Otl Aicher (1922-1991)
Regarded as one of the most famous German graphic designers of all time, Otl Aicher designed the Lufthansa logo, bridged the gap between serif and sans serif with the design of the typeface Rotis, and most famously, he revolutionised Olympic identity and iconography of the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich.
Having always been slightly obsessed with Olympic branding, no matter what is launched for the next Olympics, Munich’s 72 branding always seems to remain current, graphic and set the standard for iconography. Famous for his icon set, Aicher’s work is still referenced today.
Developing more than 180 pictograms is no easy task but because of his obsession with grids, Aicher managed to create a flexible and coherent system using an orthogonal and diagonal square grid.
Aicher explained about his design for Munich Olympics in 1970:
“As a strictly designed grammar, the system allows free, playful application. This is comparable to ball games or chess, where fixed elements and an agreed set of rules allow playful freedom.”
The pictograms each represented a different sport providing signage for both the athletes and visitors to the Olympic Village. The simplicity of Aicher’s Munich Olympics work is what makes it so timeless, the clean style used by Aicher is enhanced by his choice of typography, Univers.
Alongside designing the logo and pictograms, Aicher also created the first ever Olympic mascot in the form of Waldi, the striped Dachshund. How many designers can say they’ve done that?
On top of his successful career as a graphic designer, Otl Aicher is known for founding the design school, Hochscule für Gestaltung in Ulm with wife Inge Scholl and fellow designer Max Bill.
Being influenced by the teachings of Josef Albers and his own connections with designers such as Ray and Charles Eames, Aicher was known for his sharp intellect. Despite its connections with the Bahaus, Otl was determined for HFG to be an established design school in its own right. As a design teacher myself I admire Otl’s persistence and dedication to education.
Otl Aicher’s work has influenced many current designers, with London studio Bibliothéque being particularly inspired. Check out the posters on their online shop if you fancy hanging a bit of Aicher’s seamless style in your home.