3.8.09

Helvetica Man



from The Smart Set:
This round-headed man's ubiquitous presence on the visual landscape belies his very particular origin. He was born in the 1920s to Austrian philosopher and social scientist Otto Neurath. A member of the collection of philosophers known as the Vienna Group, Neurath helped develop the theory of logical positivism, a marriage of rationalism and empiricism, of knowledge gained through reason and that gained through experience. For Neurath, the inconsistencies and changing nature of verbal language made it a poor medium for the transmission of knowledge; he sought instead a uniform visual communication system that relied on observation and experience. Working largely with Gernd Arntz — a socialist German artist who depicted the working class in abstract, woodcut figures — Neurath created the International System of Typographic Picture Education, or Isotype, and through it the classic silhouette figure.

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