Everything in perfect order: the designer Otl Aicher

The holistic design of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich is still considered Otl Aicher's masterpiece. But the native of Ulm was much more. Namely, he was a convinced democrat, guided by morality and order. Today he would have been 100 years old.
Text Marko Knab
Photo Werek / Imago

Good people? Need good communication. This is how Otl Aicher's design approach could be summarised. Because in the eyes of the German designer, visual communication must not only be comprehensible - but also assume moral responsibility. Just like at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich for which Aicher was responsible in terms of external perception. Shaped by his time in the Second World War and and his resisitance against the NS regime, the designer from Ulm manages to give the young German Republic a new face: with rainbows and Waldi the basset hound, but without the "colours of power" such as black and red. At least he takes a decidedly critical view of these colours - and omits them completely from the design. Instead, he prefers vivid tones, combined with clear lines and multi-layered textures.

Good people? Need good communication. This is how Otl Aicher's design approach could be summarised.

The overall brand that is created in this way? To this day, it is considered one of the best that has been developed not only in the sporting environment. Also thanks to the thoroughly German precision and order that Aicher loves. Always keen to understand things precisely, he also pursues a holistic approach in his work. From the friendly colour coordination to the design of the police uniforms to the design of the beverage cans. In the process, he creates perhaps his greatest work, which today stands for itself: the pictograms for the Olympic sports. Self-explanatory, universally understandable, the form reduced to a minimum, yet with maximum expressiveness. They are still used today. Although they are varied and reinterpreted again and again, their core remains Aicher's genius. The "Rotis" typeface he designed, which the kitchen manufacturer Bulthaup still uses today, is similarly timeless. It is precisely this legacy that makes Aicher a pioneer of corporate design. And the German father of visual communication.






In addition to the designer Otl Aicher, there is also the private man: married to Inge, the sister of the resistance fighters Hans and Sophie Scholl, he also lives according to clear structures in his private life - as stories about clearly staggered daily schedules prove. Inspiration, on the other hand? Aicher found it in nature - and in the contradictions that define him. One of them: the tension between his consumer-critical and ecological attitude and his great passion for motorcycling.





His hometown of Ulm is currently honouring the designer with an exhibition of 100 posters he created. From November, the focus will be on his political work. From tomorrow, 14 May, a lot more information, texts and pictures will be available on the website otlaicher.de.


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