Otl Aicher at Bröhan-Museum

Sebastian Greger

Growing up in Munich in the 1980s meant to be surrounded by graphic design from the Ulm School of Design: the corporate branding of Lufthansa, Braun and others, but most prominently the iconic work surrounding any remnants of the 1972 Olympics. An exhibition at Berlin’s Bröhan Museum marks Otl Aicher’s 100th birthday, and I took the opportunity to immerse myself in some 70s design for an hour.

The outside of the Bröhan museum in the sunshine

The Bröhan Museum, just opposite the Charlottenburg Castle, is a museum for art nouveau, art deco, and functionalism, and regularly features interesting special collections – in addition to their permanent collection, which also has some neat exhibits on display.

A dark wall with 12 colourful print brochures and a poster representing the schedule of athletic events

A lot of the material in the exhibition was entirely new to me; lots of originals from the 1970s.

Close-up of a wall of colourful print brochures

The colourful compilations of the various print products was at the same time pleasant to watch, but almost a little overwhelming. Trying to imagine the people working in distributing these – they must have been seeing pastel colours in their dreams at night?

Detail view of some of the schedule booklets, with colours used in apparently no consistent manner

I can’t help but look at these artifacts with the systematic brain of a UX designer. What confuses me…

A spread with tables, using all colours of the Munich 72 design

…is that the colours were often not used in a systematic way (at least no system that I could derive from looking at them), but the same colour coding could stand for different things. I need to read up more about Aicher’s colour concept; I have no doubt there was some clear direction in this. The exhibition could not answer this particular question of mine.

A map of ticketing zones for the various stadiums in Munich

I also spent some time wondering about the accessibility of these for people with colour blindness? (Again, just wondering – I have no insight or deeper knowledge to judge in any way.)

Two brochures in rainbow colours with the title

The Munich 1972 Olympics were branded as “the happy games”, not least as an antidote to the 1936 Berlin event that was merely a propaganda show for Hitler’s Germany. So yay for “rainbow games”! (Unfortunately we all know that reality hit hard a few days into the event.)

View into the exhibition space, with a big model of the entire Olympic grounds in the center

I was actually impressed how it was possible to fill an entire museum floor with an exhibition which is essentially about the graphic design concept of an event. It was truly a pleasant exhibition to walk through and explore.