V.I. – Will Burtin

Not sure how this will fit in, but Will Burtin’s work is an incredible example of public scientific art. He also stressed the importance of design within science.

From an article in Creative Review, Rick Poyner wrote –

In 1957, after conducting some careful preliminary research, Burtin proposed to Upjohn that he build them a gigantic model of a human cell (above), then the focus of great scientific and public interest. Upjohn took a gamble and accepted his plan, and it was here, observe Remington and Fripp, “that the modern concept of scientific visualization was born”.

On the book Design as Science, The Life and Work of Will Burtin by Roger Remington and Robert S.P. Fripp –

It has been said that Will Burtin (1908–1972) was to graphic design what Albert Einstein was to physics.

Burtin pioneered important contributions to international typography and visual design. He is best known as the world leader in using design to interpret science; as a proponent of ‘clean’, uncluttered sans-serif typography; and for his large-scale three-dimensional models, which carried the craft and the art of display to new heights. His walk-through models included a human blood cell (1958) and brain functions (1960). His major achievement, his clarity and ingenuity with models and graphics made complex information easy to assimilate.

An extract from the book about the above image of Burtin’s “Brain” –

In order to represent time accurately, Burtin rapidly abandoned – or never considered – the possibility that the Upjohn Brain would resemble the human brain itself. The Cell was a scaled-up simulacrum of a cell – it resembled what it represented. But it was more important for the Brain to demonstrate mental function than to resemble the actual organ. Burtin wrote: “In studying the anatomy of the brain some years back, while working on a lead article of ‘Scope’ with Dr. Macleod, I found that the concern over anatomical details prevented or made very difficult an understanding of operational principles on which consciousness – the essential product of the brain – is based.” For that reason the present authors refrain from calling the Upjohn Brain a model. Better to use Burtin’s term, “exhibit sculpture”; or Remington’s, “The presentation was, in effect, a schematic of a functioning brain.”


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