Design 4


ISOTYPE – the International System Of TYpographic Picture Education

The International System Of TYpographic Picture Education was developed by the Viennese social scientist and philosopher Otto Neurath (1882-1945) as a method for visual statistics. Gerd Arntz was the designer tasked with making Isotype’s pictograms and visual signs. Eventually, Arntz designed around 4000 such signs, which symbolized keydata from industry, demographics, politics and economy. Otto Neurath saw that the proletariat, which until then had been virtually illiterate, were emancipating, stimulated by socialism. For their advancement, they needed knowledge of the world around them. This knowledge should not be shrined in opaque scientific language, but directly illustrated in straightforward images and a clear structure, also for people who could not, or hardly, read. Another outspoken goal of this method of visual statistics was to overcome barriers of language and culture, and to be universally understood. The pictograms designed by Arntz were systematically employed, in combination with stylized maps and diagrams. Neurath and Arntz made extensive collections of visual statistics in this manner, and their system became a world-wide emulated example of what we now term: infographics.

Lets take a look at a few examples that use ISOTYPE.

Notice how this deceptively simple information graphic makes use of every element to convey meaning.  Its clear that the line represents time.  What does color convey?

Here are some additional examples

See examples of the symbols used


Otto Neurath

A pioneer in many respects, Otto Neurath made contributions in the areas of socialist politics, political economy, the theory of science,
sociology and social philosophy. Especially innovative, however, were his revolutionary ideas about communication based on the role of
media in the making of modern man as a social technology for achieving socialist objectives. Within the context of his Wissenschaftliche Weltauffassung [Scientific Conception of the World – The Vienna Circle] he argued for a new form of encyclopedic integration of
knowledge. Insisting on the need for absolute clarity of expression, he developed an innovative form of scientific expression to help achieve this, an ‘international
picture language’. It was based on a new pictographic design system: ISOTYPE, an acronym for ‘International System Of TYpographic Picture Education’ More

Gerd Arntz

Gerd Arntz was commissioned by Otto Neurath to develop the Isotype visual dictionary, consisting of over 4000 symbols. According to his website, “The idea was to create a series of iconic images that can bridge between languages, are easy to grasp and, when done well, also nice to look at.” Gerd lived in communist Germany and Russia, so it’s interesting to see how that played into his icons. More


More info

See examples of the symbols used

Visualizing Social Facts: Otto Neurath’s ISOTYPE Project (PDF)


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Welcome to the Design 4 Blog

This blog is for inspiration and education related to the Parsons Design 4 Information Design and Visualization course taught by Andrew Robinson. The objectives of this class are to help students in the Strategic Design Studies program to learn how to create effective information design as a tool for communication. Beauty in form and function, which communicates ideas effectively, is our goal.
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