Connection between design and politics: Kommando Otl Aicher

With text by Sabine Danek (PAGE)  

The project came about during a scholarship at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. There, graphic designer Alexander Negrelli - always a big fan of the work of Otl Aicher (1922-1991) and especially of the identity Aicher designed for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich - pursued the idea of placing the design image of the Olympics in an overall context with the historical events.

Many designers have cited and copied Aicher's seminal identity, historians have analyzed the tragic political events and the deadly hostage situation, but no one has ever brought the two components together.

Yet Aicher himself was deeply embedded in a political context, whether it was his relationship with the Scholl siblings or the approaches of the Ulm School of Design. His work has always had a political dimension as well.

"I'm not a corporate painter after all."

— Otl Aicher

Still, daring to bring Aicher's design image and the hostage situation together. But Negrelli says they were both very visual events. On the one hand, Aicher's appearance and his pictograms, on the other hand, the image of the terrorists with the stocking mask on their heads, which was very efficient and deeply inscribed in the memory.

The book "Kommando Otl Aicher" follows these theses on 264 pages and in over 20 chapters dedicated to Olympia itself, Otl Aicher and the Ulm School of Design, the tragic September 5, Lufthansa, Palestine and the political background, the appearance as a whole, Waldi, the spiral, the art program and the adaptation.

"The official image of the Olympics was contrasted with a visual presence of guerrilla warfare deliberately staged by Black September - more flexible and modern."

— Alexander Negrelli

It's a huge trove of information, and there are interviews to go with it, including interviews with contemporary witnesses, of whom Alexander Negrelli says the consternation over the events still shone through in the conversations. Otl Aicher himself never commented directly on the tragic events, but he is said to have changed, Negrelli tells us - and the experience of recurring failure is also a theme of the book: the execution of the Scholl siblings, the internal conflicts at the HfG Ulm and finally its closure. And the killing of the Israeli athletes.

"Kommando Otl Aicher" received the UDK Berlin Prize for Interdisciplinary Art and Science and was included in the IOC's Olympic World Library.

Kommando Otl Aicher

Author: Alexander Negrelli
Publisher: Jan van Eyck Academy
Language: German / English
Length: 264 pages / color / 350 images
Format: 22,4 x 22,4 cm
Weight: 850 g
Binding: Softcover
ISBN: 978-90-72076-55-7

Gatefold cover with maps

Price: 40 Euro

Kommando Otl Aicher