Basic texts

One of the first projects undertaken by the Isotype team after moving to The Hague was a book explaining their method, International Picture Language. It was written by Otto Neurath in collaboration with Marie Neurath. The text was composed in Basic English, a stripped-down version of English with a vocabulary of only 850 words. The book was commissioned as part of a series of texts rendered in Basic by its inventor Charles Kay Ogden.

Isotype and Basic English were both methods of reducing statements to essentials, with the common aim of separating the descriptive from the emotive functions of language. The acronym Isotype (International System of TYpographic Picture Education) was formed by analogy with Basic (British American Scientific International Commercial). A second book, Basic by Isotype, pursued the parallels between Isotype and Basic English.

[5.01-5.08]
International Picture Language and Basic by Isotype
1936 and 1937

International Picture Language remains the best summary of Isotype. Basic by Isotype is a pictorial/verbal primer of Basic English, presenting vocabulary and simple formulations in Basic with accompanying visualisations. Although Isotype is not constituted by pictograms alone, illustrations found in both these books offer hints towards the use of pictograms in travel and traffic signs, uses that have since become common.

Otto Neurath
London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co.


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