How elegant is a pretzel? What makes a beer table so charming? And what is actually special about the classic Munich typeface? Renowned Munich designers review some everyday objects that are a regular sight about the city.
Flaka Haliti (visual artist)
“I first encountered pretzels when I came to Munich from Frankfurt. I liked the slightly bitter flavour of the crust – I think they make a great appetiser, especially with some hot mustard. But the pretzel is clearly so much more than just food. Its shape is completely definitive – after all, a Brezensemmel (“pretzel roll”) is something completely different. You can hold a pretzel up to become a pair of glasses, and if you turn it upside down, it looks like an angry emoji. The loops of the pretzel are also rather anthropomorphic – in fact, one explanation for the origin of the name is that it comes from the word brachium, Latin for “arm”.
''The two loops of the pretzel look like crossed arms. I like that. It is a negating gesture, one that offers freedom and allows for movement.''
The two loops of the pretzel look like crossed arms. I like that. It is a negating gesture, one that offers freedom and allows for movement. A pretzel is all of these things, but in particular, it is a very childish object. It’s really just made up of handles; like a kind of edible steering wheel, made so that children can grip it easily. Perhaps that’s why all Bavarians have an emotional relationship with the pretzel.
It is also the only food I know that is also available as an inflatable water toy – ever since I googled the word “pretzel”, it’s been recommended by Amazon again and again. Then when I looked at the shape more closely, I noticed a nice aspect: the floating pretzel is made up of three connected swimming rings – this thrusts three people into a very intimate relationship. Only the pretzel could pull off something like that”.
Flaka Haliti is a visual artist. She has had numerous international exhibitions, including a presentation in a pavilion at the Venice Biennale.
Mirko Borsche (graphic designer)
“A great many different fonts are used on road signs around Munich. One of the most beautiful of these is the Munich typeface. It is a ‘grotesque’ typeface – in other words, a sans serif font – evolved from Univers, one of the greats among classic grotesque fonts. Otl Aicher reworked Univers and the resulting font was first used in the 1972 Olympics.
“A great many different fonts are used on road signs around Munich. One of the most beautiful of these is the Munich typeface.''
Aicher is one of the most important graphic designers to emerge after 1945. He designed the iconic pictograms depicting various sports, which have been used all over the world since the 1972 Olympic Games. He also designed the Munich Airport logo, the clarity of which is still striking today. The Munich typeface is similarly clear and modern. It reminds us of a time when Munich was still looking cheerfully to the future.”
Mirko Borsche is a typographer and graphic designer. He is one of the most prominent designers in the country and the art director for Zeit magazine.
Ayzit Bostan (fashion designer)
I love the Willi Becher. I’m fond of the Masskrug tankard; its dimples, which are known as ‘eyes’, give it a rustic touch. And I love it when you hear old locals come out with: ‘Trinken wir noch ein Aug’ (‘Let’s have another eye’), meaning a big gulp from the Masskrug. But I prefer the Willi Becher. It is the ideal beer glass. Beer gets warm in the krug; you have to drink it quickly from the Willi Becher too, but it’s doable.
''And I love it when you hear old locals come out with: ‘Trinken wir noch ein Aug’ (‘Let’s have another eye’), meaning a big gulp from the Masskrug. But I prefer the Willi Becher. It is the ideal beer glass.''
I would say the ratio of beer to head is about 4/5 to 1/5 – that is pretty much the golden ratio in beer culture. However, it is the elegant taper towards the bottom, the gentle curve, that really sets the Willi Becher apart. The Willi Becher is not conservative, it always feels light and yet it is also down-to-earth. And, last but not least, there is the name: it always makes me think of Willy, Maya the Bee’s clumsy friend. You can’t help loving him, and he is also yellow.”
Ayzit Bostan is a fashion designer and Professor of Design specialising in textile product design at the Kunsthochschule Kassel art college.
Stefan Diez (product designer)
“The modern beer bench was not invented in Munich, but the Wiesn means it can, of course, be seen all over the city. When it comes to the beer bench, function takes priority: it is a pure standardised product. That’s all about its stackability. Beer table sets are designed to take up the smallest possible space when they are stacked together. It is also important to be able to seat as many people at them as possible.
''You can tell how well a beer bench is designed from how invisible it is. People don’t notice beer benches any more than they see individual pieces of pasta when eating a meal.''
You can tell how well a beer bench is designed from how invisible it is. People don’t notice beer benches any more than they see individual pieces of pasta when eating a meal, though you can sometimes see how well-thought-out beer table design is in Munich’s beer gardens. Although they age particularly well, it is not good for the wood if water is left on the surface.
That’s why benches and tables are often tipped over when it is raining, to allow the water to run off. Their dimensions allow them to be nested together to form a large structure which is somewhat reminiscent of a house of cards built by a giant.”
Stefan Diez is a product designer. His works have been exhibited in Cologne Museum of Applied Art (Museum für angewandte Kunst), among other venues.