Otl Aicher

Otto "Otl" Aicher (13 May 1922 – 1 September 1991) was a German graphic designer and typographer. He is best known for having designed pictograms for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich that proved influential on the use of stick figures for public signage, as well as designing the typeface Rotis. Aicher also co-founded the Ulm School of Design.

Otl Aicher
Otto Aicher

13 May 1922
Died1 September 1991 (aged 69)
Günzburg, Germany
Alma materAcademy of Fine Arts Munich
OccupationGraphic designer, typographer
Spouse(s)Inge Scholl
RelativesRobert Scholl (father-in-law)
Sophie Scholl (sister-in-law)
Hans Scholl (brother-in-law)
Book covers designed by Otl Aicher for Severin & Siedler
Pictograms designed by Aicher, in use at the Athens Airport
Aicher's Lufthansa logo

Early life and career

Aicher was born in Ulm, in the south-western state of Baden-Württemberg, on 13 May 1922. Aicher was a classmate and friend of Werner Scholl, and through him met Werner's family, including his siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl, both of whom would be executed in 1943 for their membership in the White Rose resistance movement in Nazi Germany. Like the Scholls, Aicher was strongly opposed to the Nazi movement. He was arrested in 1937 for refusing to join the Hitler Youth, and consequently he was failed on his abitur (college entrance) examination in 1941. He was subsequently drafted into the German army to fight in World War II, though he tried to leave at various times. In 1945 he deserted the army, and went into hiding at the Scholls' house in Wutach.

In 1946, after the end of the war, Aicher began studying sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. In 1947, he opened his own studio in Ulm.

In 1952 he married Inge Scholl, the older sister of Werner, Hans, and Sophie.

Ulm School of Design

In 1953, along with Inge Scholl and Max Bill, he founded the Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm), which became one of Germany's leading educational centres for design from its founding until its closure in 1968. Faculty and students included such notable designers as Tomás Maldonado, Peter Seitz, and Anthony Froshaug.

Aicher was heavily involved in corporate branding and considered one of the pioneers of Corporate design.[1] Among others he was influential to the corporate identity of the company Braun and he designed the logo for German airline Lufthansa in 1969.

1972 Munich Olympics

In 1966 Aicher was asked by the organisers of the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich to become the Olympic Games' lead designer. He was asked to create a design for the Olympics that complemented the architecture of the newly built stadium in Munich designed by Günther Behnisch. Aicher consulted with Masaru Katsumie, who had designed the previous 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.[2]

Basing his work in part on iconography for the '64 Games, Aicher created a set of pictograms meant to provide a visual interpretation of the sport they featured so that athletes and visitors to the Olympic village and stadium could find their way around.[2] He created pictograms using a series of grid systems and a specific bright colour palette that he chose for these Games. These designs were directly influential on the DOT pictograms, developed in 1974 by the United States Department of Transportation, which applied the same principles to standard public signage such as those for toilets and telephones; the DOT pictograms have in turn been used around the world. The series of pictograms he created was not a simple task; the goal of each pictogram was to function as a clear sign of the activity it represented while simultaneously maintaining its universal comprehension.[3]

Otl Aicher also helped to design the logo of the Munich Olympics. He went through several stages with his design team before finally finding the successful emblem. One of their first ideas was to use an element of the city's coat of arms or Münchner Kindl within the design which showed a monk or child pointing into the distance while clasping a book in his hand. Other ideas were to use the surrounding areas of the city, referencing the sun, mountains and landscape within the design.[2] Finally the "Strahlenkranz" was created, a garland which represented the sun but also the five Olympic rings merged in a spiral shape. Designer Coordt von Mannstein reworked Aicher's original design through a mathematical calculation to amalgamate the garland and spiral together to get the final design.[2]

The colours chosen for the designs of the games were selected to reflect the tones of the Alps. The mountains in blue and white would make up the palette of colours which also included green, orange and silver.[2] The colours were used to identify allocated themes such as media, technical services, celebrity hospitality and public functions and each had a different colour so visitors could differentiate the themes around the stadium and village. Uniforms were colour-coordinated to represent these themes, the Olympic staff could be identified as working for a particular department by the colour they were wearing.[2]

