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Graphic Design, Translated by Peter J Wolf

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Job:01579 Title: Graphic Design Translated (Rockport)
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Introduction
Job:01579 Title: Graphic Design Translated (Rockport)
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Such examples are intended largely for
domestic consumption, however. For
“branding” a nation globally, visual com-
munication efforts are focused outward—
and few opportunities compare to the
Olympic Games. Their sophisticated
identity systems become forever associ-
ated not just with a particular time, but
also a particular place. Otl Aicher’s highly
systematic approach to the graphics for
the 1972 Games in Munich, to take just
one example, is considered by many to be
quintessential German design, refl ecting
the rich legacies of the Bauhaus and the
Ulm School. More recently, the brand-
ing of the 2008 Summer Games in China
presented a carefully crafted image of the
country to the rest of the world, using the
Games as a “global coming out party.”
1
Yet the history of graphic design is one of
transcending international borders, too.
During the fi fteenth century, following the
invention of the printing press, ideas about
typography and illustration fi ltered quickly
from Germany into the rest of Europe—just
in time for the Italian Renaissance, a
period of great innovation in typeface and
book design. Nineteenth-century Victorian
design, a response to the excesses of
the Industrial Revolution, was adopted
widely—especially by advertisers—across
Europe and America. And the twentieth
century saw the powerful infl uences of the
Bauhaus and the International Typographic
Style spread far beyond their origins in
Western Europe, with an unprecedented
reach across the globe.
International borders are defi ned not just
by geographical and physical barriers,
however, but also by culture and language.
It was precisely these barriers that the
Austrian philosopher Otto Neurath, along
with his wife Marie Reidemeister and
illustrator Gerd Arntz, sought to overcome
with their Isotype (International System of
Typographic Picture Education) system
of pictograms. First developed during the
1920s—the First World War having brought
international issues suddenly into sharp
focus—the goal of Isotype was noth-
ing less than “a world language without
words.”
2
The extensive Isotype system,
with approximately 4,000 illustrations
credited to Arntz alone, eventually spread
throughout Europe to North America and
beyond—transcending cultural and lan-
guage barriers, and paving the way for the
information graphics with which designers
and the general public are now so familiar.
Today, of course, such transcendence
is easier than ever; international design
teams routinely collaborate using little
more than a fl uid network of Web-cruising
laptops (often via increasingly ubiquitous
wireless connections). And thanks to the
1 Quelch, John. “How Olympics Branding Is Shaping China,” 2008. http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org
2 Meggs, Philip B. & Purvis, Alston W., Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. Fourth ed. Hoboken, NJ:
John Wiley & Sons, 2006.
For centuries now, graphic design has been used to
celebrate national identities. Aspects of a country’s
values and self-image (as well as its design sensibility)
are displayed daily in its currency, postage stamps, and
all manner of offi cial documents and communications.
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Job:01579 Title: Graphic Design Translated (Rockport)
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Examples of the extensive identity system developed by Otl Aicher for the 1972 Munich Olympics
Collection of Joe Miller; Photography: Joe Miller
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