Otl Aicher – 'das Allgäu'
by Jon Dowling·
Otl Aicher (1922 – 1991) was a hugely celebrated German graphic designer and typographer, most famous, one would argue, for his 1972 Munich Olympic Games identity. My partner and I have dipped are toes into collecting his work over the years and have stocked numerous books featuring his work on Counter-Print. One of my favourite pieces of his work is his identity for a small German town called Isny, which consisted of an interchangeable and ever expanding kit of parts.
Aicher created a number of identities for German towns in the late 70’s and early 80’s and Isny is probably the most famous. Aicher designed 128 pictograms, representing the town by means of geometrical forms which were consistently modern and aesthetically reduced: firs of strokes, landscapes of lines, towers behind stylised trees. One controversial decision taken was to reduce the identity down to only two colours, black and white. This palette was chosen as the town’s coat of arms was monochromatic.
The project was well received at the time and won recognition through various awards and exhibitions, However, the minimalist nature of the design and colour palette lead some residents to believe the identity was too stark and not representative of the town’s beautiful location.
Following a shift in local politics, the black and white concept was set aside for a few years and replaced by full colour photography.
Then, in 1992, a decade after its first success and just after Aicher’s death, the design experienced another revival. The pictograms once again adorned the town’s letterheads, brochures, leaflets and banners and the design concept is still the basis for many print and advertising campaigns today.
All of the illustrations Aicher made can be found in the reissue of the 1981 original book, ‘Isny Allgäu: A City in Black and White’, which is available to buy through Counter-Print.
We are very pleased to be able to partner with the town of Isny and stock this special book. In many ways it is typical of Aicher’s work, with its simplified colour palette and drawings reduced to essential elements, it is a must have for any collector of his work or aspiring designer or illustrator.