otto neurath and Gerd Arntz

otto neurath and  Gerd Arntz


otto neurath
otto neurath

In 1921, Otto Neurath (1882-1945) , an Austrian social scientist, wanted to facilitate the understanding of various social and economical trends through a creative combination of statistical charts and graphic design. In 1924, Neurath argued for the establishment of a Museum of Economy and Society, an institution that would educate the public and provide social information. In May 1925, the Museum was opened and its first graphical displays tried to simplify various complicated social and economical trends. By using charts which were to be intuitive and interesting the attempt was made to make those socio-economic concepts easy to grasp for an average citizen. This style of presentation at the time was called the Viennese method, but now it is known as ISOTYPE charts (International System of Typographic Picture Education).

In , 1929, otto neurath published his  Die Bunte Welt (The Colorful World). This was a pioneering work of graphic design and heralded the arrival of visual communication era. Neurath had attempted to develop a universal visual language which is reflected in the book’s tables, such as “The Population of Asia, not including East Asia and Australia,” and “Followers of the World’s Major Religions.” Here, Neurath illustrates population figures with simplified composites of the then-prevailing national characteristics — turbans for the Indians, kimonos for the Japanese, sampan hats for the Indonesians.

otto neurath and  Gerd Arntz Gallery

gerd arntz

Gerd Arntz (1900-1988) was born in a German family of traders and manufacturers. Gerd Arntz was a socio-political activist in Dusseldorf, where he joined a movement that aimed to turn Germany into a radical-socialist state. As a revolutionary artist, Arntz was connected to the Cologne based ‘progressive artists group’ (Gruppe progressiver Künstler Köln) and depicted the life of workers and the class struggle in abstracted figures on woodcuts. Published in leftist magazines, his work was noticed by Otto Neurath who for his ‘Vienna method of visual statistics’ needed a designer of pictograms that could summarize a subject at a glance. Neurath invited the young artists to come to Vienna in 1928, and work on further developing his ISOTYPE. Arntz designed around 4000 different pictograms and abstracted illustrations for this system.

Neurath’s motto was ‘words divide, images unite’. Many of his designs together with those of his protégé Gerd Arntz were the forebears of pictograms we now encounter everywhere, such as the man and woman on toilet doors. As Marina Vishmidt suggests: “Neurath’s pictograms owe much to the Modernist belief that reality may be modified by being codified – standardised, easy-to-grasp templates as a revolution in human affairs.

otto neurath and  Gerd Arntz

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