Aicher used the typeface Univers for the Olympic designs.[2] The design team produced 21 sports posters to advertise the sports at the games, using the official design colours and also including the logo and "München 1972". The design team used a technique called "posterization" for the graphics on the posters, separating the tonal qualities from the images in a manual process and using the official munich colours for these games.[2] The first of these posters was a poster of the Olympic stadium which became the official poster for these games. The posters were displayed all around the city of Munich and around the Olympic sites. Posters were hung in twos alongside posters designed by famous artists chosen to represent this Olympics such as David Hockney, R. B. Kitaj, Tom Wesselmann and Allen Jones.[2]

He also created the first official Olympic Mascot, a striped dachshund named Waldi.

Olympic games 1972 basketball 0501
Piktogramm Schwimmer an der Muenchner Olympia Schwimmhalle
Olympic games 1972 pictogramms olympic station 0877 a
Archery pictogram white (1972 Summer Olympics style)
Olympic parc munich pictogramms ice rink 0651
Olympic games 1972 cycling 0533
Olympic games 1972 gymnastics 0532

Later work

Rotis muster
The font "rotis"
Rotis 3
One of the studio buildings designed by Aicher for his office

In 1980 Otl Aicher became a consultant of the kitchen manufacturer bulthaup. He created the rotis font family in 1988, naming it after the domicile of Rotis in the city of Leutkirch im Allgäu, where Aicher lived and kept his studio which is still used today by bulthaup.

He also designed the logo for the University of Konstanz as well as Munich Airport, the latter consisting of the letter M in a simple sans-serif font.

Death and after

Aicher died in Günzburg on 1 September 1991, after he was struck by a vehicle while mowing the grass at Rotis.[4]

He was honoured by the Munich City Council on 6 May 2010, when a street, Otl-Aicher-Straße, in the City's Borough No. 12 (Schwabing-Freimann) was named after him.


Aicher wrote many books on design and other subjects, including:

  • "The Kitchen is for Cooking" (1982)
  • "Walking in the Desert" (1982)
  • "Critique of the Automobile" (1984)
  • "Inside the War" (1985)
  • "The World as Design" (Die Welt Als Entwurf) (1991)
  • "Analog and Digital" (Analog Und Digital) (1991)

Publications on Otl Aicher and his work:

  • Foster, Norman: Otl Aicher 1991. In: David Jenkins (Hg.): On Foster ... Foster On, München: Prestel, 2000, pp. 592–595, ISBN 3-7913-2405-5
  • Rathgeb, Markus: Otl Aicher - Design as a method of action. PhD thesis at The University of Reading, 2001
  • Rathgeb, Markus: Otl Aicher. Phaidon Press, 2006, ISBN 0714843962. (Monograph)


  1. ^ 1952-, Polster, Bernd, (2005). Braun : 50 Jahre Produktinnovationen. Köln: DuMont Literatuar und Kunst Verlag. ISBN 3832173641. OCLC 69982458.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rathgeb, Markus (2006). Otl Aicher. Phaidon. ISBN 978-0-7148-4396-4.
  3. ^ Folkmann, Mads Nygaard (2011). "Encoding Symbolism: Immateriality and Possibility in Design". Design and Culture. 3 (1).
  4. ^ Rathgeb, Markus. Otl Aicher. New York: Phaidon Press Inc., 2008.

External links

1972 Summer Olympics

The 1972 Summer Olympics (German: Olympische Sommerspiele 1972), officially known as the Games of the XX Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event held in Munich, West Germany, from August 26 to September 11, 1972.

The sporting nature of the event was largely overshadowed by the Munich massacre in the second week, in which eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German police officer at Olympic village were killed by Black September terrorists.

The 1972 Summer Olympics were the second Summer Olympics to be held in Germany, after the 1936 Games in Berlin, which had taken place under the Nazi regime. The West German Government had been eager to have the Munich Olympics present a democratic and optimistic Germany to the world, as shown by the Games' official motto, "Die Heiteren Spiele", or "the cheerful Games". The logo of the Games was a blue solar logo (the "Bright Sun") by Otl Aicher, the designer and director of the visual conception commission. The Olympic mascot, the dachshund "Waldi", was the first officially named Olympic mascot. The Olympic Fanfare was composed by Herbert Rehbein.The Olympic Park (Olympiapark) is based on Frei Otto's plans and after the Games became a Munich landmark. The competition sites, designed by architect Günther Behnisch, included the Olympic swimming hall, the Olympics Hall (Olympiahalle, a multipurpose facility) and the Olympic Stadium (Olympiastadion), and an Olympic village very close to the park. The design of the stadium was considered revolutionary, with sweeping canopies of acrylic glass stabilized by metal ropes, used on such a large scale for the first time.


