Hans Schleger was born in Kempen, Germany. He trained at the National School of Applied Art, Berlin (Kuntstgewerbeschule) between 1918 and 1921, at a time when the Bauhaus was making an impact. Between 1921 and 1924 Schleger was a publicity and film set designer for Karl Hagenbeck, also in Berlin. In 1924 he moved to New York for five years, where he ‘contributed to the development of modern American advertising design’, first as a freelance designer, then a year as art director of an advertising agency. He was an early contributor to the New Yorker and taught for a while as visiting Associate Professor at the Institute of Design, Chicago, Illinois. It was during this period that he adopted that pseudonym Zéró, having established his own Madison Avenue Studio in 1926.
In 1929 Schleger returned to Berlin, working the German office of W.S. Crawford’s advertising agency. In 1932 he settled permanently in England, becoming naturalised in 1938. Opening his own studio, he was ‘mainly concerned with the establishment of an organic design and advertising policy for British industrial concerns, including the British Sugar Corporation, Fisons, MacFisheries, Finmar, the John Lewis Partnership and others’. A close friend of Kauffer, E. McKnight, Schleger also helped familiarise the public with modernistic graphic design. He was an early proponent of the concept of ‘corporate identity’, refining the famous London Transport ‘Circle-and-bar’ symbol for use as the bus stop symbol.
A member of the AGI, Schleger’s inter-war work had included the design of many posters, and his work, particularly from the Second World War, ‘was distinguished by wit and innovative techniques like photomontage’. During the Second World War Schleger designed many posters for London Transport, the Ministry of Food and the GPO. Schleger believed that his work not only required a professional approach, but had ‘international and social influence’. He did not accept the limitations of wartime shortages and insisted on the highest standards. In 1946 Schleger designed and contributed to the influential text The Practice of Design. Art and Industry described the work of Schleger in May 1948, with his use of modern poster design. During the 1950s and 1960s, along with Henrion, F.H.K., Schleger pioneered corporate identity in Britain, both through collaboration with Mather and Crowther (advertising agency) and through Hans Schleger and Associates, founded in 1953. In 1959 he was appointed Royal Designer for Industry.
Major commissions by Schleger included the symbols for the Design Centre in Haymarket, London (1955), and the Edinburgh International Festival, designed 1966 (replaced 1978). Schleger lectured and exhibited widely, acting as a visiting lecturer to the Chelsea Polytechnic, the Central School of Arts and Crafts, the Royal College of Art, all in London, and the Regional College of Art, Manchester. He was visiting associate professor to the Institute of Design in Chicago for a year. One-man exhibitions of his work were held in London, New York and Chicago, plus he participated in many European exhibitions, and one in Tokyo. Papers covering Hans Schleger’s work as a corporate, exhibition and graphic designer from c.1950-1978 are held at the National Art Library.
Information taken from: Livingston, A. and Livingston, I., Dictionary of Graphic Design and Designers, 1992, p.175, Darracott, J. and Loftus, B., Second World War Posters, 1981 (1972), p.59, London Transport Museum Database, February 2000, quoting Green 1990, Gowing, M., ‘The Creative Mind in Advertising: Ruth Gill’, Art and Industry, Vol. 63, No. 375, September 1957, p.88, Gowing, M., ‘Zero: Hans Schleger’, Art and Industry, Vol. 44, No. 263, May 1948, pp.162-167, Amstutz, W., Who’s Who in Graphic Art, 1962, p.264, National Art Library, ‘AAD Holdings’, http://www.nal.vam.ac.uk/aad/aadalpha.html, accessed August 28 2003