Isotype beyond the West

Despite the repeated claims made for Isotype's international effectiveness, very few opportunities arose to test it in the developing, non-Western world. An exception was the Isotype Institute's work in British colonial West Africa. Between 1953 and 1958, a variety of projects were completed in Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the Gold Coast (Ghana), countries then moving towards independence.

In Nigeria, projects were commissioned by the Western Regional Government. Its programme of social betterment included free health care and primary education, the modernisation of agriculture and infrastructure, and universal adult enfranchisement.

To help explain its programme to the people, among whom there were many semi- and illiterate children and adults, the government turned to the Isotype Institute. Working in partnership with Buffalo Books, a subsidiary of Adprint, the Isotype Institute produced visual materials adapted to local needs.

[10.01-10.02]
Sketches: 'Indirect and Direct Elections' and 'Constituency Make-up'
1953

In August 1953, Obafemi Awolowo, prime minister of the Western Region of Nigeria, visited London for a constitutional conference convened by the British government. While in London he met Marie Neurath and discussed with her how pictures could help his government communicate with the people of the Western Region. During their meeting Marie Neurath made sketches to demonstrate how political scenarios could be visualised using Isotype methods. These sketches helped convince Awolowo of Isotype's value.


[10.09-10.11]
Booklets on education and roads
1955-6

In 1954, Marie Neurath travelled to Ibadan in the Western Region to meet with government ministers. Together they decided to produce a series of booklets explaining each area of the government's social programme. The first four became known as 'White Paper' booklets, and were completed in 1955: Education for All, Health for All, Better Farming for Better Living and Paying for Progress. Others followed to encourage voting, show improvements to infrastructure and promote literacy among adults.

Education for All and Roads, Ibadan, Nigeria: Western Regional Government, 1955 and 1956. Issued in English and Yoruba language versions. Technical production by Buffalo Books, London. Printed by Purnell & Sons, Paulton (Somerset) and London

[10.12]
Booklet on voting
1955

The political programme of the Western Regional Government extended to universal adult enfranchisement. The booklet Voting explained the rules and procedures for voter registration and for casting a vote at a polling station. It was produced together with a series of posters (shown below).

Voting in the Western Region of Nigeria, Ibadan, Nigeria: Western Regional Government. Issued in English and Yoruba language versions. Technical production by Buffalo Books, London. Printed by Purnell & Sons, Paulton (Somerset) and London

[10.03-10.07]
Booklet on farming: working materials
1954

Insight into the design process followed for the booklets can be gained through the working materials of the Isotype Institute. Those shown here relate to pages 12 and 13 of Better Farming for Better Living (1955). On page 13, for example, the evolving visualisation of higher yield through improved farming methods can be traced.

A first, rough indication of yields as produced by hand and by mechanical cultivation leads to a more detailed sketch of comparative cultivation scenarios, shown in elevation. In a subsequent drawing the viewpoint is shifted upward to a ¾-plan, allowing the plots to be compared more easily. Photo-mechanical images were then created and reviewed by Nigerian officials, who proposed changes. For page 13, these involved the planting arrangement and the implement pulled by the tractor. The final page, as printed, incorporates the changes.

[10.08]
Booklet on farming
1955

Better Farming for Better Living, Ibadan, Nigeria: Western Regional Government. Issued in English and Yoruba language versions. Technical production by Buffalo Books, London. Printed by Purnell & Sons, Paulton (Somerset) and London

[10.22]
Party-political manifesto: Forward to Freedom
1954

Action Group, led by Obafemi Awolowo, was the ruling party in the Western Regional Government. Although the Isotype Institute played a relatively minor role in the design of this explicitly political document, its involvement nevertheless underscores the party-political dimension of nearly all the Institute's work in the Western Region.

Ibadan, Nigeria: Action Group Party

[10.23-10.25]
Poster leaflet on leprosy
Probably 1955

This is one of a series dealing with health related topics. The poster leaflet idea came to Marie Neurath when she was in Benin City to learn about health care provision. At a doctor's surgery she encountered a waiting room full of patients who returned repeatedly with the same complaints. Neurath suggested producing 'educational pictures' so medical assistants could explain to patients the nature of their condition and how it could be improved. The poster leaflet could then be folded up and taken away.

Produced by the Western Regional Government, Ibadan, Nigeria. Issued in English and Yoruba language versions. Technical production by Buffalo Books, London. Printed in Great Britain by Purnell & Sons, Ltd, Paulton (Somerset) and London

Thumbnail image for Nigeria vote early.jpg

Posters on voting
Probably 1955

The Isotype Institute designed posters in tandem with the booklet on voting (shown above). The posters visualised registration and voting procedures, and identified registration offices and polling stations. Here, the poster for 'Polling Station' is used within the poster 'Vote Early'. Inside the polling station, as illustrated in 'Vote Early', are four ballot boxes labelled with suggestive pictograms. These denote different political parties, in part for the benefit of illiterate voters.

'Vote Early at Your Polling Station' and 'Polling Station', produced by the Western Regional Government, Ibadan, Nigeria. Issued in English and Yoruba language versions. Technical production by Buffalo Books, London. Printed in Great Britain by Purnell & Sons, Ltd, Paulton (Somerset) and London

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