Poster for Heineken ‘Obertje’ (Little Waiter)
116 x 82.5 cm
It remains an iconic image: a ‘vase’ model beer glass with arms and legs dashing across a Heineken beer coaster with a tray on which are two filled glasses. The little vase’s haste is indicated by its flapping foam hair. A bead of sweat slides down through the condensation on the cool beer glass.
The funny little beer man was designed by Ger Dorant (1917-2009), at the time the owner of Pätz Advertising Studio on Amsterdam’s Rokin Street. Dorant continued the studio of the German Wilm Pätz, where he became an apprentice artist at the age of fifteen, after the latter’s death in 1946.
Together with Mrs Pätz and colleague Jan Makkes, Dorant worked for clients such as Ilford, Persil, Hoogenbosch and Huf, and thus also for Heineken. Dorant must have designed the ‘Little Waiter’ poster before 1964. An old photograph shows that this type of beer coaster still bears the old logo with the large star and Heineken’s name. The trademark with the red lips, the black banderole and the name Heineken without the ‘s’ was gradually introduced from 1963. The advertising department then seems to have adapted Dorant’s design to the new logo.
This apparently was with the maker’s consent, because Dorant continued to design for Heineken. His best-known advertising product is the large Heineken beer wagon, a retro horse-drawn cart with wooden barrels dating from before the Second World War. A photograph taken on 18 May 1977 features the ‘flagship of the advertising caravan’ in front of Heineken Hoek. That day, the beer wagon made its first trip from the brewery on Stadhouderskade to this pub on Leidseplein, where a symbolic barrel of beer was delivered.
In the same period, Piet Cottaar, advertising painter for Heineken Rotterdam, produced various works on commission for his employer. For the head office on Crooswijksesingel he painted this view of the northern bank of the Maas, entitled Havenstad – Heinekenstad (Port City – Heineken City). A close look at the painting reveals all sorts of little jokes in the waves. The white Heineken ship bears the name Dorstdrecht (a pun on the name of the city of Dordrecht, here given as Thirsty City), for example, with a man floating in a beer barrel in the middle, and on the left there is Ger Dorant’s waiter surfing on the poster’s beer coaster!
Like foaming beers
In 1974, Dorant started his own design studio, Design & Selling, in Laren. From then on, he called himself ‘creative consultant’ and focused on exhibition fairs. The ‘Little Waiter’ gradually disappeared from the Dutch streets. However, as is often the case with art, if enough time passes, a style automatically becomes popular again. In 1996 Heineken began producing tin plate replicas of Dorant’s nostalgic advertising design. They are still selling like hot cakes or foaming beers, if you will.