Aicher is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Anton Aicher (1859–1930), Austrian artistic theatre director

Dean Aicher, American guitarist

Gretl Aicher, (1928-2012), Austrian artistic theatre director

Otl Aicher, (1922–1991), German graphic designer and typographer


bulthaup (legally: Bulthaup GmbH & Co. KG) is a German kitchen manufacturer headquartered in Aich, Bodenkirchen, close to Landshut in Lower Bavaria. It has a headcount of 530, and records revenues of around 120 million euros – 80% of which is account for by exports.

Cafeteria Nipponica

Cafeteria Nipponica is a simulation video game developed and published by Kairosoft for the Android and iOS operating systems. It was released in April, 2012. The game places the player in control of a restaurant, which they must build up to a high quality restaurant chain. The game met with mixed reviews, with many reviewers noting that there were better Kairosoft simulation games.

Daniel Gil

Daniel Gil Pila (February 17, 1930 – November 14, 2004) was one of the leading Spanish graphic designers of the 20th century.

Born in Santander, Daniel Gil studied in the Academy of Fine Arts of Madrid. In the early 1950s, he attended the Ulm School of Design, where he was a disciple of Otl Aicher.

Back in Spain, Gil entered as graphic designer in the Hispavox recording house, becoming shortly its Art director. He then worked for two other record labels, namely the Spanish branches of Ariola and RCA.

In 1966, Gil moved to Alianza Editorial publishing house, where along almost thirty years he produced more than 4,000 book covers that made him the best known and recognized Spanish graphical designer.

In his last years, the Parkinson disease he suffered avoided him to work in full control of his faculties.

Design theory

Design theory is a subfield of design research concerned with various theoretical approaches towards understanding and delineating design principles, design knowledge, and design practice.

Hans G. Conrad

Hans G. Conrad (*11 June 1926 in Remetschwil, Switzerland as Johann Gerold Konrad; † 26 December 2003 in Cologne, Germany) was a photographer and graphic designer in the 20th century.

Hans Roericht

Hans (Nick) Roericht (born November 15, 1932 in Schönkirch, Germany), is a German designer. He was professor at the Hochschule der Künste Berlin, Industriedesign IV, from 1973 to 2002. He designed the TC100 stacking tableware for his thesis at the Ulm School of Design in 1959, which was taken into the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.Roericht studied at the Ulm School of Design from 1955 to 1959. He continued at the Ulm School of Design collaborating first with Georg Leowald in 1960, and then Otl Aicher since 1961 - also being a part of Aicher's design team of the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. From 1966 to 1967, Roericht taught as a professor at the Ohio State University.

History of graphic design

Graphics (from Greek γραφικός, graphikos) are visual statements committed to a surface, such as a wall, a canvas, pottery, a computer screen, paper, stone, even to the landscape itself. The term "graphics" relates to the creation of signs, charts, logos, graphs, drawings, line art, symbols, geometric designs and so on. Graphic design is the art or profession of combining text, pictures, and ideas in advertisements, publications, or websites. In its broadest definition, therefore, it refers to the whole history of art, although painting and other aspects of the subject are more usually treated as art history.

Inge Scholl

Inge Aicher-Scholl (11 August 1917 – 4 September 1998), born in present-day Crailsheim, Germany, was the daughter of Robert Scholl, mayor of Forchtenberg, and elder sister of Hans and Sophie Scholl, who studied at the University of Munich in 1942, and were core members of the White Rose student resistance movement in Nazi Germany. Inge Scholl wrote several books about the White Rose after the war. However, according to the Center for White Rose Studies, she did not even "so much as listen to her siblings' talk", when they tried to convince her to take part in 1942.

List of graphic designers

This is a list of notable graphic designers.

