Milan Vulpe: pioneer of commercial design

Credited as one of the pioneers of corporate branding in the region, Milan Vulpe collaborated with the leading marketing companies OZEHA and Interpublic and developed the visual identities for Chromos paint manufacturer during the 1950s and Pliva pharmaceutical company from the mid-50s to the late 1970s.

Before launching his design career, Vulpe studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. But like many painters of his generation, such as Ivan Picelj, Vulpe found his way into the burgeoning field of design. Corporate visual identity was a young field and, as advertising laws, regulations, and best practices had yet to be developed, designers such a Vulpe had free rein in determining a concept and style for the companies they worked with. Of course, creating a visual identity that was easily recognizable was a priority, but Vulpe also found a way to engage consumers with his visual identity for Chromos.

Drawing from the visual language of other fields – the abstraction of Exat 51 and similar tendencies in the work of Vlado Kristl and others associated with the Zagreb School of Animation – Vulpe created a brand “mascot,” a painter whose simple, geometric anatomy would appear again and again across all of the corporation’s advertisements. Owing to his simple form, the painter became a symbol for Chromos and an immediately recognizable and consistent one at that. Consumers knew to look for him on posters and leaflets, and he, in turn, showed them everything that could be painted with Chromos products, creating a playful relationship between customer and company.

Despite the success of this campaign and Vulpe’s talent and acuity for commercial design and visual identity, he is today not particularly well known even in Croatia. Art historian Feđa Vukić, who curated Dobar Izbor (Good Choice), a small exhibition of Croatia’s commercial design pioneers last December, has noted that Croatia’s commercial design history is fragmented, but even cursory analysis reveals how significant Vulpe’s work was in terms of developing the field of visual identity design.

To see how Croatian designers are approaching visual identity today, take a look at the work of Boris Ljubičić, Dario Dević and Hrvoje Živčić, and Bunch.

Jugoslavija 1000 Otoka (1960)

Jugoslavija 1000 Otoka (1960)


Chromos poster (1960)


Chromos print ads (1950s)

Written by Elaine Ritchel

Image source:,

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