Before this book, I hadn’t been aware of the work of German exiled designer Will Burtin (1908-1972). The style of his graphic design work is something like “Bauhaus meets Buckminster Fuller”, which in itself is already quite cool. But Will Burtin was also a wise conceptual thinker which made his designs pretty sophisticated. 

He was born in Germany, but migrated to the US in 1938 in order to escape the Third Reich. There he developed corporate work and exhibitions for a number of companies. One thing he was particularly interested in was how to transfer knowledge in his designs. He created a number of booklets and exhibitions with schematic images, diagrams and dataviz in order to test how complicated things could be communicated visually.

This book by Sheila Pontis contains a lot of formerly unpublished material, and she made a lot of effort find out about the design process behind his work. It is very interesting to note that in his effort to make complex issues accessible, Burtin relied on scientific research and user interviews to make sure he was actually successful in reaching his audience — which is quite a modern approach. The book was published in the fall 2021 by RIT Press in the US and can be found here.

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