Otto (Otl) Aicher started by studying sculpture at the Munich Art Academy in 1946-47. In 1948 Otl Aicher opened a graphic design practice in Ulm but moved it to Munich in 1967. He continued to work from 1972 until his death in Rotis in the Allgäu.
In 1952 Otl Aicher married Inge Scholl, sister of Hans and Sophie Scholl ("The White Rose"); their father became the first postwar mayor of Ulm. Otl Aicher, together with his wife and the Swiss artist Max Bill (1908-1994), were the driving force behind the foundation of the "Hochschule für Gestaltung in Ulm" (HfG) in 1953, for which they also worked out the theoretical concept underlying the curriculum. With Max Bill as its first director, the Ulm HfG, was mainly under the sway of the Bauhaus in its early years.
The year the HfG was founded, Otl Aicher became its first instructor of visual communications. Disagreements about the curriculum structure led Bill to resign in 1956 and a new phase began, whose curriculum concept became famous as the "Ulm Model".
After Max Bill's resignation, Otl Aicher became a member of the board of directors of the HfG in 1956 and, from 1962 to 1964, was sole director. The HfG targeted contacts with industry, establishing development groups which operated like independent design practices within the HfG. Otl Aicher collaborated with Dieter Rams (b. 1932), who was a product designer for Braun from 1956, and Hans Gugelot (1920-1965), on designing radios and record players for Braun. The total and rational design aesthetic distinguishing these appliances became the Braun signature.
In 1962 Otl Aicher headed a development group that engineered the look of Deutsche Lufthansa, which even today shapes the corporate identity of the company. In 1958 Otl Aicher was a visiting professor at Yale and in 1959 in Rio de Janeiro. In 1968 funding ceased for the HfG in Ulm and it had to close.
In 1967 Otl Aicher was in charge of visual design for the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Among other things he designed pictograms for the different sports, which are used worldwide today. Otl Aicher also developed the corporate image of media institutions, banks and reinsurers, including ZDF (the Second German Television Channel), Westdeutsche Landesbank, Dresdner Bank, Sparkasse, Raiffeisenbank, and Bayerische Rück (reinsurance). In 1972 Otl Aicher moved to Rotis in the Allgäu, where he founded the Rotis Institut für analoge Studien in 1984 and, in 1988, the Rotis script "family".
Otl Aicher died of injuries sustained in a traffic accident on September 1, 1991.