THE WORLD AS DESIGN
HOMMAGE TO OTL AICHER
Otl Aicher is widely recognized as a leading graphic designer and typographer of the 20th century. His most outstanding achievement is the holistic design concept for the Olympic Games in Munich 1972, which was presented in a previous exhibition in March/April 2023. This second show covers other aspects of Aicher’s groundbreaking design work, both before and after the Munich Olympics.
Aicher also was a prolific writer, and the title of this show is borrowed from one of his books. His texts are explorations of the world. Moving through the history of thought, design, and construction, he assures us of the possibilities of arranging our existence in a humane fashion. He is concerned with the conditions needed to produce a civilized culture, which have to be defended against factual or material constraints, against spiritual or intellectual substitutes.
He was born in Ulm in 1922 and died in an accident in 1991. In his youth, he was closely related to the German resistance movement “Die Weiße Rose” to which one of the prints on display pays tribute. In 1946, he and his wife Inge Scholl initiated the “Volkshochschule Ulm” with regular lectures and other events supporting human and democratic values. Aicher designed all the posters advertising for these gatherings, some of which are being exhibited here.
Aicher and Scholl were also instrumental for the creation of the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG) Ulm in 1953, which operated in the same vein as the Bauhaus, until its closure by political decision in 1968. This influential design school was strongly supported by many well-known artists, e.g. Max Bill, who designed the buildings, and Josef Albers, who came back from America to Germany to teach.
Based on his very successful campaign for the Munich Olympics, Aicher moved to Rotis (Leutkirch) near the Constance lake and developed his internationally renowned design studio, creating many well-known logos (Lufthansa, ZDF), signpost systems for large-scale sites (Frankfurt airport, Bilbao metro), and the Rotis typeface, which is still very popular today.
Following his personal experience as a young man during the war, he also designed politically engaged visuals, e.g. supporting protest marches against nuclear weapons in the early 1980s. Some of these images are straight-forward, while others operate in a more subtle way. For instance, Im schönsten Wiesengrunde is based on a romantic German folk song praising the home land, however being torn and twisted by the appearance of gigantic missiles instead of local churches.
A special series of works is dedicated to William of Ockham, a British philosopher of the 13th century, who lived in Munich for a long time until his death. Aicher’s own critical thinking was deeply influenced by Ockham. In order to publicize his radical theories and adapt them to the current context, Aicher designed numerous visuals, first shown in an exhibition in Munich in 1986 (“Risks of Modern Thinking”), then travelling around the world, e.g. Tokyo in 1989, with support by the Goethe-Institut.
On the occasion of his 100th anniversary, many events took place throughout Germany in 2022. This exhibition, covering a broad spectrum of his “world of design” was preceded by a successful participation in the official art program of the 57th Fêtes de la Saint-Martin in Tourinnes-la-Grosse in November 2023, which attracted a lot of attention among visitors and the media. This new show reveals further facets of Aicher’s work, once gain in close collaboration with Galerie Brandt, Munich.
Text: Robert Klotz
Chaussée de Waterloo 690, Brussels, Belgium