Israel Prize-winning Designer Behind Iconic Logos of El Al, Habima, Dies at 85

Dan Reisinger designed hundreds of symbols, stamps, army badges and medals, calendars, wall reliefs and more. His 'Let My People Go” poster from the late 1960s became a symbol of the struggle for Soviet Jewry

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Dan Reisinger at an exhibition of his works in Ashdod, 2010.
Dan Reisinger at an exhibition of his works in Ashdod, 2010.Credit: David Bachar

Dan Reisinger, the first designer to win the Israel Prize in the field, in 1998, passed away Wednesday in his sleep at age 85.

Reisinger designed iconic logos and posters that became part of the identity of many companies and public bodies, including the Habima national theater, El Al, National Insurance Institute, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Carmelit subway in Haifa, Israel Cancer Association and many more. For decades he also designed the Israel Defense Forces’ top medals as well as symbols for the Maccabiah Games. He worked with companies such as Tambour and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries on posters, packaging, letterheads and interior design.

He was born in Kanjiza (then in Yugoslavia, now Serbia) in 1934, the fourth generation of a family of artisans who made their living decorating public buildings and the homes of the wealthy in the Balkans. His grandfather was a ceiling painter; his father an amateur artist. He fled with his mother during World War II, while his father was forced into hard labor and died in the Holocaust.

Reisinger arrived in Israel in 1949 with his mother and step-father. One of his uncles taught him how to mix paints, and so on his arrival at age 15, he began working as a painter and helping to support his family. When he began studying at the Bezalel academy of art in Jerusalem in 1950, he was the youngest student there. He studied painting, sculpture and poster design at Bezalel from 1950 to 1954 – a time when “graphic design” was not yet taught in Israeli academia – with Mordecai Ardon, Zeev Ben-Zvi, Jacob Steinhardt and Rudy Dayan; he was an outstanding student.

Logos designed by Reisinger, including those of the National Insurance Institute, Habima Theater, and Teva Pharmaceuticals Credit: Dan Reisinger / Israel Museum collection, Jerusalem

After graduating he was drafted and served as the art director of the publications and posters department of the Israeli Air Force, and after his discharge spent several periods in Europe. In the late 1950s, he studied in London where he met his wife Annabelle.

In Brussels he won first place in the international contest for the poster for Expo ‘58, where his works were also exhibited in his first solo show. Reisinger went on to study painting and design in London, creating posters for the British postal service and other government institutions. In 1966 he was invited to design the main space for the Israeli pavilion at the Expo '67 world’s fair in Montreal.

In 1967 Reisinger opened his own studio in Tel Aviv. Together with Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, he founded the women’s magazine “At” (You), the country’s first color weekly, and he was one of the first local designers to stress the necessity of associating companies and public institutions with a single visual image. He designed hundreds of symbols, stamps, army badges and medals, calendars, wall reliefs and posters for cultural and political events. His work has been displayed in exhibitions all over the world including, in recent years, in Warsaw, in Budapest’s National Museum of Applied Art, Beijing’s Taipei National Museum of Art and at the cultural center in his birthplace, Kanjiza. The Israel Museum in Jerusalem exhibited his work a number of times, most recently, in 2017.

Reisinger's works at an exhibition at the Israel Museum in JerusalemCredit: Emil Salman

Reisinger also designed a number of political posters, such as “Let My People Go” poster from the late 1960s, which became a symbol of the struggle for Soviet Jewry.

In an interview with Haaretz in honor of the opening of his exhibition in the Israel Museum in 2017, he was asked how someone like him, a designer, describes himself: “The question embarrasses me a bit. When I was a little boy, my mother told me: ‘It’s not important what profession you choose as long as you know how to say it in one word.’ She didn’t like people who say they work in a lot of professions. She said it showed that they were busy with ‘fluff businesses,’ that they didn’t do anything.”

He was also upset that companies whose logos he had designed over the decades had changed them, saying “CEOs with egos think they know everything. Once a lot of CEOs were the investors and entrepreneurs. Today CEOS are sent by investment groups and the changes they make, the campaigns, come from ignorance, a lack of visual intelligence and a lack of understanding of the importance of continuity. Important international brands have not undergone any change.”

Reisinger leaves behind his wife Annabelle; three sons, Yoram, Eitan and Ilan; and five grandchildren. His funeral will take place on Thursday at 2 P.M. in the new cemetery in Ramat Hasharon.

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