He’s one of the most renowned German designers of the 20th century. But Otl Aicher stayed away from the metropolitan design world, living and working in the hamlet of Rotis in the alpine region of Allgäu. It was a rebellion against slick, fancy urbanity and allowed Aicher to combine living and working in one place. The late designer’s Rotis typeface can be found on packaging in every German pharmacy and supermarket and is the subject of heated debate among typographers. Aicher was probably one of the first great design generalists, with an influence that surpasses the work itself. The designs took advantage of the freedoms provided by Germany’s post-war blank canvas. The brother-in-law of siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl – founders of the resistance group “Die Weiße Rose” – Aicher took a clear stance against National Socialism. To him, design was an attitude. With the foundation of the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm, he is considered a pioneer of visual communication.
A crucial example of Aicher’s work is the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. They were the second summer games to be held in Germany following Hitler’s 1936 Olympics, and were intended as a response to the past. No doubt Aicher’s celebrity – and politics – led to his commissioning for the games’ corporate identity. To this day, his visual identity is unsurpassed in detail and scope and enjoys worldwide recognition. Now, at the Bröhan Museum in Charlottenburg, you can visit an entire exhibition dedicated to the work. In addition to original designs and detailed explanations, 17 of the 21 iconic Olympic posters are on display, their silkscreen colors shining beautifully in the rooms of the museum. Entering the building’s main room takes you right back to that era. You see just how holistically and revolutionarily Aicher and his team pursued the design for the games, with his progressive politics playing a role throughout.
Text: Jan Husstedt / Photo: Jan Husstedt / Credit: Florian Aicher, Rotis; HfG-Archiv, Museum Ulm