ISOTYPE was created as a mechanism of communicating statistics using graphic symbols. It was an essential part of Otto Neurath’s (1882–1945) worldwide graphic language, which he created in Vienna following World War I. Originally known as the Vienna Method of Pictorial Statistics, ISOTYPE was created to make complex statistical information about housing, health, education, and other vital priorities more understandable to the general public in the difficult economic and political circumstances of 1920s Vienna by presenting the data in a visually appealing format. The Transformation Team, coordinated by Marie Reidemeister (1898–1986), Neurath’s future wife, transformed the numbers into visual representations.
By developing connections with institutions in London, New York, and Amsterdam, Neurath elevated the effort to an international level. Faced with adversity in Vienna, he and his colleagues relocated to The Hague in 1934, renaming their system from the Wiener Methode der Bildstatistik to ISOTYPE the following year. After the German invasion of Holland in 1940, they were obliged to relocate to the United Kingdom, where they founded the Isotype Institute in Oxford in 1942. Following her husband’s death in 1945, Marie Reidemeister took over as director of the Institute, which relocated to London in 1948 and stayed there until 1972, when it closed. Reading University houses the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection.
Woodham, J. M. (2006). A dictionary of modern design. Oxford University Press.