Peter Behrens, a selftaught architect and

designer, was a
prolific and outstanding
figure of the German
Jugendstil
movement at the
beginning of the
twentieth century.
Originally from
Hamburg, Behrens
studied painting in
Munich. Inspired
by the British Arts and
Crafts reform ideals of
William Morris and
others, he
designed a villa in
Darmstadt's artists'
colony in 1902. This
was praised as a
"Gesamtkunstwerk", a
total work of art,
conforming to the
contemporary ideal
that all aspects of
design should be given
equal attention and be
coordinated
in the same style. The
same principle was to
inform much of his
later work.
In the field of graphic
design Behrens was
most important for his
early
Symbolist prints
published in small art
journals, his typeface
designs and his
work for the Berlin
electrical manufacturer
AEG. All of this was
largely
undertaken between
1900 and 1914; after
World War I Behrens
worked mainly

as an architect. In the
belief that, with the
turn of the century, the
arts were in
need of regeneration,
German type foundries
commissioned Behrens
to design
typefaces which would
express the new spirit
of the age. It was also
hoped
that these might help
put German industry on
a competitive footing
with
France. Controversially,
against the German
tradition of setting
texts in Gothic
script, Behrens was
keen to base designs
on roman typefaces. He
inflected
these with calligraphic
qualities more
associated with
German lettering. The
first of the designs was
Behrens-Schrift of
1902, a distinctive,
elongated
letterform compatible
with Jugendstil
decoration. Kursiv
followed in 1906, and
Behrens-Antiqua was
available in 1908. The
latter, a "roman in a
German
spirit", was used
extensively in
Behrens's designs for
AEG.
In 1907 Behrens was
appointed artistic
director to
AEG, a major
manufacturer of

generators, cables,
light
bulbs, arc lamps and
other electrical goods
for domestic
and industrial use. This
was among the most
celebrated
appointments in design
history, as it heralded
the birth of
the corporate identity.
Behrens's
responsibilities grew
from
overseeing trade
pamphlets and
advertising to
organizing
displays at
international
exhibitions. He
redesigned AEG's
trademark as a
hexagonal motif,
reminiscent of a
honeycomb, which he
then applied to the
designs of new
products, such as
electric kettles, fans
and lamps. This
led to a visual
consistency in all AEG
goods, which
brought instant
recognition by the
consumer. Extensive
use of Behrens-Antiqua
gave the company's
identity a
clean, sober
appearance and
brought AEG praise for
its
systematic ordering of
product information.
Behrens's

This approach became associated with much modern German design for the rest of the century. . geometry and strong black and white contrasts. The classicism of Behrens's designs.architectural office in Berlin also oversaw the construction of new factories and workers' housing for AEG. with their striking use of symmetry. was praised for giving AEG a look which was artistic yet rational.