Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024

Otto Neurath’s Pioneering Book. Modern Man in the Making

The book “Modern Man In The Making” (1939), is a fantastic example of Neurath’s work. The book uses Isotype’s principles with text to illustrate complex societal issues like globalisation and war’s impact on economies, prioritising visual recognition through symbols to aid in memorability—a philosophy that remains paramount in design today.

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Lars Müller Publishers have revived numerous remarkable and rare publications. In their series XX: The Century of Print, they’ve made many pivotal design publications accessible once again. Some of my favourite collected facsimiles from the series include the full set of Neue Grafik/New Graphic Design/Graphisme Actuel 1958–1965 and Max Burchartz Typografische Arbeiten 1924-1931. I often feature these publications in my design history lectures.

One of Lars Müller’s recent facsimile editions is Modern Man in the Making, designed by Otto Neurath in 1939. Otto Neurath (1882–1945) was an Austrian-born political economist, sociologist, and philosopher of science. Throughout his life, Neurath pursued his vision of a new, egalitarian world community, advocating for it through a universally understandable presentation of information.

Neurath developed a visual language called Isotype with collaborators including Gerd Arntz and Marie Reidemeister, The visualisations were pioneered to represent complex statistical information through simplified pictorial charts. His work set the groundwork for modern information design/infographics. The book “Modern Man In The Making” (1939), is a fantastic example of Neurath’s work. The book uses Isotype’s principles with text to illustrate complex societal issues like globalisation and war’s impact on economies, prioritising visual recognition through symbols to aid in memorability—a philosophy that remains paramount in design today.

 

Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024
Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024

 

Modern Man in the Making

First published in 1939 by the New York publisher Alfred A. Knopf, Modern Man in the Making revolutionised the way complex data was presented to the general public. Developed by the Viennese social scientist and political economist Otto Neurath in collaboration with the graphic designer Marie Reidemeister and artist Gerd Arntz, the publication revealed a pioneering visual language called the “ISOTYPE” – International System of Typographic Picture Education – including pictograms and illustrations accompanied by texts. In Modern Man Neurath applied this method of communication to explain statistical data in simple ways, seeking to unpack global trends in the evolution of humankind from 1800 to 1939. 

Now seen as a canonical publication in media and design history, the book was developed at a time when the rise of new mass media was making previously unthinkable amounts of information available; in turn, Neurath and his team felt the need for a systematic visual language suitable for mass communication. Modern Man in the Making, subtitled “for the intelligent citizen who wants to understand the world he lives in,” addresses topics as diverse as mortality, health, trade, imperialism, education, leisure, migration and demographics, among many others. Published on the eve of the Second World War, it was very well received, especially in the United States, and promptly translated into Dutch and Swedish. 

 

Edited by Lars Müller (reprint)
Author: Otto Neurath
Design: Otto Neurath (1939)
Essay insert by Günther Sandner 

Available at Lars Müller Publishers

 

Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024
Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024

 

Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024
Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024

 

Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024
Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024

 

Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024
Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024

 

Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024
Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024

 

Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024
Modern Man in the Making, Lars Muller Publishers, 2024

 

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