Teaching trough the eye

“To most men, the reading of long lines of numbers is great trouble, they put down a book when they see it has in it numbers or curves”

Otto Neurath, 1936.

Last week was the first time I read the International Picture Language book by Otto Neurath. I was fascinated, it touched my heart and moved it, for me, it is much beyond a technical document. The 1936 book is actually an explanation and rules of Isotype (International System of TYpographic Picture Education) which was created by Neurach and designed by Gerd arntz in the late 1920’s. The idea of Isotype was to be an international visual language, supporting written language for mass education. In my opinion, it might be considered as a utopian manifesto for education through visuals rather than text.

In his book, Otto Neurath mentions that turning statements of science into pictures is a very delicate business, and are not the work of a scientist or of a designer. It is combined work between them called transformation.

My area of interest is first of all, examining the Isotype method, how it began ? what happened to it ? its influence on modern graphic and information design, and the role of the designer/scientist as a “transformer” of information to visual.
Secondly, I would like to use my skills as a graphic designer in order to create my own version of “educating through the eye” Perhaps on the subject that throughout the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century has been flooded by images, texts and numbers, but for me is still remains almost abstract “crimes agains humanity”.

An alternative option is to try to create a more personal experiment. Using the rational of Isotype and grid logic, in order to visualize and document my own habits, family, interests and state of mind.

Furthermore, it might be better for me to  define my area of interest as: The term “crimes against humanity” is overwhelming and obscure, when I think about it I think of long lines of numbers and horrifying images. I intend to use graphic design methods in order to make sense to the term, define it, map it in a way that will be clear and might educate and make a change.

Plan for the next week:
1. Start primary experiments on “transformation” of statements of science into pictures
2. Contact the isotope archive in Reading  and try to visit there
3. Start collecting data on crimes against humanity in the last 111 years.

Reference Books that I have started to browse in this week:
1. International Picture Language, Otto Neurath
2. Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag
3. The Transformer, Marie Neurath & Robin Kinross
4. The Atlas of Human Rights, Clive Stafford Smith
5. Genocide, Howard Ball
6. Grid Systems, Josef Muller-Brockman
7. Sex, Drugs and Body Counts, Peter Andreas & Kelly.M Greenhill

1. Isotype Revisited
2. Gerd Arntz Web Archive


Posted on April 15, 2011, in Unit 2. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Sounds great Nadav – you have a clear subject, crimes against humanity, and a clear visual method, isotype. Obviously you have already set out a good route to follow for your initial enquiries, i.e. research the history of isotype and try to apply that model to alternative bodies of information. Actually, isotype models and pictoral languages also have an interesting history in relation to the politics of your subject area:- look at the way that the system was used to describe race and cultural attributes. Similar models were used in the 1930s in the field of eugenics.
    Also, think carefully about your intentions as a designer and your “design voice”. Do you want it to be critical, humorous, political, historical, satirical or whatever?

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