Here is the piece as it stands now -
The Branding of Nazi Germany
It is important to understand the perverse vision conceived within Hitler’s approach to branding the Nazi party. Long before they came into power, there had been underlined principles detailing the importance of creating a global image of Hitler’s Germany.
‘’ for in some of his studies from 1913 – 14 he conceived an elaborate dystopia where the overall imagery – including uniforms, flags, and symbols – constituted a kind of socio-political art project.” (Steven Heller. Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State. 2008. P 14)
This as it stands, could be considered the foundations of creating a political regime or at least the beginning of an image. Prior to his role in leadership, Adolf Hitler had artistic aspirations of his own. Allowing him to indentify an understand value behind art and design. Propaganda came into effect as the influence of the allied forces during the First World War, demonstrated a key strength in pursuing victory, visual control, and influence.
“ after the Nazis came to power in 1933, they commissioned extensive research on the psychological effects of posters that resulted in Erwin Schockel’s book Das politische Plakat (The political poster) “ (Steven Heller. Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State. 2008. P 16)
Envious of the Bolshevik hammer-and-sickle emblems brandishing the streets of Communist Russia enthralled Hitler to pursue a similar aim and approach to his own graphic signifiers. In order to achieve the success which, the long-standing communist state of Russia had balanced out through their visual identity. He needed to put in place and altogether appropriate attempt of his own. Hitler states in his own publication.
“ More than once in my youth the psychological importance of such a symbol had become clearly evident to me,” (Adolf Hitler. Mein Kampf)
Evident of his motives, perhaps this could have been a foreseen future for Germany, or altogether a starting point to his reign of terror.
After taking over the German Workers Party in 1920, Hitler ensured that graphic design and visual identity were put at the forefront to the approach of the political party, by prioritising this movement enabling visual communication to flourish. This was not an altogether new thought or procedure, there had been convincing “ rationales for a systematic design program based entirely on memorable signs and symbols “ (Steven Heller. Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State. 2008. P 18) allowing his self-created movement to be structuralised before hand.
One of the key elements to the branding was of course the Swastika. A forever endless misinterpreted piece of humankind symbolic imagery, taken away from the original meaning of prosperity and embellished into an altogether new terrifying insignia of once a worldwide threat to the power and control of civilisation.
“ Such signifiers mean different things to different people: they may stand for many or even any signifieds; they may mean whatever their interpreters want them to mean. In such state of radical disconnection between signifier and signified, a sign only means that it means. “ (Daniel Chandler. Semiotics: The Basics. P78)
Hitler sought to detach the swastika from its long term occult meaning by taking control of the symbol and recreating it as his own invention. As by 1935 Nazi Germany had began to fulfil its entire effect, they now had ultimate control over Germany, which allowed a more important break from any rights previously consisting of the Swastikas symbolisation.
With all of this backing in full swing, the brand itself began to emerge as an entire corporate expansion of Hitler’s control. A form of panoptic control could be argued. As with his dictatorship advancing further into the minds of the German population and also surrounding areas. The Nazi vision became a profound institution in its own rights. Crucial propaganda, and a network of symbolic signified enthusiasm, demolished the minds of those who rose against him.
Furthermore, with a constructed brand in place, Hitler set out to create an outstanding identity, personifying himself as the saviour front man to Germany. To eliminate any possible third party threat, the same measures were taken in ensuring his title, the ‘Fuhrer’ remained soul bound to his persona.
“ I shall be addressed officially and privately only as ‘der Fuhrer’ and Reich Chancellor. This regulation shall apply to all future time. “ (Steven Heller. Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State. 2008. P 25)
This concreted an image, a state of mind and a figure on the minds of the German population. Imbuing a consistent form of propaganda and control. Entrusting the minds of millions, giving them a sense of guidance and hope.
Alongside the Swastika, another powerful and provoking piece of imagery was inset to aid the visualisation of the Nazi regime. The Grosse Deutschland Eagle. This again was taken from pervious historic iconicity; the Roman Empire had previously used this bold symbol to strike heroic preference to their army.
‘’ it was designed in three basic iterations: as official party symbol with wings outstretched, its talons holding a wreath with swastika; as one with wings open but draped; and as if caught in the act of flying. “ (Steven Heller. 2008. Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State. P 30)
By incorporating the usage of two pieces of visual identity, allowed a direct influence to enact on the communication of design throughout various substrates and media. This enabled a stronger sense of vision, minesweeping the entire nation. Turning itself into an almost global brand. Effectively, having an outstanding and reflective logo to forefront the identity of the empire, allows mass-market satisfaction. As the consumerists (German citizens) become a victim to a direct sales approach with no other option but to appropriate themselves to the regime, if in doubt severe consequences would be in place.
