Ladislav Sutnar (1897 – 1969) Czech Designer

Tea and Mocha Set 1929–1932 designed by Ladislav Sutnar
Tea and Mocha Set 1929–1932 designed by Ladislav Sutnar

Ladislav Sutnar was a bohemian painter and advertising, display, and industrial designer; born in Pilsen (now the Plzen Czech Republic.

Education

1915-23, studied School of Applied Arts and Charles University, and Technical University, all Prague. 

Biography

He worked in advertising and revolutionised the appearance of the Czech publications of the 1930s. From 1939 onwards, he worked in the USA. He continued to promote effective design and demonstrated the importance of high artistic standards. He has established many of the principles and purposes of visual communication. He is best known for what is now known as information design.

1923-36, he was a design professor at the State School of Graphic Arts in Prague.

The Minimum House (Nejmenší dům), edited by Oldřich Starý 1931 designed by Ladislav Sutnar
The Minimum House (Nejmenší dům), edited by Oldřich Starý 1931 designed by Ladislav Sutnar

From 1926, he was the designer of exhibitions of SCSD (Czechoslovak Werkbund) in Czechoslavakia and abroad.

From 1929, he was the artistic director of Krásná jizba (The Beautiful Room).

He was a board member of the magazine Panorama, promoting good design and the Modern aesthetic.

His most important designs included a 1930-32 glass drinking set, 1928-32 china table set, and cutlery.

In 1930, Sutnar produced designs for porcelain dinnerware and, in 1931, heat-resistant cups, tea sets, and containers for Schöne Stube in Prague. 

As the Czechoslovak government’s exhibition architect, he was the chief designer of the Czechoslovak Hall at the International Book Design Exhibition in Leipzig and the Czech pavilion at the 1939-40 ‘New York World’s Fair.’ 

Prototype for Build the Town building blocks 1940-43 designed by Ladislav Sutnar
Prototype for Build the Town building blocks 1940-43 designed by Ladislav Sutnar

A pioneering designer, he worked as a painter and stage designer, becoming one of the most notable exhibition designers of the 1930s. 

In 1939, he settled in the USA. From 1942, he was a designer and consulting art director to several firms; from 1941-60, he was director, of Sweet’s Catalogue Service. 

In 1951, he established his own design firm and was a fellow of the Institut International des Arts et Lettres.

He wrote numerous articles and books, including Design for Point of Sale (1952), Package Design: The Force of Visual Selling (1953), and Visual Design in Action: Principles, Purposes (1961). 

Celotex Structural Wall Units 1941-1960 by Ladislav Sutnar
Celotex Structural Wall Units 1941-1960 by Ladislav Sutnar

Recognition

He won a gold medal at the 1929-30 Exposición Internacional de Barcelona, grand prize at the 1936 (VI) Triennale di Milano, and 14 grand prizes and gold medals at the 1937 ‘Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques clans la Vie Moderne.’ 

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Suarez, M. F., & Woudhuysen, H. R. (2010). The Oxford companion to the book. Oxford University Press.

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