Max Bill

Max Bill (22 December 1908 – 9 December 1994) was a Swiss architect, artist, painter, typeface designer, industrial designer and graphic designer.

Metric typographic units

Metric typographic units have been devised and proposed several times to overcome the various traditional point systems. After the French revolution of 1789 one popular proponent of a switch to metric was Didot, who had been able to standardise the continental European typographic measurement a few decades earlier. The conversion did not happen, though. The Didot point was metrically redefined as ​1⁄2660 m (≈ 0.376 mm) in 1879 by Berthold.

The advent and success of desktop publishing (DTP) software and word processors for office use, coming mostly from the non-metric United States, basically revoked this metrication process in typography. DTP commonly uses the PostScript point, which is defined as ​1⁄72 of an inch (352.(7) μm).


OTL may stand for:

Oradea Transport Local

Over-the-line, a variant of softball played mostly in Southern California

Over Time Limit

Output transformerless, a vacuum tube amplifier topology

Outside the Lines, an American sports television series focusing on off-the-field stories

Oracle Template Library

An emoticon representing a kneeling or bowing person

Overtime loss in ice hockey

Otl Aicher, a graphic designer and typographer

South Airlines, by ICAO airline code

Ottawa Tool Library


Rotis is a typeface developed in 1988 by Otl Aicher, a German graphic designer and typographer. In Rotis, Aicher explores an attempt at maximum legibility through a highly unified yet varied typeface family that ranges from full serif, glyphic, and sans-serif. The four basic Rotis variants are:

Rotis serif (antiqua) — with full serifs

Rotis semi-serif (semi-antiqua) — with hinted serifs

Rotis semi-sans (semi-grotesque) — with zero serifs but with stroke width variation

Rotis sans (lineale humanist sans-serif) — with zero serifs and with minimal variation on stroke width

Stick figure

A stick figure is a very simple drawing of a person or animal, composed of a few lines, curves, and dots. In a stick figure, the head is represented by a circle, sometimes embellished with details such as eyes, mouth or crudely scratched-out hair. The arms, legs and torso are usually represented by straight lines. Details such as hands, feet and a neck may be present or absent, and the simpler stick figures often display an ambiguous emotional expression or disproportionate limbs.

Graffiti of stick figures are found throughout history, often scratched with a sharp object on hard surfaces such as stone or concrete walls. Stick figures are often used in sketches for film storyboarding.

Trams in Ulm

The Ulm tramway network (German: Straßenbahnnetz Ulm) is a network of tramways forming part of the public transport system in Ulm, a city in the federal state of Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

Opened in 1897, the network is currently operated by Stadtwerken Ulm/Neu-Ulm GmbH (SWU).

Ulm School of Design

The Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung Ulm) was a college of design based in Ulm, Germany.

Founded in 1953 by Inge Aicher-Scholl, Otl Aicher and Max Bill, the latter being first rector of the school and a former student at the Bauhaus. The HfG quickly gained international recognition by emphasizing the holistic, multidisciplinary context of design beyond the Bauhaus approach of integrating art, craft and technology. The subjects of sociology, psychology, politics, economics, philosophy and systems-thinking were integrated with aesthetics and technology. During HfG operations from 1953–1968, progressive approaches to the design process were implemented within the departments of Product Design, Visual Communication, Industrialized Building, Information and Filmmaking.

The HfG building was designed by Max Bill and remains intact today as a historically important and functional building under the auspices of Foundation Ulm. The HfG was the most progressive educational institution of design in the 1950s and 1960s and a pioneer in the study of semiotics. It is viewed as one of the world's significant design schools, equal in influence to the Bauhaus.The history of HfG evolved through innovation and change, in line with their own self-image of the school as an experimental institution. This resulted in numerous changes in the content, organization of classes and continuing internal conflicts that influenced the final decision of closing the HfG in 1968. Although the school ceased operation after fifteen years, the ′Ulm Model′ continues to have a major influence on international design education.


Waldi was the first official Olympic mascot created for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. He was a dachshund, a popular breed of dog from Germany. The course of the marathon was designed to incorporate the Waldi design, and during the construction phase of the 1972 Olympic stadium and village, Waldi was used in unofficial satirical posters.

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