Hanns Lohrer was a German painter and commercial graphic designer based in the city of Stuttgart. In spite of his artistic prowess, it is perhaps his design work for a local car company that he is best known. That company, of course, is Porsche.

In the 1950s and ’60s, Lohrer defined the branding and visual identity of Porsche, creating a bold, exciting look in its commercial advertising and media. He combined colorful graphics and black-and-white photography to achieve this in a way that was bracing and aesthetically fresh for the time, using radical layouts that departed from the staid advertising conventions of the era.

Lohrer’s most significant impact was to shift Porsche’s advertising into the realm of “lifestyle” branding. Instead of a product-focused approach highlighting the vehicles’ specific performance and engineering attributes, he showed Porsches in the context of recreation, leisure, fashion, fun and luxury, in doing so elevating the sense of the owner’s status, as well as that of the vehicle itself.

Other graphic designers and marketers took notice. The impact and importance of good design and carefully-crafted branding, in all its manifestations, how it could reflect the brand and shape its perception — and, above all, add value — was becoming better understood.

Porsche cars are incredibly, beautifully designed vehicles. In many ways, they speak for themselves. Rarely does a product of any kind consistently possess an external quality that matches the quality of its performance and experience with the consumer. Few companies are so good in this way. (Apple Computer, Mercedes-Benz and Patagonia are few other companies that come to mind.) But it’s not always enough.

All the communications from the company about its products need to match that quality, too. It needs to underscore the essence of that product’s quality and the vision behind it. Lohrer’s work nails it. A lifetime after his designs were first introduced, his work admittedly looks likes its from another era. Dated, yes, but aesthetically as magical now as it must have seemed then.

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