History of Design – Reflection 3

During this lecture, there were actually quite a few things that caught my attention, and I wanted to search more about them.


Isotype (International System of Typographic Picture Education),
Otto Neurath & Gerd Arntz,
c. 1935

Isotypes, International System of Typographic Picture Education for full, was developed by social scientist and philosopher Otto Neurath and designed by Gerd Arntz. It was a method for visual statistics, using icons and signs to symbolize data.

Otto Neurath had seen that people of the working class that began to break free from dictatorship at the time were mainly illiterate. He hence knew that for them to gain knowledge of the world, information should have been clearly and directly illustrated in a clear structure.

It also aimed to overcome language barrier across the countries; to be universally understood and was influenced by Otto Neurath’s fascination with the function of Egyptian Hieroglyphics; both their form and ability to convey a story.

Arntz eventually created about 4000 of such signs, which were then adopted worldwide to what is now termed as Infographics.

This was fun and amazing to learn about Isotypes as they are so commonly seen, but I had never gone to find how they came to be. Through these lectures, I truly understand how many things regarding Graphic Design many of us seem to take for granted of, or simply overlook, but actually have an interesting or deep history behind them. It was nice to finally put a name to who began the idea of infographics that have been widely used and also understand the creation was out of the hopes to increase the educated in the population, and escape from dictatorship at that time.


Bifur typeface,
A. M. Cassandre,

Another thing I really liked was the Bifur Typeface created in 1929 by A.M. Cassandre, whose birth name was Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron. It was bright yellow and really beautiful and I loved how big the contrast the colour was against the dark of the bold lines. However, upon further research, I learned it was initially like so:

The design combines very thick with incredibly thin line strokes, which is a striking and unusual type design, even for today. Other than that, the design is quite minimal without serif or flourish.


Adolf the Superman: Swallows Gold and Talks Tin,
John Heartfield,

John Heartfield’s Adolf the Superman: Swallows Gold and Talks Tin was interesting because of the imagery, but also its title. An X-ray chest had been superimposed over Hitler’s torso in this image, creating a funny and eye-catching image. It ridiculed Hitler, which instantly amused me, and made me want to know more about not only the Artwork but also the artist himself.

The work was mainly based on world war and politics, with the artwork referring to Hitler’s receiving of financial backing from wealthy industrialists, and him spouting ugliness to move the country toward a profitable war. John Heartfield thus used this piece as a political medium, even going as far as to change his name from Helmut Herzfeld in protest. The powerful image was featured prominently throughout Berlin and John Heartfield was immediately targeted after the Nazis came to power, ordering several assassination hits on him. Nevertheless, John Heartfield survived the hits and passed away on 26 April 1968 due to illness.

It was interesting how John Heartfield did what he believed in and risked his life in doing so. The events that had occurred were frightening, yet the imagery created was rather humourous as though to mock Hitler and his ideologies.







Adolf the Superman Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk



Leave a Reply