The designer from Munich ’72: 100 years with Otl Aicher

Munich / Ulm – His design shaped Germany in the 20th century. The appearance of Lufthansa, the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich or the ZDF works by designer Otl Aicher are unmistakable to this day. The man’s history and personal connection to his work are far less known. On May 13, Otto “Otl” Aicher, who was born in Ulm, would have turned 100 years old.

Aicher grew up in Ulm, where he became friends with the resistance fighters Hans and Sophie Scholl. He refuses to join the Hitler Youth and is therefore imprisoned. As a soldier in the Wehrmacht, Aicher deserted and went into hiding with the Scholl family.

Otl Aicher: Career start in Ulm

After the war and after dropping his studies in sculpture in Munich, Aicher created his first designs for the Ulm Adult Education Center (vh). He founded it in 1946 together with his future wife Inge Scholl, big sister of Hans and Sophie Scholl. Numerous VH posters characterize the image of Ulm’s center after the war.

In 1953 came the Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG), which Aicher founded in Ulm together with his wife and architect Max Bill. The university shapes the image of the profession as a designer and wins respect far beyond Ulm. At HfG, the image of Lufthansa is also created, with which Aicher takes the step into the world of internationally active companies.

There is a myth surrounding the Olympic Dirndl.  Apparently, some of the Olympic hostesses cut their skirts much shorter, far above the kneecaps.  The 70s were, after all, one of the two decades with the ultra-short mini skirt.  In the picture you can quite well see the different lengths.

50 years of the Munich Olympic Games: The State Library exhibits photos


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50 years Olympic Park: This is what it looks like

For the anniversary: ​​Olympia 72 is honored with a pavilion


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Already a remarkable career for Aicher, who taught himself everything that Martin Mäntele, head of the HfG archive, says. Aicher settled in Ulm without any education or qualifications. But his work convinces with clear lines and a memorable idiom. Although not unaccompanied by criticism, Aicher was awarded the contract to design the look of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.

It is important for Aicher to distinguish between the times of National Socialism. The colors red, gold and black are taboo. Instead, he uses colors that do not evoke associations with power: light blue, yellow, orange. “Nothing should be reminiscent of the Third Reich,” Mäntele says.

Dachshund Waldi: Aicher is in charge of the Olympic mascot

This also includes the dachshund Waldi – the very first Olympic mascot. Drawn quickly and sympathetically by Aicher, the dog with its wagging tail and head up in the typical Olympic colors becomes the symbol of the Games. Due to its popularity, the two-dimensional dachshund even became an advertising figure for Munich and later also became available as a fabric figure.

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Zamperl is loose! Dachshund parade in Munich Olympic Park


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Another important element in the design for the Olympics is the pictograms. Not only for the various sports, but also as guides on the site, they make it possible to ensure understanding across all language barriers – and are still used worldwide today.

The designer also gained great fame with the posters for the games. Mäntele says that Aicher has managed to portray the sport’s most important moment with each poster. In addition, Aicher designed a comprehensive image for the Olympics. He sets design guidelines that flow into every detail – and thus sets standards. From clothes for employees to furniture and tickets.

Accident with a lawn mower: Aicher no longer wakes up from a coma

In the 1970s, Aicher moved to an old farm in Rotis, a district in what is now Leutkirch im Allgäu. In addition to the Rotis fountain, there are also studio houses designed by him. In September 1991, Aicher, who according to Mäntele likes to mow lawns, causes a traffic accident with a lawn mower and never wakes up from a coma.

But his designs have held up for decades. Mäntele believes that Aicher’s design solutions are still relevant. Aicher has always been an independent thinker, and this attitude is also reflected in his works.

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