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 At the core of the book is a previously unpublished essay by Marie Neurath, the principle Isotype transformer, which she wrote in the last year of her life.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.
Preface (Robin Kinross)
1. Wiener Methode and Isotype: my apprenticeship and partnership with Otto Neurath (Marie Neurath)
2. The work of the transformer (RK & MN)
3. Lessons of Isotype (RK)
4. Marie Neurath (1898–1986) (RK)
Anybody who has any interest at all in transforming information visually and in design thinking needs this book. Keep it on your desktop, show it to your students, share it with your clients.
Erik Spiekermann, Eye, no. 73, 2009
… the book reaches for something truly important, a definition of what Isotype work was that expands well beyond the commonly recognised ‘shadow-world’ of silhouette men, and perhaps even an understanding of what Isotype is, if we choose to see it as an attitude towards information that can still be applied, and not as an attempt to emulate what is otherwise a period style. Yes, Isotypes applied standardised picture elements, but they are less about the design of these symbols and more about the development of a pictorial grammar.
Jesse O’Neill, Design Issues, vol. 27, no. 4, 2011