PRINT April 2010


IF YOU’VE EVER CROSSED A STREET, driven on a highway, or visited a public restroom, you’ve likely encountered those little stylized icons that guide us through public space, abstracted human figures that help to identify functions and direct our movements. They have become so omnipresent, so nearly naturalized, that they hardly seem to have been designed or to have a history. But of course, like all cultural artifacts, they do. These ubiquitous images are descendants of the Isotype communication system, developed by Austrian sociologist Otto Neurath in the years following World War I as a kind of “picture Esperanto,” intended to provide a readily comprehensible and easily manipulated language of signs for conveying information. Neurath envisioned his iconographic language as a socialist tool to spread rational, scientific thought to the working classes of interwar Vienna. These grand

to keep reading

Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.

Not registered for Register here.

SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*

Order the PRINT EDITION of the April 2010 issue for $17 or the ONLINE EDITION for $5.99.

* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.