Lucian Bernhard was born Emil Kahn in Stuttgart Germany and adopted his pseudonym in 1905. He studied for a brief time at Akademie der Kunst, Munich and in Berlin. His career began after winning the poster competition for Priester Matches in 1905. His early work, for such clients as Manoli Cigarettes and Stiller Shoes, is noted for their simple images and dramatic use of flat color against pale, monochrome backgrounds. During WWII he designed posters for the German War effort. In 1920 he was appointed as the first professor of poster design at The Akademie der Kunst, Berlin. He was also a co-founder of the magazine Das Plakat a predecessor of Gebrauchsgraphik. He moved to New York in 1923 and continued his poster work. He also continued his teaching at the Art Students League and at New York University. His success as a poster designer enabled him to successfully bridge into type design, furniture design as well as fashion and packaging design. His type designs include Bernhard Antiqua, Bernhard Fraktur, Bernhard Roman, Bernhard Cursive and Bernhard Brush Script for the Bauer Type Foundry.
Once in the United states he designed Bernhard Fashion, Bernhard Gothic and Bernhard Tango for the American Type Foundry. After 1930 he turned his attention to sculpture and to painting. In 1997 he was awarded the AIGA medal.