Marie Neurath: Picturing Science exhibition

‘Marie Neurath: picturing science’ is part of an AHRC-funded project aimed at finding new audiences for the approach to science communication taken by Marie Neurath and her team at the Isotype Institute between the late 1940s and early 1970s.

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‘Though the books on display were created for children, I found them unbelievably helpful. In fact, epiphany followed epiphany as I stood for long minutes realising for the first time how bread is made, how insects pollinate plants and how volcanoes work.’ The Guardian

‘Marie Neurath brought school books to life through informative graphics and diagrams, intricate illustrations and clear, concise copy.’ Design Week

‘A watershed in information design for children.’ David Benmayer.

The theme follows on from the Isotype revisited research project (2007–2011). We worked on the exhibition in collaboration with the University of Reading's Department of Typography & Graphic Communication and London’s House of Illustration.

Listen to review by Alice Rawsthorn on BBC Radio London’s Robert Elms Show [Skip to 2.17.15]

The collection

The collection, given to the University of Reading by Marie Neurath in 1971, is the most comprehensive archive of the work of the Isotype movement, documenting methods of designing and disseminating data that have played a major role in twentieth-century graphic design thinking.

The exhibition

This exhibition is about the work of Marie Neurath and her colleagues at the Isotype Institute in London. They produced over 80 illustrated children’s books between the end of the 1940s and the start of the 1970s. The books are the result of close collaboration between scientists, illustrators and writers.

The process

Marie Neurath was involved in all stages of the work, as demonstrated by the remarkable materials in the Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection at the University of Reading. The collection contains source materials, correspondence, drawings, and specifications for print that together show how the books were made.

The techniques

Visual techniques used by Marie Neurath include Magnification, Cross-section and Sequencing. Despite being unrealistic and seemingly fantastical, these techniques, used to break down complex subjects, are what made her communication of scientific subjects to children and adults so clear and effective.

Work in progress

The exhibition was curated by Sue Walker and Eric Kindel from the University of Reading, Anne Odling-Smee from Design Science and Olivia Ahmad and Katie Nairne from the House of Illustration.

House of Illustration

The exhibition at House of Illustration will display books from several children’s book series, including ‘Wonder world of nature’ and ‘Wonders of the modern world’, and materials that explain the process of designing. Also on display will be materials created for use in schools today, based on Marie Neurath’s illustrations.

The exhibition will run 19 July – 3 November 2019.

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