I have always been interested to find out more about Otto Neurath, creator of the international picture language Isotype (International System of Typographic Picture Education) and one of the fathers of is called visual communication today. He was a central member of the Vienna Circle of philosophers. Almost a century ago, in the 1920s he started developing ideas about visualizing social facts, such as statistics on labour and economy in order to make complex ideas about social economics more accessible to all. Read more about Isotype and Neurath here and here.
Like so many other talented Austrians in the 1930s and 40s he had to leave the country ultimately escaping to Britain. He collaborated with designer Marie Reidemeister, who later became his wife Marie Neurath. Just as with other coupes – Paul and Ann Rand and Charles and Ray Eames come to mind – this seems to have been a very creative relationship. After Otto Neurath died in Oxford in 1945 Marie Neurath carried on with the work of the Isotype Institute. Otto Neurath started working on books for children in the 1940s, and the Isotype Institute under Marie Neurath produced many more books for children, notably several series of informational children’s books such as ‘Visual history of mankind’, ‘Wonders of the modern world’, ‘Visual science’, ‘The wonder world of nature’ and ‘They lived like this’. Marie Neurath’s work shows how Isotype, language and presentation can work together in reducing complexity in order to clearly comunicate ideas to children, putting ideas for visual education into practice. All materials of the Isotype Institute are now housed by Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, University of Reading.
“The books show Marie Neurath’s remarkable contributions: her ability to identify unusual relationships between things and ideas, and to analyze and then synthesize complex information into bite-sized chunks. Her approach to making child-friendly visual explanations included teamwork, consultation with readers, and iteration between experts in a particular field and those making visual decisions.” Read more here.