Otl Aicher


May 23, 2022

Otl Aicher, also known as Otto Aicher (Ulm, Germany, May 13, 1922-Günzburg, Germany, September 1, 1991), was a German graphic designer and typographer who established his own design studio.


He studied sculpture at the Akademie der Bildenden Kunste (Academy of Fine Arts) in Munich after World War II. Married to Inge Aicher-Scholl, together with Max Bill and a group of intellectuals, in 1946 they created the Hochschule für Gestaltung, the Ulm design school, which was to become one of the leading centers of design education in Germany between 1953 and 1968, and which, unlike the Bauhaus School, discarded art and the exaltation of form for its own sake from its classrooms, and devoted itself to the function and insertion of design as a fundamental factor in the industrial world.

his work

Aicher puts the analogical and concrete before the digital and abstract, and he does so with a philosophical intention. He relativizes the role of pure reason and criticizes the rationalism of modernity as the result of the predominance of a mere abstract thinking. In Aicher's opinion, putting the abstract before the concrete creates a false hierarchy, an order that is fatal to culture. The digital, abstract, is not higher, greater or more important than the analog, concrete. An essential aspect of his work is the anchoring in a "philosophy of doing", inspired by thinkers such as William of Ockham, Kant or Wittgenstein. He is also the author of the book The World as a Project. His creations include corporate images for Braun, Lufthansa, ERCO and the Munich Olympics. He is the author of Systems of signs in visual communication and Analog and digital. Within typography, his is the Rotis family, where several sans-serif families are combined, with serif and semi-serif. Another typeface created by him is Traffic, used at the Munich airport and in public transport in that city. He also designed the signage for the Bilbao metro.

1972 Munich Olympics

In 1966 the organizers of the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich asked Aicher to be the chief designer of the Olympics. He was asked to create a design for the Olympic Games that would complement the architecture of the newly built stadium in Munich designed by Günther Behnisch. Aicher consulted with Masaru Katsumie, who had designed the previous 1964 Tokyo Olympics.[1] Basing his work in part on the iconography of the '64 Games, Aicher created a set of pictograms intended to provide a visual interpretation of the sport they presented so athletes and visitors to the Olympic village and stadium could find their way around. He created pictograms using a specific bright color palette that he chose for these Games. These designs directly influenced the DOT pictograms, developed in 1974 by the United States Department of Transportation, which applied the same principles to standard public signage, such as those on toilets and telephones; DOT pictograms have in turn been used throughout the world. The series of pictograms that he created was not a simple task; the goal of each pictogram was to function as a clear sign of the activity it represented, while simultaneously maintaining its universal understanding.[2] Otl Aicher also helped design the logo for the Munich Olympics. He went through several stages with his design team before finally finding the emblem. One of his first ideas was to use an element of the city's coat of arms or "Münchner Kindl" within the design that showed a monk pointing into the distance while he held a book in his hand. Other ideas were to use the surrounding areas of the city, making reference to the sun, the mountains and the landscape.