What’s become of Otl Aicher’s former abode? A visit to the Allgäu.
Not to be overlooked, highly original
Otl Aicher's Poster displays for the Ulmer Volkshochschule (Ulm Adult Education Centre)
In 2000, the designer and semiotician Martin Krampen presented Otl Aicher’s 328 posters for the Ulmer Volkshochschule (vh) in a comprehensive publication. Krampen’s text about the vh’s poster displays is taken from this book.
From the beginning, advertising for the Ulmer Volkshochschule was also an economic problem. The posters on pillars in Ulm were initially put up by the city. After the currency reform of July 1948, the funds of the Adult Education Centre became scarcer and the city took over part of the advertising costs. In return, municipal employees were allowed to attend vh-courses in shorthand and typewriting free of charge. Soon afterwards, the city leased out the poster company. Negotiations were held with the new entrepreneur about the adult education centre and the municipal theatre having their own billboards. In late autumn 1950, the Ulmer Volkshochschule asked to be allowed to put up 40 of its own billboards. Without waiting for approval, the production of 40 of these boards was commissioned. In December 1950, a site visit took place with representatives of the Adult Education Centre, the Office for Public Order, the City Planning Office and the local Land Office, in which locations for 25 of the new vertical billboards were determined.
Poster display for the Ulmer Volkshochschule (around 1953). Design: Otl Aicher. Photographer unknown. © Florian Aicher Rotis, HfG Archive / Museum Ulm. HfG-Ar Ai F 1199
Kurt Fried, newspaper editor and city councillor and thus one of the key figures in Ulm’s cultural life, wrote in the Monthly Review of February 1951, according to the entry in his monthly diary of 10th January: “The admonishing totem poles of the vh, the new billboards we mean, are appearing in the cityscape. Not to be overlooked. Highly original!” The city’s economic department then agreed to the installation retrospectively with a reprimanding remark. Approval for a total of 40 poster pillars followed, and the city continued to make a monthly contribution to the cost of the poster display, which was settled with the leaseholder (protocols 1950). From then on, the vertical posters of the monthly “Thursday lectures” of about 40 x 80 cm found their permanent place under the signet of about 40 x 40 cm and at the foot of the display were two square posters of 40 x 40 cm, each for events. The previous typographic programmes of about 40 x 60 cm were placed in the middle between the portrait format and the two square posters. The result was a display with a height of approx. 2.60 m on a base of approx. 40 cm. In terms of typography, these display columns mark the definitive transition to normal typesetting.
Otl Aicher, Jürgen Uhde - "Einführung in Bela Bartok", vh poster 1950, © Florian Aicher, HfG Archive / Museum Ulm
Otl Aicher, cutout break poster, vh poster, before 1960, © Florian Aicher, HfG Archive / Museum Ulm
Martin Krampen (1928-2015) was a designer, artist and semiotician. He studied theology, psychology and art history at the universities of Tübingen and Heidelberg and Rome from 1948 to 1950 before completing an internship at Otl Aicher’s graphic design studio in Ulm in autumn 1953. In December 1953, he enrolled at the Ulm School of Design (HfG), where he studied visual communication and later taught as a lecturer at the HfG. He was professor for design and psychology in the USA and Canada, and from 1972 to 2005 he was a lecturer at the Hochschule für Gestaltung Schwäbisch Gmünd. With Aicher, he published the book “Zeichensystem der visuellen Kommunikation. Handbook for designers, architects, planners, organisers”. In 2000, Krampen’s book “Otl Aicher – 328 Posters for the Ulmer Volkshochschule” was published, from which the text above is taken.
The publication of this text is made possible by the kind permission of Reintraut Semmler, the executor of Martin Krampen’s estate in Ulm by the publishing house Wilhelm Ernst & Sohn, Berlin. Martin Krampen: “Otl Aicher – 328 Plakate für die Ulmer Volkshochschule.” Page 120, Berlin 2000. Copyright Ernst & Sohn GmbH, Publishing Group Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken (New Jersey), Reproduced with permission.
How a dachshund conquered the world: former Aicher staff member Elena Schwaiger on plush animals, fakes and the authentic mascot of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich
How a dachshund conquered the world: former Aicher staff member Elena Schwaiger on plush animals, fakes and the authentic mascot of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.