OTL AICHER 1922–1991

There are many ways to go about communicating a humanizing quality or design philosophy of Otl Aicher in one minute. Some of my initial themes I envisioned had to do with Aicher’s focus on rationalism and utilitarian design, his profilic career and expertise in and out of design (breadth), his pictograms and their influence, and his work as the Design Commissioner of the 1972 Games.

The core challenge I faced with this video project was the first step — sourcing good audio footage from my designer. I scoured the internet for any interview footage and found several promising ones, but not without uncertainty due to the very real language barrier. (An important note: Otl Aicher was German and did not speak any English)

I kept a running list of links that felt promising for the following uses: potential audio clips, potential background music considerations, existing videos about Aicher for reference/inspiration, and potential video footage clips.

The running list of videos became a list of “potentially-useable” audio footage. I relied a lot on Youtube’s auto-translate feature and plugging in jank transcriptions into Google Translate to determine a reasonable-sized list for translation.

After lots of begging via emails and generous help from CMU language professors, I was able to find a student who was willing to transcribe and translate the videos I found. He even kindly answered all my annoying questions.

Though there were a good amount of videos made about Aicher’s work (particularly the 1972 Olympics, understandably), there didn’t seem to be many that focused on Aicher himself — material that would humanize him and describe his design philosophy. Unfortunately, I was only able to come to this conclusion after all 11 pages of the translations were completed (thank you so much, Wilson!)

Annotations to translated material; highlighted yellow are excerpts I felt belonged in a video

With the German clips “resolved,” I next had to figure out how to combine these with English clips I had to make a complete audio track. Some considerations/challenges I had going into this process:

  • How do I represent Aicher’s personality while maintaining effective and clear communication of Aicher as a whole?
  • The order of clips and how that changes how the audience feels about my designer
  • The necessity of historical context — how much do I include? Is it important to understanding Aicher’s work?
  • Handling the wide breadth of work in Aicher’s design career — from corporate branding projects to iconography to the 1972 Olympics, Aicher was very prolific which made me intentionally consider which works to include in a short video

Looking at the quality of video footage I was able to collect, and the appropriateness of the translated footage, I was able to come to a few ideas about potential foci and narratives of my final video. After lots of mental wrestling, I decided to use Figma to easily move around audio clips, color- coded by its source and its language.

Attempt at organizing audio clips before cutting audio in software // Transcripts of promising audio clips
Narrowing down to a few promising combinations of audio clips

The most promising audio clips seemed to lean towards an objective overview (almost documentary-esque) of Otl Aicher: The World audio article, FSB panel discussion part 1. Out of all the

As I got a better understanding of the focus


representing the swastika

insert rough animated storyboard

second half: more detialed, animation workflow

Converted audio combo → personal script

Had Caitlyn narrate! ❤ love u caitlyn

→ final narrative: comparing berlin olympics (old germany) with munich olympics by following the geometric man aka Otl Aicher


  • dry audio: too informational
  • visuals might have to carry audio
  • try to convey “human” of the designer

— -

Arrange diff. combinations of audio → 2 iterations using podcast audio, German intro info about Aicher, and Aicher interview audio

Simultaneously generated storyboard to imagine visual opportunities with content


variety of voices is distracting, voice is too dry

→ craft custom script, have peer narrate

→keep aicher’s voice at the end

  • edited script
  • got caitlyn to narrate
  • edited quality of voice
  • matched music to audio: 2 iterations


→ adjust levels, music too loud

→ too long, try cutting down

  • cut down 20 seconds of audio
  • beg half of storyboards to music
  • animated german committee and beginning historical footage


  • mostly to keep going
  • characters may be too cute

  • adjusted levels
  • more progress

A lot of my prep work with documenting music, curating “a kit of parts”, and linking all “potentially-useful” videos on a Google doc came in handy while I was animating.



Carnegie Mellon Design + HCI ‘23

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