November 06, 2014 at 06:10AM
"[T]he ability to juxtapose one concept with another, by means of a semantic link." #readingToday

Rather than focus on the display of individual historical or cultural artifacts, [Neurath] wanted to create a new kind of museum devoted to the display of useful information, to help Viennese workers understand the larger forces that were shaping their lives— echoing Geddes's socially minded intentions with the Index Museum. Neurath not only "collected facts," as Neurath scholar Nader Vossoughian puts it, but he constantly looked for new ways to portray them. At one point he developed a system of "statistical hieroglyphs"— called ISOTYPE— intended to provide a universal visual language for conveying numerical information. The idea was to create a visual system that could transcend differences of language and culture, while creating a clear and compelling tool for juxtaposing related concepts. Adapting the Futura font that had been made popular by the Bauhaus movement— which embraced the clean and geometrically proportioned sans serif font for its modernist aesthetic— Neurath set about designing images that evoked the same kind of elegant simplicity. The images were intended to be modular, so that two signs could be combined to form a new one. For example, the sign for "shoe" (an image of a shoe, logically enough) could be added to the sign for "works" (a building with a smokestack) to denote a shoe factory. These pictographic language associations shared an important trait with Otlet's Universal Decimal Classification: the ability to juxtapose one concept with another, by means of a semantic link.

Cataloging the World, Alex James