Monday, April 19, 2010

Das hoax

Poster for Pfäfferli+Huber Pharmaceuticals,
attributed to Ernst Bettler, 1959

In the late 1950's, designer Ernst Bettler created four striking modernist posters for the Swiss pharmaceutical company Pfäfferli + Huber. According to Bettler, he was aware of the dark history of the company's experiments on WW2 German concentration camp prisoners, and hoped he could expose their involvement with his campaign. Each of the posters focused on one product and hidden within the image was a letter. The poster for the relief of headache (image above), cleverly combines the figure's arms with the text to form the letter 'A.' Displayed correctly as a group, the posters would spell out the word, N-A-Z-I. Supposedly, mere weeks after their release, the posters prompted immediate outrage and inarguably ruined Pfäfferli + Huber.

The original story of Bettler and his subversive work first appeared in the graphic design magazine Dot, Dot, Dot(issue #2), but quickly spread to design oriented websites and was referenced repeatedly. For two years the story gained momentum, until one blogger named Andy Crewdson did some research and found Pfäfferli + Huber never existed and neither did Ernst Bettler. For more about this story, read the informative Eye magazine article.

As an added bit of intrigue, Andy Crewdson created the well respected but now-defunct website, Lines and Splines. His web presence dates back several years, leaving readers chattering about who he is, where he is and what he's doing these question posted muses whether Crewdson really exists.

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