Otto Neurath: Modern Man in the Making
Lars Müller, 2024
Otto Neurath’s famous Modern Man in the Making, first published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1939, captures and describes the state of the world in the 1930s by using text and figurative illustrations. From 1925 on, Neurath and his team had worked on a new visual language termed “Isotype” (International System of Typographic Picture Education). At a time that saw new mass media making hitherto unthinkable amounts of information available, Neurath felt the need for a systematic visualization explaining facts, statistical data and comparative numbers in simple ways. The book can be seen as one of the most influential predecessors of today’s infographics. In the visuals, each symbol and color represents a certain group of objects or people, often compared repetitively over a certain time span. The topics covered in the book include diverse social issues of the time like mortality, health, employment, trade, education, mobility, migration and demographics.
Modern Man in the Making shows Neurath’s democratic endeavor to make knowledge intelligible and available to all. It is a reminder of graphic art’s ability to inform and create context instead of presenting aesthetic qualities only. The book has inspired generations of designers and has led to sometimes peculiar imitations and further developments. Lars Müller Publishers is making this pivotal historical picture-text book available as a facsimile in the series XX The Century of Print.