Christmas in Design Archives Online

By Ruth de Wynter, Project Assistant, Design Archives Online

When it comes to Christmas shopping, two perennial problems are what to buy and – if you’re not handing over your thoughtful gift in person – getting it in the post in time to reach its lucky recipient. Hans Schleger and Hans Unger, two of the émigré designers featured in the first phase of the V&A’s ‘Design Archives Online’ project, tackled these issues in their own distinctive styles. Both designers hailed from Germany, began their careers in Berlin and settled in England after spending time abroad; Unger in South Africa and Schleger in the United States. And both, according to those that knew them, had a sense of humour and fun.

Arriving in New York from Berlin in 1924, Hans Schleger threw himself headlong into the life of what he described in 1930 as the “great ant hill.” Bringing fresh, vivacious and thoroughly modern ideas to graphic advertising, within two years of his stepping off the boat his commercial success saw him hailed as “the Wunderkind” by Gebrauchsgraphik magazine.

‘A letter to my wife’

‘A letter to my wife’, advertisement, Hans Schleger, ca.1925-9. AAD/2008/11/3/22. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London/estate of Hans Schleger

Schleger’s work (under the moniker Zéró) for men’s clothing chain Weber and Heilbroner is amongst his most well-known. His clean and modern illustrations beautifully offset Silas Spitzer’s slightly sardonic copy. The Weber and Heilbroner series includes sorry tales of wives struggling to satisfy their husbands’ very particular tastes at Christmas. The offending ladies are directed to offer redress to their ‘Lord and Master’ via purchases from (naturally) Weber and Heilbroner!

Weber and Heilbroner, advertisement, Hans Schleger, ca.1925-9

Weber and Heilbroner, advertisement, Hans Schleger, ca.1925-9. AAD/2008/11/3/21. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London/estate of Hans Schleger

Moving far from the ‘lustrous silk pyjamas’ of the 1920s, there was a plethora of desirable gifts to make your husband’s Christmas in a 1950s Austin Reed advertisement illustrated by Hans Unger; a Bri-nylon shirt, a “host coat to play host,” Nefertiti cuff-links or a Zodiac tie. What man could resist?

Like Hans Schleger before him, (as seen in Design Archives Online’s first blog post) Unger also undertook work for the General Post Office (GPO) over a number of years after settling in the UK in 1948. This included a series of advertisements published in the run-up to the festive season in the 1950s and 1960s. Unger’s cheerful and deceptively child-like posters exhort the public to travel, shop and post early in time for Christmas.

‘Post early,’ poster, Hans Unger, 1952

‘Post early,’ poster, Hans Unger, 1952. AAD/1978/1/16. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London/estate of Hans Unger

The V&A’s Archive of Art and Design (AAD) is located in what was once the headquarters of the Post Office Savings Bank and the site still contains the West Kensington Royal Mail delivery office. As a sign that some things change slowly they have up as I write the 2016 incarnation of Unger’s festive advertisements. And in case this reminds you that you need to get some Christmas cards in the post, this year make sure you do it by December the 21st!

‘Post early,’ poster, Hans Unger, 1964

‘Post early,’ poster, Hans Unger, 1964. AAD/1978/1/18. ©Victoria and Albert Museum, London/estate of Hans Unger



Queer Film Archives & An Armchair Tour – 22nd November

Having already given you a wee glimpse into some of the work we have been doing in preparation for our Being Human events, now is the time for me to clearly explain details of the events and encourage you to get the dates and times in your diaries.


Bird la Bird, ready at the Information Desk to give you all the details. I’m hoping her rather authoritative demeanor is prompting you to concentrate and take this all down.  © Holly Revell

Firstly, both events are taking place on in the Lecture Theatre on Sunday 22nd November.


The Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre

Both events are FREE. Booking isn’t necessary and you can just turn up on the day – entry will be on a first-come-first-served basis, so please arrive in good time. However, it would be very helpful for our preparations (and for the Being Human records) if you would be kind enough to take a moment to please register your intention to attend through the Eventbrite links given below.

The Lecture Theatre is wheelchair accessible. It also features an induction loop – you will need to switch your hearing aid to the ‘T’ position in order to use. For any assistance during your visit, please contact a member of staff or the Disability Officer on telephone +44 (0)20 7942 2766, text phone +44 (0)20 7942 2002, or email


FROM THE QUEER FILM ARCHIVES will run from 11:00 am until 12:30.

Still supplied by Outfest UCLA Legacy Project

Still supplied by Outfest UCLA Legacy Project

This screening is a tantalising selection of what the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project is helping to protect, with a 90 minute set of documentary shorts from 1950 to 1971. Highlights include ‘Queens at Heart’, an extraordinary pseudo-scientific interview with male-to-female transsexuals from New York City in candid discussion about their lives and identities, and ‘Mona’s Candle Light Footage’, an exceedingly rare snippet presenting patrons of a San Francisco lesbian bar circa 1950’.

Some of you may have seen excerpts of this selection during the Queer and Now Friday Late back in February. The Museum was extremely busy that night and not everyone managed to squeeze into the Lecture Theatre to see the films. Following numerous requests, we will be showing the whole 90 minute show reel.

Please register your intention to attend here.




Your (armchair) tour guide for the afternoon, Bird la Bird. © Dawn Hoskin

In her own inimitable style, combing comedy, gossip, politics and insight, Bird la Bird will take visitors on an ‘armchair tour’ through the miles of Museum galleries and beyond. Exploring the intersections between LGBT, class, and colonial history, Bird will encourage us to ponder the nature of LGBT history whilst rifling through the V&A’s drawers!

This event will be BSL interpreted and audio described.

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Please register your intention to attend here.


Find out more about other events that are part of Being Human (‘The UK’s only national festival of the humanities’) here.