Journal Article

Neurath, Arntz and ISOTYPE: The Legacy in Art, Design and Statistics

Wim Jansen

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 22, issue 3, pages 227-242
Published in print September 2009 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online September 2009 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epp015
Neurath, Arntz and ISOTYPE: The Legacy in Art, Design and Statistics

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To remember simplified pictures is better than to forget accurate figures.1

In the first decades of the twentieth century, Otto Neurath and Gerd Arntz invented the ‘Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics’ (Wiener Bildstatistik). The method was renamed in the late 1930s as ISOTYPE―‘I(nternational) S(ystem) O(f) TY(pographic) P(icture) E(ducation)’―and was used in the 1940s and 50s in the Netherlands, Great Britain, Greece, the USA and the USSR. In this article, we explain the origins and basics of the Vienna Method/ISOTYPE, stressing Neurath's aim of clarifying developments in society by means of pictorial statistics and of raising the awareness of the uneducated by displaying these pictorial statistics in a museum-like setting. In this educational aspect, the ISOTYPE philosophy can be linked to the Vienna Circle (Wiener Kreis) and the International Unity of Science movement. It is noted that while the concept of ISOTYPE retained its influence in the world of art and design, it completely lost its impact on statistical graphics during the second half of the twentieth century. Several explanations for the curtailment of ISOTYPE's influence in statistics are given.

Keywords: ISOTYPE; Otto Neurath; Gerd Arntz; Vienna; statistics

Journal Article.  7704 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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