Journal Article

Explaining History to Children: Otto and Marie Neurath’s Work on the <i>Visual History of Mankind</i>

Sue Walker

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 25, issue 4, pages 345-362
Published in print November 2012 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online October 2012 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/eps031
Explaining History to Children: Otto and Marie Neurath’s Work on the Visual History of Mankind

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This essay traces the development of Otto Neurath’s ideas that led to the publication of one of the first series of children’s books produced by the Isotype Institute in the late 1940s, the Visual History of Mankind. Described in its publicity material as ‘new in content’ and ‘new in method’, it embodied much of Otto Neurath’s thinking about visual education, and also coincided with other educational ideas in the UK in the 1930s and 1940s. It exemplified the Isotype Institute’s approach: teamwork, thinking about the needs of younger readers, clear explanation, and accessible content. Further, drawing on correspondence, notes and drawings from the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection at the University of Reading, the essay presents insights to the making of the books and the people involved, the costs of production and the influence of this on design decisions, and how the books were received by teachers and children.

Keywords: book design; Isotype; Otto & Mary Neurath

Journal Article.  7688 words.  Illustrated.

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

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