Hans Schleger

  • Some of the most important work of Hans Schleger was created for London Transport. He relaunched London Transport bus stop signs and was responsible for a series of Blackout posters.
  • Hans
  • Schleger
  • Zéró

  • 29-12-1898
  • Kempen (DE)
  • 18-09-1976
  • London (GB)
  • Graphic Designer
  • Some of the most important work of Hans Schleger was created for London Transport. He relaunched London Transport bus stop signs and was responsible for a series of Blackout posters.

    Word Count: 30

  • Zéró (Hans Schleger), In the Blackout to hail a bus or tram shine your torch on to your hand, 1943, poster (© TfL from the London Transport Museum collection, © estate of Hans Schleger).
  • Some of the most important work of the graphic designer Hans Schleger was created for London Transport. Born Hans Leo Degenhard Schlesinger to a Prussian Jewish family, Schleger studied with Emil Orlik at the Kunstgewerbeschule (Art School) in Berlin and came to England in 1932 after working in New York and Berlin. Schleger, who signed himself “Zéró”, had already enjoyed international renown for several years at this time, so was able to set up his own agency in London quite easily. In 1935, Schleger succeeded in integrating the round signet of the company as part of the image dramaturgy. The reassuring glance at the wristwatch, which also forms the circular sign of public transport, simulates punctuality and reliability.

    The London Transport trademark was also to commission Hans Schleger in another major commission. As a transnational artist who had worked equally successfully in Germany, the United States and Great Britain, Schleger was interested in signs as means of communication that transcended national borders and languages. For the relaunch of London Transport’s bus stop signage, Schleger freed the previously used panels from superfluous decoration and placed the letters, all the same size, inside a red circle that captured the gaze. Schleger wrote in 1962: “As trade and communication are becoming world-wide, the image grows into a truly international language. [...] The best trade marks are seen and recognised – and not translated.” (Schleger 1962/2001, 77) Schleger’s design corresponded to the modernisation efforts which were to transform London Transport into an efficient service company, also for tourists, from 1933. With his bus stop signs that were to grace London’s streets for more than fifty years, the émigré graphic designer Schleger had become a British artist who made an important contribution to English design history.

    How visible Hans Schleger was to become as a national artist can be seen in his work during the war years after 1941. During this time, the graphic designer received commissions from state institutions such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Food, for which he designed campaigns on growing and eating vegetables in one's own garden. For his long-time client London Transport, Schleger was responsible for the Posters for the Blackout series in 1943, which served to instruct the citizens on safe behaviour. The Blackout was intended to make attacks by German bombers at night more difficult. Every citizen was required to darken his windows, streetlights were switched off, and cars had to drive without headlights (Ziegler 1995, 64–69).

    Due to countless accidents on London’s pavements and streets, people carried torches. London Transport customers were given advice such as “Wear or carry something white”, “To hail a bus or tram shine a torch on to your hand”, and “Be sure the bus or tram has stopped”. Schleger decided to translate these important messages into an easily decipherable visual language. The aim was to avoid panic and chaos and invoke calmness. The brief instructions were translated into an illustration designed to engage the citizens and politely motivate them to cooperate. Characteristic of this particular rhetoric is the last poster in the series, with the invitation “Pause as you leave the station's light”: two men, their faces half-shadowed, half-lit, wear the characteristic London headgear: a bowler hat. Schleger takes up this advertising motif, which was already popular in the pre-war period, to demonstrate the continuity of the everyday in times of crisis. The restraint and simplicity of his designs, the “less is more” that Schleger also emphasised in numerous articles on commercial graphics, made him a formative figure in English graphic design.

    In 1953, the Hans Schleger and Associates studio was founded; it is considered a pioneer of corporate identity in Great Britain. In 1959, Hans Schleger, who had already received British citizenship in 1939, was appointed Royal Designer for Industry – an award that was also given to the textile designer Margaret Leischner. In Germany, Hans Schleger’s work was put on show at the exhibition documenta III in Kassel in 1964.

    Word Count: 653

  • Zéró (Hans Schleger), Bus stop sign, 1935 (© TfL from the London Transport Museum collection, © estate of Hans Schleger).
    Hans Schleger at his home in Swan Court, London, 1930s (© estate of Hans Schleger).
  • Black, Jonathan. “For the People’s Good: Hans Schleger (1898–1976), Poster Design and British National Identity, 1935–60.” Transnationalism and Visual Culture in Britain: Émigrés and Migrants 1933 to 1956, special issue of Visual Culture in Britain, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 169–190. Taylor & Francis Online, doi: Accessed 9 March 2021.

    Bownes, David, and Oliver Green, editors. London Transport Posters. A Century of Art and Design. Lund Humphries, 2008.

    Hans Schleger – a life of design, exh. cat. Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2007.

    Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1933–1945, exh. cat. Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin, 1986.

    Schleger, Hans. “The Function and Limitation of the Trade Mark.” (1962) Pat Schleger. Zéró. Hans Schleger – A Life of Design. Princeton Architectural Press, 2001, p. 77.

    Schleger, Pat. Zéró. Hans Schleger – A Life of Design. Princeton Architectural Press, 2001.

    Ziegler, Philip. London at War 1939–1945. Knopf, 1995.

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  • London Transport Museum collection.

    Victoria & Albert Museum, London, Hans Schleger archive.

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  • My deepest thanks go to Helen Draper and Maria Schleger and also to Caterina Tiezzi (London Transport Museum) for their kind help and permission to reproduce the works of Hans Schleger.

    Word Count: 31

  • Burcu Dogramaci
  • London, UK (1932–1976).

  • Clanricarde Gardens, Bayswater, London W2 (1933–?); Swan Court, Chelsea Manor Street, Chelsea, London SW3 (1930s); Sloane Avenue, Chelsea, London SW3 (1939/40?); 14 Sydney Close, Kensington, London SW3 (studio, 1947–1976); 15 The Boltons, Kensington, London SW10 (residence, 1957?–1976).

  • London
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "Hans Schleger." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 01-05-2021.
  • Margaret Leischner
    Textile Designer

    The designer Margaret Leischner lived in England from 1938, worked for textile and furniture companies, taught at the Royal College of Art and was honoured as Royal Designer for Industry.

    Word Count: 29