The stick figure’s tailor

December 11, 2007

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Gerd Arntz, Dec 11, 1900 – 1988, was the lead designer of Otto Neurath’s ISOTYPE Institute (the International System of Typographic Picture Education, 1936-1945). The Institute used “speaking signs” to visually convey complex statistical information, and made it accessible to the general public through museum installations and printed publications.

It would be fair to credit Neurath with the invention of the modern “stick figure” as seen in today’s street crossings, rest rooms and construction signs, as he was the first to develop a method of using the human form as a surrogate representation for statistical information. But if Neurath was indeed the father, Arntz was the stick man’s tailor. Under Arntz’s influence, early naturalistic representations gave way to flat, less individual and more abstract designs, eventually becoming the elements of a visual dictionary.

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