Saturday, 28 March 2009

On the shelf (and staying there): Gerd Arnst

Here’s one for the graphic designerds. In my college years, much to the bemusement of my friends, I discovered that I only needed a small proportion of my grant to stay alive, and that I could spend the rest on second-hand books. One such s-hb was a first edition (yes, and you can’t have it) of ‘Modern Man in the Making’ by Otto Neurath - ‘Director of the International Foundation for Visual Education.’ I paid 50p, and it may not have been in perfect condition but my tutor offered me lots of money for it, which I refused (yes, he couldn’t have it either).
Published by Knopf in 1939, it describes itself as ‘A unique text and picture book for the intelligent citizen - an analysis of the fundamental trends in the social, political and economic life of humanity.’ Packed with graphs, charts, maps etc, it’s printed by letterpress, in mainly black, red and blue. This ‘Isotype’ by Gerd Arnst, in a section called ‘Past and Present,’ is in six colours, perfectly registered. (You can count them, but you can’t have it).
Here’s a textract (the italics are mine too):

“Modern scientific methods and engineering have spread over the whole world, especially the technology of war, which is the backbone of the political and social life of the present time. The elimination of the strange is necessarily accompanied by unification. Photographs of a League of Nations Congress or of an international naval conference reveal Western dress and Western Uniform with very few exceptions. Progress from the colourful multifarious picture of the arms and weapons of the past up to the egalitarian sameness of modern uniforms is symbolic...
“… Mankind disposes of better equipment, better planning, and better methods for killing and tormenting fellow-beings than for making life and living-conditions secure.”

(No, you can’t have it - it's mine).

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