April 9th I will give a lecture about pictogram history at AKV|St. Joost / Avans University of Applied Sciences in Den Bosch. It is a part of an afternoon organised by the Research Group Visual Rhetoric of which I am a member, and is dedicated to visual information design. Also dataviz agency CleverFranke and the infographics agency Schwandt Infographics will be giving lectures.
My lecture introduces Dutch ‘Picto History’ (Tel Design (NS, Simon de Wit, C&A, Maarssenbroek) and Arntz (Isotype)) and the history of pictograms as described in design history books (Isotype, Olympic Games and World Exhibitions). I also show why this history is mistaken. Using the Icograda archive (Brighton) and interviews I had with semiologist Martin Krampen and designer Gerhard Joksch I outline a new history.
The Icograda archive shows that the rise of pictograms in the nineteen sixties was inspired by the success of traffic signs. It also shows that most public information pictograms were introduced by anonymous designers in the service of transport and tourism organisations. The interviews establish that Gerhard Josksch–the designer of the Munich pictograms–had never heard of Isotype and Neurath, and that his art director–Otl Aicher–only heard about it in the end of the 1960s, but wasn’t interested in it. According to Krampen and Joksch he was more of a traffic signs guy.