“ So the communication process is an ideological process, and design is an agent of ideology in that it communicates (for good and bad) the political intentions of the person or organisation that commissions it. “ (Jonathan Baldwin. Visual Communication. 2006. P 41)
To ensure the strict conformity throughout the nation, strict propaganda was put into place. This in turn, communicated a wide spread message across the empire. Any sense of disagreement was discouraged, by seizing total control over graphic design, typography and advertising. With this in mind, detailed strategic pieces of iconic branding would be allowed to fulfil its every expectation. Excluding all other views or disagreement amongst the design, gave Hitler and the Nazi party ultimate control. Comparing this to a massive global organisation, the same effect would be in key play. In order to receive total loyalty and profit, pursuing the human mind and effectively understanding principles of direct persuasion. There would have to be a solid structured and clear message across the nation.
One of the most important pieces of writing of the Nazi regime, was the ‘Organisationsbuch der NSDAP ‘’ the national socialist handbook. Detailing a design strategy schematically complete with visual reference from uniforms, flags and weapons. Laying down all design principles for any strict given piece of work produced within Hitler’s reign. After taking full control of Germany, the Nazis were able to prohibit any unlawful use against their identity signifiers and symbols. Essentially, copyrighting any unlawful attempts to interpret or abuse the fundamentals of the design.
Typography played another key element to allowing the success of widespread propaganda and terror throughout the Nazi regime. It was deemed critical in the development and further execution of Hitler’s vision. Readability, aesthetics and German origin were examined carefully to allow an understanding of where the party stood and also the effects of communication it would play on the citizens of Germany. Modern typefaces were rejected and seen as an identity to the rest of the industrial world, Hitler’s Germany had to be formed in a new style of it’s own.
“ The aesthetic guidelines dictated not only how the Nazi and government documents should look, but even how lettering for unofficial use must conform. Control was exercised and had an impact on every calligrapher, type designer, and graphic designer working in a Third Reich “creative” office, agency, or studio “ (Steven Heller. Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State. 2008. P 49)
Blackletter, Gothic typefaces were considered to be part of Germany’s history, there for this style was capitalised throughout the design aspects of the Nazi regime. It was aimed at the working class man, a style that was meant to hopefully directly involve citizens within a sense of solidarity focus. This approach fulfilled the purist Germanic historical roots Hitler had consciously dictated throughout his approach to control. Fraktur, Schwbacher, Routunda, and Kanzlei typefaces were the main consistencies to formulating appropriate text driven pieces of design, an outlandish, direct style. Although many of these typeface styles, were not apparent or clear enough for the aims of Hitler’s political party. He considered anything that was not clear, would be a thereat to the entire political program.
“ To be German means to be clear!” Hitler said, which to him meant infused with political purpose. Anything that might be confusing, including typography, endangered the political program.” (Steven Heller. Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State. 2008. P 54)
After creating an understanding of Hitler’s ideology and direction of design, throughout typography and symbolic usage of imagery, there begins to unfold a complete design strategy and critical understanding forming a base, in which print based media, such as posters could forward in full effect. Incorporating a direct message, through the means of design, and also a desired attention to the message, which would be provoked across the entire nation. In order to achieve the best possible feedback from the mass audience, Hitler had to generate a series of slogans and type, which would influence those who came into contact with the poster. To put it into perspective, having a visually clear understanding of communication and setting out to promote or even educate an audience, boils down to be fundamentally important in graphic design. Taking these characteristics and forwarding them into a brand, allows structure be initially involved from one form of media to another.
As there has been distinct structural evidence to suggest that Adolf Hitler created, and implemented a mass marketed, globalised brand. The same principles could be easily applied to any areas of communication through organisations worldwide. Significantly, the approach Hitler pushed the Nazi party towards, shows an extremely articulated and well-driven plan that had long been created before hand. Using a critical direct meaning distinctly shows a creative understanding influencing the outcomes of design work produced throughout the Nazi regime. Applying basic principles and theory, allowed a significant improvement on the parties behalf, essentially pushing the regime further into the minds of the audience.
- Steven Heller / Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State / 2008
- Daniel Chandler / The Basics: Semiotics / 2002
- Adolf Hitler / Mein Kampf (My Struggle)
- Jonathan Baldwin / Visual Communication / 2006
* Just to note, I will Include images for reference and a further detailed, source information for final essay.