A brand with a history

The History of Berlin's iconic brand

Our history in a nutshell

1914

The first electrically operated traffic lights in the world

Experiments in the USA were more successful: the first electrically operated traffic lights in the world, with green- and red-coloured bulbs, were installed in Cleveland, Ohio, on August 5th, 1914.
1924

The first traffic lights in Berlin

Potsdamer Platz, a crossroad with more traffic than any other in Europe had always been the site of long traffic jams and a worrying number of accidents involving pedestrians. The police (carrying trumpets) was struggling to keep this chaos under control. Consequently, in 1924, the first traffic lights in Berlin were ceremonially put into service on Potsdamer Platz.
1961

The birth of the East German Ampelmännchen

On October 13th, 1961, the traffic psychologist Karl Peglau submitted his suggestion in Berlin for new traffic light symbols, including very specific ones for pedestrians. Then, the little East German traffic light men, or Ampelmännchen, were born.
1988

Markus Heckhausen falls in love with Berlin

In November 1988 Markus Heckhausen attended a design congress in West Berlin with three university friends. But in the divided Berlin, he found “the East” much more exciting. Heckhausen was fascinated.
1995

Markus Heckhausen moves to Berlin

Heckhausen had an idea: to use the traffic lights that had been written off as “useless” to create his products. So the next time a set of traffic lights was dismantled right before his eyes, this time on Rosenthaler Platz, he got ahold of the coloured glass without further ado. Working on the roof of his apartment in Auguststraße, Markus Heckhausen manufactured the first AMPELMANN product: the traffic light lamp.
1996

Karl Peglau and Markus Heckhausen meet

The more Karl Peglau told Markus Heckhausen about the story of the Ampelmännchen, the more he longed to preserve this unique knowledge and make it available to the public – in the form of a book.
1999

AMPELMANN GmbH

With the growing success of the AMPELMANN products, the new distribution structures and the positioning of the brand, it became necessary to select a new legal form: Markus Heckhausen founded AMPELMANN GmbH.
2001

The first AMPELMANN Shop

On the occasion of the Ampelmännchen’s 40th birthday, AMPELMANN held a party and set up a display of the first 20 products featuring the Ampelmännchen. For this purpose, Markus Heckhausen rented the converted transformer building in Hackesche Höfe, where he opened his first shop shortly afterwards.
2005

The rise of the East German Ampelmännchen

Karl Peglau’s Ampelmännchen were introduced in West Berlin by the Senate Department, an event that was surely a high point in the developer’s life.
2016

AMPELMANN just keeps on growing

Berlin Mitte has always been a trend-setting place. The AMPELMANN head office is located in the heart of the district, and it has developed into a flourishing family company. Today there are around 150 staff members looking after the Ampelmännchen brand.

From a traffic signal to an iconic figure

The designer Markus Heckhausen, originally from Tübingen who moved to Berlin in 1995, took on the little traffic light men who had been sent to the scrapheap, and rescued them from the yards of the road maintenance departments.

01 The history of pedestrian crossing lights

It is impossible to imagine it today, but there was once road traffic without traffic lights. Around 1900 the traffic density and speed in towns and cities were already becoming dangerous – so a technical solution was sought. The first experiments with light signals failed dramatically.

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The history of pedestrian crossing lights

02 The development of the East German Ampelmännchen

Behind the “cute” little Ampelmännchen there is much research and development work. The ultimate goal of the father of the Ampelmännchen was to create greater safety for pedestrians. So who was he, this father of the legendary Ampelmännchen?

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The development of the East German Ampelmännchen

03 Saving the Ampelmännchen

Shortly after the fall of the Wall, the district of Berlin Mitte was wild, unknown territory. This was when Markus Heckhausen arrived and has stayed until the present day. He enjoyed the freedom, made a far-reaching discovery – and used his creative talent to turn glass from redundant East German traffic lights into iconic objects.

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Saving the Ampelmännchen

The company

The Tübingen designer Markus Heckhausen, who moved to Berlin in 1995, took on the little traffic light men who had been sent to the scrapheap, and rescued them from the yards of the road maintenance departments.

The development of the company

The development of the company

A lot has happened since 1995. Our history in a nutshell.

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Our philosophy

Our philosophy

We don’t all come from Berlin, but we are true Berliners: we are interested in what is going on in the city and the new things people are doing. We are open, communicative and curious.

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Commitment and cooperation

Commitment and cooperation

Designing things together is a lot of fun and serves a good purpose too. Whether it is games or sport, art or culture, or a good cause, AMPELMANN gets involved.

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