Jean Carlu (1900 – 1989) was a French graphic designer. He originally began training as an architect but turned to commercial art after an accident in which he lost his right arm. During the 1920’s and 1930’s he was a leading figure in French poster design. He was one of the first who realised that to fix a trademark in the minds of consumers a process needs to be gone through in which schematic forms and expressive colours are applied. These are the characteristics that give his posters and other works their distinguishable quality.
As Carlu’s work evolved over the next two decades, it continued to show a concern with the geometric shapes of Cubism, but this was manifested in very different ways. Carlu sought to create a symbolic language in which color, line, and content would represent emotional values. His work thus achieved a distinctive, streamlined economy of form, rarely incorporating narrative or illustrative elements.
Carlu spent the years of World War II in the United States, where he executed a number of important poster designs for the government’s war effort. Characterized by the same scientific precision of form as his other work, these designs were well suited to the promotion of industrial efficiency. Both American and international design traditions continue to reflect his influence. Here Carlu designed his most famous poster, ‘America’s Answer! Production’, which won a New York Art Directors medal and was voted poster of the year by the NADC.
A few of his famous posters designed in the 50’s..
In 1953 he moved back to Paris, became art director for Larousse, and continued his work as a poster designer and consultant for many companies, including Air France and Firestone France. He was the International President of AGI from 1945 to 1956. Carlu was in charge of the first AGI Exhibition, held at the Louvre in 1955 which 74 designers from eleven countries took part, putting AGI on the world map.
He retired in 1974.