People Pictures Universal

Popular Infographics of the 1920s – Fritz Kahn and Otto Neurath – Funded by the International Museum Fellowship Programme

The surge of information communicated through early 20th-century media led to a “visualisation boost”. It was then that the idea of presenting condensed information in visual form came into being.

This exhibition project was devoted to two pioneers of infographics of the 1920s. The Austrian national economist Otto Neurath and the Halle native and doctor Fritz Kahn almost simultaneously developed a universal pictorial language around 1925, based on a formal stylisation of objects and the human body. Neurath invented the “isotype” pictograms which conveyed complex information using simplified graphic elements. Kahn’s “factories of the human body” represented the body’s organic functions. Inspired by the technical advances of his time, he compared these to industrial processes and everyday office situations in order to depict complicated processes in a simple way. Their concepts played a significant role in ushering in the “iconic turn” of that era.

These pictograms and stylisations are as effective today as they were in the “Roaring Twenties”. Perhaps even more so in view of the fact that today’s mobile devices wouldn’t work without icons, while classical infographics are experiencing a comeback. The fascination with this subject primarily lies in the rediscovery and portrayal of the image as a source of information since the early 20th century. One of the fellow’s tasks will be to emphasise this point based on “isotypes” and “body factories”.

The visibility of the project will be guaranteed by its digital presentation online, which will also offer the possibility of continuing its development in cooperation with the communications faculty of the university Erfurt and other museum’s partners.

The International Museum Fellowship Programme

With this funding programme, the Federal Cultural Foundation enabled guest curators and researchers from abroad to work at museums or public collections in Germany for a duration of 18 months.

Helena Doudova, Fellow at the DBSM

Helena Doudova is an art historian and curator. She studied Art History, Art Theory and International Relations in Prague and Berlin. Currently she pursues her PhD study in Art History at the University of Zürich. She worked as a fellow at the Architekturmuseum der TU München 2011-2012 and has initiated and curated exhibitions and projects, among others, "BAUGRUPPE ist super!" exhibition at the Kvalitář Gallery in Prague (2015). Her research interests include art, architecture, visual culture and media theory of the 20th century.


  • 8 September, 2017 to 7 January, 2018: Exhibition "Image Factories. Infographics 1920 – 1945. Fritz Kahn, Otto Neurath et al."

    Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum, Leipzig


Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum (DBSM) der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek

Deutscher Platz 1
04103 Leipzig (external link, opens in a new window)