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Otl Aicher

Rotis, Germany
1 of 1
Aicher with a letter in 'Rotis', the typeface he designed

Otl Aicher (May 13, 1922 - September 1, 1991), born as Otto Aicher in Ulm, was a German graphic designer. Together with his wife Inge Aicher-Scholl he founded the Ulm School of Design as a successor of the Bauhaus. It was one of the most influential design school in the 1950s and 1960s. He is also known as a type font designer and his role in the development od corporate branding.

Otl Aicher was a friend of the Scholl family who were instrumental in forming the resistance movement "White Rose" in Nazi Germany. Like the Scholls, Aicher was strongly opposed to the Nazi movement. In 1945 he deserted the army and went into hiding at the Scholls' house. In 1946, after the end of the war, Aicher began studying sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. In 1947, he opened his own studio in Ulm.

In 1952 he married Inge Scholl and with her and Max Bill, he founded the Ulm School of Design (Hochschule fur Gestaltung Ulm) as a successor of the Bauhaus. It became one of Germany's leading educational centres for design until its closure in 1968.

He was heavily involved in corporate branding and designed the logo for German airline Lufthansa in 1969. Aicher may be best known for being the lead designer for the 1972 Munich Olympics. He created a new set of pictograms that paved the way for the ubiquitous stick figures currently used in public signs. The pictograms were created to provide a visual imterpretation of the sport they featured so that athletes and visitors to the Olympic village and stadium could find their way around. He created pictograms using a series of grid systems and a specific bright colour palette that he chose for these Games. In 1966 Aicher was asked by the organisers of the Games to create a design for the Olympics that complemented the architecture of the newly built stadium in Munich designed by Gunther Behnisch. Aicher consulted Masaru Katsumie who designed the previous 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, for advice on how to create the new designs for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.

Otl Aicher also helped to design the logo of the Munich Olympics. He went through several stages with his design team before finally finding the successful emblem. One of their first ideas was to use an element of the city's coat of arms or Munchner Kindl within the design which showed a monk or child pointing into the distance while clasping a book in his hand. Other ideas were to use the surrounding areas of the city, referencing the sun, mountains and landscape within the design. Finally the Strahlenkranz was created, a garland which represented the sun but also the five Olympic rings merged in a spiral shape. Designer Coordt Von Mannstein reworked Aichers original design through a mathematical calculation to amalgamate the garland and spiral together to get the final design.

The colours chosen for the designs of the games were selected to reflect the tones of the Alps. The mountains in blue and white would make up the palette of colours which also included green, orange and silver. The colours were used to identify allocated themes such as media, technical services, celebrity hospitality and public functions and each had a different colour so visitors could differentiate the themes around the stadium and village. Uniforms were colour coordinated to represent these themes, the Olympic staff could be identified as working for a particular department by the colour they were wearing.

Aicher used the typeface Univers for the Olympic designs. The design team produced 21 sports posters to advertise the sports at the games, using the official design colours and also including the logo and "Munchen 1972". The design team used a technique called "posterization" for the graphics on the posters, separating the tonal qualities from the images and using the official munich colours for these games. This had to be produced manually as photoshop did not exist at this time. The first of these posters that was created manually in this way was a poster of the Olympic stadium which became the official poster for these games. these posters were displayed all around the city of Munich and around the Olympic sites. Posters were hung in twos alongside posters designed by famous artists chosen to represent this Olympics such as David Hockney, R. B. Kitaj, Tom Wesselmann and Allan Jones. He also created the first official Olympic Mascot, a striped dachshund named Waldi.

In 1980 Otl Aicher became a consultant of the kitchen company bulthaup. He created the rotis font family in 1988, naming it after the domicile of Rotis in the city of Leutkirch im Allgau, where Aicher lived and kept his studio which is still used today by bulthaup. He has also designed the logo of Munich Airport, consisting of the letter M in a simple sans-serif font.

Aicher died in Gunzburg on September 1, 1991, after being struck in a traffic accident.

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Rotis, Germany
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archibald, July 29th, 2012
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