I came across Lothar Reher’s work while perusing random tumblr images, when I first saw Typoart Garamond used in real life. The bowl form of lowercase ‘a’ was so distinct that I couldn’t miss. East Germany paperbacks?! Driven by immense curiosity I went on a Google search.
Minutes after, I’m looking at the Spektrum paperback covers published in East Berlin by Volk und Welt from 1968 to 1993. All but one of the series’ 279 titles were designed by Lothar Reher, a relatively unknown GDR designer. Marlene Morley did an introduction on AIGA Eye on Design:
His choice of a matte black background was heavily debated in 1968, but Reher insisted it be used; over time a second name caught on, and Spektrum became known as the “Schwarze Serie” (the Black Series).
Combining photomontage, black background and a Marber-esque grid system, these covers’ austere handsomeness moved me immensely. The prominent use of Typoart Garamond, instead of the usually expected Standard AKA Akzidenz-Grotesk, adds a restrained flair, though this typeface choice was born out of necessity: it was the most accessible among GDR printers at that time. The zigzag logo for publisher Volk und Welt was designed by Klaus Wittkugel (1910–1985).
Walker Art Center has an interview with Wayne Daly and Adrien Vasquez who exhibited A Shelf for Lothar at the 27th Brno Biennial in 2016 and produced the accompanying publication, Dressed in Black: Spektrum and Lothar Reher. This book collecting the Spektrum covers is available for purchase from Precinct.
Lothar Reher passed away on April 6, 2018, aged 85. Jörg Stürzebecher wrote an obituray for Form magazine.
Photo(s) by “Steve” on Flickr.
Contributed by Stephen Coles
Photo(s) by “Groove is in the Art” on Flickr.