Otl Aicher


Publicity, book design, packaging, display, type design. Born 13 May 1922 in Ulm. In his youth he ‘was guided by a deep aversion to and a strong opposition against the Nazi ideology… .[ His friends,] who gathered around the Scholl family, felt united…against the tremendous inhumanity of the Third Reich. The active part of this resistance group, called Weisse Rose (White Rose), with its centre at Munich University, was denounced in 1943, followed by the execution of Hans and Sophie Scholl as well as other members. Mr Robert Scholl (former mayor of Ulm) and his family were outlawed and taken into custody. Aicher was conscripted into the last contingent of the declining Reich in order to serve at the Heimatfront. However, he deserted and hid on a farm in the Black Forest where the Scholl family were already hiding.’ (Rathgeb, 2000) 1945-7: studied sculpture at the Akademie der bildenden Künste, Munich. From 1947: designed books for the publishers Aegis, Callwey, S. Fischer and others. 1948-55: founded graphics studio in Ulm specialising in corporate identity ; designed posters and trademarks. 1949: co-founder with his wife Inge Aicher-Scholl (who had opened a fund to build a new design school in memory of her sister and brother) of the Hochschule für Gestaltung, Ulm, and, from 1955, lectured there. 1962-4: Rector of the Hochschule. 1967: own design studio in Munich. 1967: opens design studio in Munich. 1967-72: designed graphics, pictogram system for the Olympic Games (Munich, 1972) ; he was responsible for ‘posters, forms, documents, booklets, plans, tickets, uniforms, signage systems and even city graphics and the interior decoration of the buildings.’ (Graphis 160, p. 148). 1972: own studio in Rotis/Allgäu. 1984: founded Institut für analoge Studien. 1954: awarded Prix d’Honneur at Milan Triennale. 1958: taught at Yale; 1959: taught at Rio de Janeiro. Designed the typefaces Traffic (for Munich public transport) and Rotis (1988, numerous variants). Among his clients: Braun (1954), Lufthansa (1960), BMW, ZDF (German TV, 1974), ERCO (from 1976), and Severin & Siedler, publishers (1980). He designed the information graphics for the airports at Frankfurt a.M. and Munich. Exhibited in USA, Brazil and Germany. Died 1 September 1991 in Rotis über Leutkirch.

Writings by

  • Schreiben und Widersprechen, Berlin, 1993
  • die welt als entwurf, Berlin: Ernst & Sohn, 1991
  • Walter Amstutz (ed.), Who’s Who in Graphic Art, 2nd ed., Dübendorf, 1982., 1982
  • Zeichensysteme (with Martin Krampen), Munich, 1980
  • Walking in the desert, 1982
  • kritik am auto, Munich: Callwey, 1984
  • innenseiten des kriegs ( inside the war , autobiography), Frankfurt a.M., S. Fischer, 1985
  • typographie (with Josef Rommen), Berlin: Ernst & Sohn, 1985 (German and English)
  • ( with Gabriele Greindl, Wilhelm Vossenkuhl) Wilhelm von Ockham (exh. cat.), Munich: Callwey, 1986
  • ‘An analytical exhibition on a philosopher’ (Wilhelm von Ockham [William of Occam: 14th c. philosopher]), Graphis, July/Aug. 1986, pp. 54-9
  • Griffe und Greifen (with Robert Kuhn), Cologne, 1987
  • contribution in Norbert Haase, Deutsche Deserteure, Berlin: Rotbuch, 1987 (2nd ed.)
  • typographie (with Josef Rommen), Berlin: Wilh. Ernst & Sohn, Lüdenscheid: Edition Druckhaus Maack, 1988 (in German and English)
  • Otl Aicher an der Arbeit für Norman Foster/ Otl Aicher at Work for Norman Foster, Berlin: Ernst, 1989 (in German and English)
  • Analogous und Digital, Berlin, 1991
  • contribution in Kurt Ackermann, Industriebau (Building for industry), Watermark, 1991
  • Walter Amstutz (ed.), Who’s Who in Graphic Art, Zurich: Amstutz & Herdeg Graphis Press, 1962. , 1962

Writings about

  • Markus Rathgeb’s study, Otl Aicher (Phaidon, 2006) may be the most comprehensive study.
  • P. Luidl, ‘Gestaltung von Geschäftsberichten’, novum7, 1983, pp. 52-8 Eberhard Hölscher, ‘Zweifarbige Plakate’, Graphik, 4, 1949, pp. 155-63
  • Max Bill, ‘Exhibition design’, New Graphic Design, Dec. 1959, pp. 2-14, esp. p. 5
  • ‘Triennale 1968, Mailand’, Graphik, June 1968, pp. 5-7
  • B. Beil, ‘The graphic image of the XX Olympic Games’, Graphis 160, 1972, pp. 148-61 Raimund Eberle, ‘Typosystem Bayerische Staatsregierung’, Graphik, 1972, 9, pp. 24-9 ‘Geschlossenheit des Erscheinungsbildes – Pluralität des Unternehmens’, Graphik, 1976, 6, pp. 30-32
  • Pfäfflin, 1986
  • Michael Erlhoff (ed.), Designed in Germany, Munich: Prestel, 1990 (pp. 11, 21-3)
  • Herbert W. Kapitzki, Design: Method and Consequence/A biographical report (Gestaltung: Methode und Konsequenz), Stuttgart: Menges, 1997 (esp. pp. 29-35)
  • F.H.K. Henrion, Top graphic design, Zurich: ABC Editions, pp. 14-21
  • Ian McLaren, ‘Otl Aicher, a practical Utopian’, Baseline 26, 1998, pp. 33-40, and 49 Markus Rathgeb, ‘The early work of Otl Aicher’, Baseline 31, 2000, pp. 17-24
  • M. Rathgeb, Otl Aicher, London/New York: Phaidon, 2006
  • Brigitte Beil, ‘The visual image for the XXth Olympic Games, Munich 1972’, novum, July 1972, pp. 2-56
  • Philipp Luidl, ‘Otl Aicher “après Olympia”’ (publicity for the Gastein Valley), novum, July 1974, pp. 49-56
  • novum, Jan. 1979, p. 34 (Olympic symbols, 1972)
  • Friedrich Friedl, Nicolaus Ott, Bernard Stein, Typography – when/who/how, Cologne: Könemann Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, 1998., 1998
  • Richard Hollis, review of M. Rathgeb, Otl Aicher, in eye, 63/07, pp. 83-4.
  • Inge Scholl, ‘People’s College at Ulm’ (‘Volkshochschule Ulm’), Gebrauchsgraphik (International Advertising Art), Berlin: Phönix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag GmbH (later: ‘Gebrauchsgraphik’ Druck und Verlag GmbH), 1933-71. Published from Munich from 1950., Aug. 1950, pp. 2-9
  • Rolf Vogelmann, ‘On the advertising of the “Olympia” Works’, Gebrauchsgraphik (International Advertising Art), Berlin: Phönix Illustrationsdruck und Verlag GmbH (later: ‘Gebrauchsgraphik’ Druck und Verlag GmbH), 1933-71. Published from Munich from 1950., May 1959, pp. 55-9


  • Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1953 (represented Germany in ‘Four Poster Artists’)
  • Stadthaus, Ulm, Nov. 1997-Jan. 1998.