As a politically engaged graphic artist and designer Gerd Arntz (1900-1988) portrayed the world in wood and linoleum cuts.

During the 1920s he directed his vision towards social wrongs and the rise of Nazism in Germany in his prints. Arntz did this in such a simple, direct style that anyone – regardless of their education and nationality – was able to understand his images.

This prompted the Viennese social scientist Otto Neurath (1882-1945) to ask him to design the symbols for the International System of Typographic Picture Education (Isotype). Arntz drew over 4,000 symbols and small illustrations for the Isotype visual dictionary and other commissions. The pictograms (or Signaturen, as Neurath and Arntz called them) symbolise key data from industry, demographics, politics and economy. Isotype symbols should be instantly recognisable, without any distracting detail. What counts is the general idea.

The pictograms and small illustrations featured here are scanned from the original prints in the Arntz archive of the Municipal Museum, The Hague. This accounts for some irregularities, which resulted from hand-printing the linocuts.

The only intervention concerns the back­ground (usually brown or brownish paper) which was whitened to emphasise the contours of the drawings, whilst keeping the authenticity of the outlines intact.

Ed Annink and Max Bruinsma,
editors, Gerd Arntz: Graphic Designer


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