Behind Isotype Charts: The Design of Number-Fact Pictures

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

For more than 40 years, Marie Neurath designed ISOTYPE charts using pictograms as graphical units to make a variety of information more accessible for the layman. She was a transformer linking science and design by using the benefits of both worlds to meet the public’s interests. Significant insight could be gained from this innovative work. However, many relevant aspects of the transformation process remain elusive and are far too often imitated and misunderstood as simply drawing ‘rows of little men’.
The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the use and implementation of pictograms by examining how Marie Neurath designed ‘number-fact pictures’. A selection of specific examples from an in-depth case study of Marie Neurath’s sketches created while she was designing a post-war exhibition in Bilston, England, in 1946 forms the basis for a discussion of how pictograms were used as fractions, arrangement, and message accentuation. These three aspects outline recurrent approaches and actions of the transformation process that were shaped according to the situation at hand. The paper provides an in-depth practical perspective on the work and reveals how Marie Neurath, by shaping facts and using pictograms constructively as convincing communication tools, deliberately guided the reader towards a specific agenda.
Original languageEnglish
JournalVisible Language
Volume51
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)12-37
Number of pages26
ISSN0022-2224
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

Keywords

  • icons
  • pictograms
  • sketching

Artistic research

  • No

Cite this

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title = "Behind Isotype Charts: The Design of Number-Fact Pictures",
abstract = "For more than 40 years, Marie Neurath designed ISOTYPE charts using pictograms as graphical units to make a variety of information more accessible for the layman. She was a transformer linking science and design by using the benefits of both worlds to meet the public’s interests. Significant insight could be gained from this innovative work. However, many relevant aspects of the transformation process remain elusive and are far too often imitated and misunderstood as simply drawing ‘rows of little men’. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the use and implementation of pictograms by examining how Marie Neurath designed ‘number-fact pictures’. A selection of specific examples from an in-depth case study of Marie Neurath’s sketches created while she was designing a post-war exhibition in Bilston, England, in 1946 forms the basis for a discussion of how pictograms were used as fractions, arrangement, and message accentuation. These three aspects outline recurrent approaches and actions of the transformation process that were shaped according to the situation at hand. The paper provides an in-depth practical perspective on the work and reveals how Marie Neurath, by shaping facts and using pictograms constructively as convincing communication tools, deliberately guided the reader towards a specific agenda.",
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author = "Pia Pedersen",
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}

Behind Isotype Charts: The Design of Number-Fact Pictures. / Pedersen, Pia .

In: Visible Language, Vol. 51, No. 1, 03.2017, p. 12-37.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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AB - For more than 40 years, Marie Neurath designed ISOTYPE charts using pictograms as graphical units to make a variety of information more accessible for the layman. She was a transformer linking science and design by using the benefits of both worlds to meet the public’s interests. Significant insight could be gained from this innovative work. However, many relevant aspects of the transformation process remain elusive and are far too often imitated and misunderstood as simply drawing ‘rows of little men’. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the use and implementation of pictograms by examining how Marie Neurath designed ‘number-fact pictures’. A selection of specific examples from an in-depth case study of Marie Neurath’s sketches created while she was designing a post-war exhibition in Bilston, England, in 1946 forms the basis for a discussion of how pictograms were used as fractions, arrangement, and message accentuation. These three aspects outline recurrent approaches and actions of the transformation process that were shaped according to the situation at hand. The paper provides an in-depth practical perspective on the work and reveals how Marie Neurath, by shaping facts and using pictograms constructively as convincing communication tools, deliberately guided the reader towards a specific agenda.

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