The Ampel Mann

Ampelmannchen literally meaning little traffic light man is the traffic light symbol for street crossings in the East Berlin, designed by Karl Pegulau (a traffic psychologist) in October 1961; it was the first pedestrian sign in GDR Berlin initially designed as method of media publicity became a recognisable image in Berlin. It was soon joined by the traffic lights for traffic so that road users can travel round the city with ease.


The human aspect of the traffic lights appealed to Berliners and soon became accepted as part of street life. Referred to as the ampel man featured in animated film by director Friedrcih Rochow as part of a road safety advert. It also featured in the popular bed show Sandmannchen teaching children road safety

first (30 seconds)


The advert demonstrates children in possibly dangerous situation with the ampel men offering road safety.  The red man indicates danger and the green man acts as an advisor to children.

After the reunification of Berlin it was predicted like many East German icons the ampel men would be removed. The West Berlin authorities disliked the ample man and started to convert to the European traffic lights. In 1996 industrial designer Markus Heckhausen continued with the design of the ampel man and they became popular again in culture.

In East Berlin a committed was created by creative politicians from both East and West Berlin ‘committee for the preservation of the ampel men’this was successful and the little men became features of lifestyle products and media campaigns. The ampel man became an icon of East Berlin culture till 1999 when the design was adapted the logo to AMPELMANN GmbH located in central berlin is now recognised universally as an iconic image and connotation of Berlin. The physical appearance of the East ampel mann was broader in shape and wore a distinctive hat illuminating teh symbol further, more than the European traffic lights. Eventually the European man became integrated into society.

The Ampel mann can be seen on the streets on mostly federal state buildings and municipal, however only a few West German crossings that the original east ampel men direct citizens. In 199 designers Barbara Ponn designed a collection of merchandise with the ampel men image on this ranged from magnets, t shirts and kitchen utilises. The brand is now global success and has a large fan following a vast collection of merchandise for men women, home and children.



Ruth Heavey

Refs (14/02/13) (14/02/13) (14/02/13)


One thought on “The Ampel Mann

  1. Pingback: Unter den Linden: Memory Lane or Path to the Future? | EUROKULTURE

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