Friday, January 1, 2010

Otl Aicher and Inge Scholl-Aicher: developers of modern design

Otl Aicher was a principal team member that developed the Rotis® font family in the late 1980s.

We’ve just finished watching Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (2005) a film directed by Marc Rothemund and written by Fred Breinersdorfer (Zeitgeist Films). Although not the primary theme, the drama conveys characters that express, profoundly, a religious faith and life from a Christian perspective. For instance, Mrs. Scholl, Sophie’s mother, at the end of the trial reminds her that it’s about Jesus. In addition, the scene during the interrogation process, mentions the name of Otl (Otto) Aicher who, after World War II, became renowned as a very influential German graphic designer and husband of Inge Scholl, Sophie’s older sister.

Otl Aicher and Inge Scholl-Aicher, a husband-and-wife team, were instrumental founders, along with Max Bill, of the Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm (HfG). The institution was linked, in spirit, to the educational philosophy of the Bauhaus. An interesting local connection is that one of the students from the HfG program, Peter Seitz, practiced design in the Twin Cities for many years; you can read more about him here and here.

The book, Ulm Design, The Morality of Objects, Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm 1953–1968, (edited by Herbert Lindinger, MIT Press, 1991) gives these biographies:
Inge Aicher
Neé Scholl, born in Ingersheim (Württenberg), 1917 [died in 1998 in the Allgäu]. After graduating from girls’ high school in Ulm, where her father was in private practice as an accountant, she trained in her father’s office as an assistant auditor. In her spare time she pursued an interest in music, art, literature, and—especially—philosophy and music, in the company of a group of friends and her brother and sister, Hans and Sophie. An initial enthusiasm for the Hitler Youth turned to a strong dislike.
The decisive event in her life was the fate of Hans and Sophie, who joined the White Rose student group in Munich in active resistance against the Nazi regime and were sentenced to death and executed in February 1943. With the rest of her family, Inge was held by the Gestapo for several months, and her youngest brother, who had been drafted to the Eastern Front, was shortly afterward posted missing.
In Ulm, after the end of the Nazi regime she founded the Volkshochschule, in the Martin-Luther-Kirche, as one of the first colleges in postwar Germany for adult education, in the conviction that democracy had no strong basis unless the citizens were basically well informed. She ran the Ulm Volkshochschule from 1946 through 1974.
In the late 1940s, building on her experience of working in adult education in a devastated city, Inge Scholl began to work with Otl Aicher and a number of friends, including Max Bill and Hans Werner Richter, toward the foundation of a Hochschule für Gestaltung (the Ulm School of Design). As the person responsible for this independent, privately run college, she set up the Scholl Foundation in memory of her siblings. The United States High Commissioner, John J. McCloy was impressed enough by her energy and sense of purpose to promise her a million marks on the condition that she match that sum from German sources.
The following quote is from Inge Scholl’s briefing papers for her interview with McCloy, 1950: “The young intellectuals of West Germany, who feel themselves responsible for the age in which they live and want to assume that responsibility—a numerically small group, but one that is important for he whole—will have a decisive influence for good or ill on the spiritual, economic, and political future.

Here the College sees a great task to be accomplished. It intends to be a point of crystallization for a younger generation of thinking people who now lack a precise goal, or who can see no way to achieve the goals they have, and to assume their responsibility in practical terms.”

In 1952 she married graphic designer Otl Aicher. That same year she published the book the White Rose about her siblings, Hans and Sophie, and the Munich resistance group to which they belonged.

In 1972 the family moved to Rotis in the Allgäu. Since 1978, Inge Aicher-Scholl has been active in the peace movement and supported the Easter March movement. In 1985 she was arrested for protesting and blocking the American military depot in Mutlangen.

Otl Aicher
Born Ulm, 1922 [died in 1991]. In 1946 he began studying sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. Started his own graphic design studio in Ulm in 1947, in Munich in 1967, and at Rotis in the Allgäu in 1972. He grew to be skeptical of the Nazi Regime. He was a school friend of Werner Scholl, from autumn 1939 he came into closer contact with his brothers and sisters, there developed a friendship with the Scholl siblings. He tried to align his life by the standards of St. Augustine (Christian faith as a basis of knowledge). He refused to join the Hitler Youth and continually resisted conscription into the German army during the War.

Aicher’s work greatly influenced on the appearance of West Germany after the War and advocated the precise optical appearance and coherence and of German design and German companies in postwar restoration.

An initiator and founding member of the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG Ulm). In 1954–66, instructor in the department of visual communication. In 1956–59, Co-Rector. In 1962–64, Rector. He was a guest lecturer at Yale and in Rio de Janeiro.

Aicher is one of the pioneers of modern corporate design and developed graphic identities for firms such as Braun Electric and Lufthansa. From 1967 to 1972 he was in charge of design for the 1972 Munich Summer Olympic Games, for which he developed the internationally widespread system of pictograms. He founded, in 1984, the Institute for Analog Studies, Rotis and helped develop the Rotis®–font family

1 comment:

  1. The film is a gem, featuring people who believe that Christ-like action against the lies of the Reich was the only truly blessed way of life.


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