Marie Neurath (née Reidemeister; 1898–1986) was born in Braunschweig (Germany) and studied at the University of Göttingen. In 1924, just before graduation, she met Otto Neurath (1882–1945) in Vienna and (in March 1925) went to work there as his assistant in what had been a small museum of information about housing. At the start of 1925 this became the Gesellschafts- und Wirtshaftsmuseum in Wien (‘Social and Economic Museum of Vienna’). This was the start of her long activity as the main ‘transformer’ (in English, we would now say designer) working with Neurath in the teams that made graphic displays of social information. The other essential member of the Neurath group, the German artist Gerd Arntz (1901–88), joined in 1928. Marie Reidemeister worked at this museum in Vienna until the brief civil war in Austria in 1934, moving then with Neurath (a prominent Social Democrat) and Arntz (who had allegiances to radical-left groups) to The Hague. In 1935 they began to use the name Isotype in the signature for their work. In 1940, as the German army invaded the Netherlands, Neurath and Reidemeister escaped to England, while Arntz stayed behind in The Hague. In 1941, after release from internment (as ‘enemy aliens’), Marie and Otto Neurath were married, and resumed their work in Oxford, founding the Isotype Institute. After Otto Neurath’s death in 1945, Marie Neurath carried on the work with a small number of English assistants, moving to London in 1948. After her retirement in 1971, she gave much energy to establishing a record of Otto Neurath’s life and work, and editing and translating his writings.
Christopher Burke, Eric Kindel, Sue Walker (editors)
The work in graphic communication carried out by Otto Neurath and his associates – now commonly known simply as Isotype – has been the subject of much interest in recent years. Conceived and developed in the 1920s as ‘the Vienna method of pictorial statistics’, this approach to designing information had from its inception the power to grow and spread internationally. Political developments in Europe played their part in its development, and production moved to the Netherlands (1934) and to England (1940), where the Isotype Institute continued to produce work until 1971. Bringing together the latest research, this book is the first comprehensive, detailed account of its subject. The Austrian, Dutch, and English years of Isotype are described here freshly and extensively. There are chapters on the notable extensions of Isotype to Soviet Russia, the USA, and Africa. Isotype work in film and in designing for children is fully documented and discussed. Between these main chapters the book presents interludes documenting Isotype production visually. Three appendices reprint key documents. In its international coverage and its extensions into the wider terrain of history, this book opens a new vista in graphic design.
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The visual work of Otto Neurath and his associates, now commonly known as Isotype, has been much discussed in recent years. This short book explains its essential principles: the work of ‘transforming’, or putting information into visual form. This deeper level of their work – which is applicable in all areas of design – is routinely neglected in the assumption that Isotype is just a matter of symbols and pictograms. At the core of the book is a previously unpublished essay by Marie Neurath, the principle Isotype transformer, which she wrote in the last year of her life. This is supplemented by Robin Kinross with commentary on illustrated examples of Isotype and other supporting short essays.
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