New Book Examines Otl Aicher’s Enduring Design Legacy

Otl Aicher in his studio in Ulm, 1953, HfG-Archiv/Museum Ulm

Prestel has published a new book on the pioneering work of German graphic designer and typographer Otl Aicher (1922-1991) on the occasion of the centenary of his birth. Best known for founding the influential Ulm School of Design and for the pictograms he designed for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, this publication also explores his achievements beyond the world of design, as well as his passion for teaching and his strong political views.

Through his work, Aicher was a critic of “his time, his culture and his society” – as the book’s editors write in the preface – and constantly sought to challenge the status quo. He was also a strong believer in a free and democratic society, and this worldview was integral to his practice.

Posters created by Aicher for the Donnerstagsvorträge (Thursday lectures) of the Ulm Volkshochschule, 1955, HfG-Archiv/Museum Ulm, © Florian Aicher
Notice board for the Wilhelm von Ockham exhibition (Erkundungen series of the Bayerische Rückversicherung), 1986, HfG-Archiv/Museum Ulm, © Florian Aicher
Nein (no!), poster of the peace movement announcing the dates of the demonstrations, 1983

His commitment to bold yet accessible design can be seen in many of his projects, but especially in the aforementioned pictograms, which have since become the basis of a universal language that directs people around the world to bathrooms, subways and around airports and hospitals.

The publication itself presents an in-depth look at all of this work and more, paying homage to Aicher’s polymathic approach and inimitable style, and tracing the lasting influence of his practice.

Poster for Bulthaup, 1981, HfG-Archiv/Museum Ulm, © Florian Aicher
Examples of the application of colors, typeface and company logo on Lufthansa aircraft, 1963, HfG-Archiv/Museum Ulm, © Florian Aicher
Vertical display boards for the Volkshochschule Ulm, offering best wishes for the Christmas holidays, HfG-Archiv/Museum Ulm, © Florian Aicher

Although drawing heavily on Aicher’s legacy, editors Winfried Nerdinger and Wilhelm Vossenkuhlwithout were careful not to let this guide the design of the book itself. “Our goal today is to rediscover, recognize and understand Aicher, not imitate him,” they write. “That’s why we decided not to use its unique fonts or typography.”

Otl Aicher. Design. Type. Thinking. is published by Prestel;

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