Gerd Arntz

"The International System Of TYpographic Picture Educationwas developed by the Viennese social scientist and philosopher Otto Neurath (1882-1945) as a method for visual statistics. Gerd Arntz was the designer tasked with making Isotype’s pictograms and visual signs. Eventually, Arntz designed around 4000 such signs, which symbolized key data from industry, demographics, politics and economy. Otto Neurath saw that the proletariat, which until then had been virtually illiterate, were emancipating, stimulated by socialism. For their advancement, they needed knowledge of the world around them. This knowledge should not be shrined in opaque scientific language, but directly illustrated in straightforward images and a clear structure, also for people who could not, or hardly, read. Another outspoken goal of this method of visual statistics was to overcome barriers of language and culture, and to be universally understood. The pictograms designed by Arntz were systematically employed, in combination with stylized maps and diagrams. Neurath and Arntz made extensive collections of visual statistics in this manner, and their system became a world-wide emulated example of what we now term: infographics."

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of Arntz's work. On the positive side, his work is clear, concise and impeccably simplified. As he was commissioned to use his most preferred process (Wood cutting: shown below) to create a form of visual 'dictionary' by Otto Neurath, it is commendable that he was able to produce around 4,000 images to represent classes of people, animals, objects and even social situations. Arntz used the wood-cutting process, as he saw this as the best way to produce categorised, simple and recognisable images that would all clearly belong to the same 'family' of images. This is proof that processes to produce work need to be selected to always favour the visual language of an outcome. He believed also that by using this process he was able to detach himself, and his own artistic influences from the work, in order to produce unbiased images and forms to represent many commonly understood concepts across cultures. Personally, I dislike the overall style of the work. I believe that despite his best efforts, it was impossible for Arntz to completely remove his own style from the images he produced. This is fair enough when producing personal work but as these outcomes were intended to communicate to an incredibly large audience, I believe the work could have been refined even further, collaboratively, to reduce the personal influence on the images.

© Ethan William Frisby, all rights reserved