Will Burtin

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Graphic design is usually not a matter of life and death. For Will Burtin, though, the lives of World War II combat fighters depended on the clarity and effectiveness of his design.

Burtin was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, and designed gunnery-training manuals for air combat. The challenge was not only making complex information easy for soldiers to understand and remember, but also to consider how factors like time, motion, and judgment factored into the training. Burtin demonstrated that design can deliver important and useful information, and that its beauty lies in clarity and effectiveness. His well-designed manuals cut the Army’s gunnery training time in half, and they set a pattern for his future work: thoroughly researching a complex subject and distilling it into a visual presentation.

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