Erik Nitsche and General Dynamics

Erik Nitsche
Erik Nitsche’s “Atoms for Peace” poster campaign

In the spring of 1955, U.S. defense company General Dynamics called designer Erik Nitsche in an emergency. For the first International Atomic Energy Conference, the company needed a new identity designed to sum up both the purpose of the conference and the constructive role of a corporate giant born in the atomic age.

But General Dynamics had a problem: the company had built the first atomic submarine, but for security reasons little could be shown to the public.

In the absence of actual atomic products, a symbolic expression of General Dynamics’ corporate mission was needed. Nitsche rose to the occasion with his Atoms for Peace poster campaign, published in six languages. It deeply impressed the conference and quickly spread throughout the world.

Although Nitsche went on to produce work for a laundry list of high caliber clients, his greatest achievement is linked to General Dynamics. A tireless and prolific artist, Nitsche continued to work on projects until his death in 1998. He was 90.

Graphis honored Nitsche in 1958 in Graphis Magazine, Issue 79. Much to our fascination, the editor’s note really places Nitsche’s work in the context of the atomic age, and reflects the close relationship General Dynamics cultivated with its designer. Here is an excerpt:

General Dynamics, now incorporating seven divisions with an enormous range of activities of great economic and political significance in the fields of nuclear energy, the building of atomic submarines, rocketry, aviation and electronics, has entrusted to the Swiss-American designer, Erik Nitsche, the task of expressing by visual means the vast concept of the Corporation, and its underlying aim: the benefit of mankind by scientific research. Erik Nitsche was born in Lausanne in 1908 and went to America in 1934. He is widely known as a designer to many industries, and his work has appeared in a great variety of publications. He is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale.

To read the full article, click here to purchase a PDF of Graphis Magazine, Issue 79.

Author: Kayla Harris for Graphis

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