Isotype (pictograms)

In graphic design and sociology, an Isotype is a system of pictograms designed by the Austrian educator and philosopher Otto Neurath, an active member of the Vienna Circle, in collaboration with the illustrator Gerd Arntz to communicate information in a simple, non-verbal way. Isotype stands for International System of TYpographic Picture Education.

Neurath originally intended Isotype to be used by educators of young children, but it wound up instead heavily influencing modern public signage, statistical graphics, and information graphics. Visually, it owes a lot to a clean-lines, 1920s realist/deco aesthetic. In 'a picture speaks a thousand words' kind of a way, Isotype was developed as a way of conveying quantitative information with social consequences — the availability of bread and sugar, the manpower involved in constructing automobiles, in different countries. Isotype may have some common ground in intentions with Buckminster Fuller's Geoscope.

Neurath founded the Isotype Institute with his spouse Marie Reidemeister.


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