he was willing to go. It also speaks volumes about how strong the old blackletter Bell logo – which evokes a ringing bell – is.
Leupin also worked for a rival sausage company, Ruff.
Rather than displaying tradition and quality as with Bell, the Ruff brand is represented with a rather cheeky sausage.
It’s a great example of how Leupin can convey a such emotion through anthropomorphism.
Another humanised character who pops up throughout Leupin’s work is the Pepita Parrot.
I love this guy. He looks like he’s having so much fun. He's absolutely delighted at having a bottle of grapefruit juice, it makes me just want to drink one too.
The fresh, vibrant watercolours are reminiscent of British illustrator Quentin Blake.
Whether he’s sitting on a wobbly bike, lettering reaching for the sky or a mountain top, this parrot always looks nothing short of delighted.
Leupin also turned his hand to Pepita’s sister-brand, Eptinger.
Here Leupin’s graphic and typographical qualities came into play again.
The bottle is evoked by just two thick lines, the drink’s fizz by dots. The play between ellipsis and bubbles is really smart.
One further drinks poster worth mention is this one for the spirit ‘Suze’.
It’s a magnificent combination of Leupin’s playful use of type and characterisation.
All I can say is I’d like to share a glass with this fellow, but maybe not as many as he’s clearly had.
The Knie Circus Posters
Hopefully you’ve read our post on this year’s Knie circus poster, where Pol Studio’s Juliane Wolski and Marc Zenhausern cite Leupin as an influence? If not, it's here.
During the 1970s Leupin had a tendency to insert a clown character into his work - seemingly wherever possible.
So the Knie Circus brief gave him the perfect opportunity for clowning around.
Most of his posters for Knie are filled with child-like joy, coupled with balancing feats and vibrant colours.
There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. In particular the rather sinister poster from 1961 below.
The deep red and evil-looking monkey give the poster an uneasy feeling.
Leupin has a huge archive of work to explore, there's something for every taste.
I haven’t discussed his fabulous, clever coca-cola illustrations, bold typography for Ford or his object posters for swiss brands Agfa, Steinfels or Helvetia Mustard.
Oh, and that along the way he managed to invent the Milka cow.
I just wish the man himself was still around to host a party with all these characters in attendance.
Let’s raise a glass of grapefruit juice to him.
More information on Herbert Leupin
You can also attend a talk with Bettina Richter, Charles Leupin and Niklaux Troxler on 7 September, 18.00 at Museum Gestaltern, Zurich.