Walter Allner, German (1909 - 2006)

Born in Dessau, Germany, on Jan. 2, 1909, Walter Heinz Allner enrolled at the Bauhaus, the legendary German design school, in 1927, two years after it moved from Weimar to his hometown and six years before the Nazis closed it. He studied typography, poster design and painting for three years, at various times under leaders of the Modern movement, including Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee.

Designer, typographer and painter Walter Allner was trained at the Bauhaus where he studied with masters Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and Joost Schmidt. He was the Paris editor of Graphis magazine from 1945-1948 and in 1949 emigrated to the US. Allner was an influential art director at Fortune magazine from 1963-1974.

Two years after founding his own design firm, Omnium Graphique in Paris, Mr. Allner left it in 1936 to devote himself exclusively, if temporarily, to painting abstract works and exhibited at the Salon des Surindépendants in Paris. He eventually returned to graphic design, first as editor of the Swiss design journal Graphis. In 1948 he founded the International Poster Annual, earning a place as one of the world’s leading experts on poster history.

During his 12 years at Fortune, in addition to maintaining the magazine’s Bauhaus-inspired contemporary typography and elegant overall design scheme, he personally created 79 covers, which ran the gamut from minimalist graphic abstraction to complex photographic collage.

In 1965, after taking a course at M.I.T., he experimented with the first computer-designed cover on a national magazine for the annual Fortune 500 issue. A company press release at the time proudly noted that the image, consisting of arrows in upward flight behind large illuminated numerals, was generated on a computer’s oscilloscope and then photographed.

After leaving Fortune in 1974, he taught and lectured. His motto for students and professionals was “Raise the aesthetic standard — the public is more perceptive than you think.” He also continued to design posters based on principles he learned at the Bauhaus: shunning any superfluous ornamentation and conveying messages with brevity and simplicity.

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