When I was a freshman in the 2DD class at Cooper, Margaret Morton took our class to visit an Advanced Design class, which was taught that semester by Paul Rand. That day he was showing slides of a designer he had recently “discovered” an interesting German designer: Alfred Mahlau. Rand had traveled to Germany to visit the widow of Mahlau, and to find as much work by Mahlau as possible. Rand loved the simplicity and elegance of Mahlau’s work. Something about that work stayed with me for a long time. Recently I remembered Mahlau and tried to see what I could dig up online. I was surprised to find a lot of images, but also surprised by the lack of discussion or mention of him in the design sphere of the web. So I dug up all the images I could possibly find online and to put them all together here. Notice the consistent style of his lettering in most of the examples below; including a clever way of dealing with umlauts. The typeface Mahlau, designed by Peter von Zezschwitz, was inspired by his lettering.
A little about Mahlau:
Alfred Mahlau was born on January 21, 1894 in Berlin. He studied at “Staatliche Kunstschule” in Berlin, and after World War I worked predominantly in Lübeck as a painter and graphic artist. Some of his clients included the Schwartauer Werke, a food manufacturer who still use the logo he designed for them. He also designed the identity for the Niederegger marzipan and sweets maker, another identity still in use.
Besides being a graphic designer Mahlau was an accomplished painter, illustrator and teacher. In 1946 he started teaching at the College of Fine Arts in Hamburg. He also had designed patterns for textiles, did set design, and created the stained-glass windows in the Lübeck Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church in Lübeck). The design (which you can see below) was an homage to the famous mural of the Dance of Death in the church which was destroyed during the bombing of Lübeck in World War II. Mahlau also did a lot of illustrations for various books, including some children’s books. He also designed a children’s building block set: the Port of Hamburg Construction Set (see bottom image), clearly a translation of his graphic work; compare it to the image at the very top right of this set.
Take a look at Lübeck to see what Mahlau was consistently translating in his work. Harvard’s “Busch-Reisinger Museum” has a large collection of his work. So if anyone wants to see his work in person go and visit Boston, or stop by any decent deli or supermarket and pick up a loaf of the Niederegger marzipan and look at the packaging.
Here is some of what he created over the years. Enjoy. Most of this work is from the 1920’s and 30’s. Images have been rescaled, and not proportional to each other.
Information and Image Sources / References / Further Reading:
- Harvard’s “Busch-Reisinger Museum”
- Come to Finland exhibition
- Jan Zimmermann’s Lüebeck im Bild
- Lübeck’s Dance of Death, The chapel today
- German Wikipedia
- Wikimedia Commons
- Optical Toys
- Hamburg Harbor playset
- Font Shop fonts
- Mahlau Eirgeld
- Lübeck in the box
- Niederegger Timeline
- Freie Lauenburgische Akademie für Wissenschaft und Kultur e.V.
- Mahlau on Artnet