communication for the real world

The Amsterdam LIG examines Isotypes in Utrecht

On a recent Saturday, the Amsterdam LIG went to an exhibit at the Centraal Museum in Utrecht that was part of a series of events celebrating the second biennial for social design ( The exhibit was in two parts. One part was Lovely Language: Words divide, images unite, about the Isotype pictogram series created early in the 20th century by the Austrian educator and philosopher Otto Neurath in cooperation with the German graphic artist Gerd Arntz. The second part was A Safe Place: Pictograms for disaster areas, a series of image-signs to help populations in disastrous situations. Of course, technical communicators do this kind of work all the time; try to make concepts transparently and instantly recognizable. We often use simple pictures to make things clear. Across the exhibit we were struck by the sense of the grammar and syntax of pictograms, and the need for localisation. A picture says a thousand words, but those words might be different to a person in a culture removed from our own.