Will Burtin: Neglected giant of design

In this extract from a new book on German information designer Will Burtin, authors R Roger Remington and Sheila Pontis explain Burtin’s scientific approach to design, and why he might be the “most important designer you’ve never heard of”.

In an article on the nature of genius science writer Matthew Francis says that it never appears in identical form because of the sheer diversity of human experience and talent. “Einstein’s genius was different from Curie’s,” he says, “and scientific genius is different from musical genius” – or, indeed, design genius. At a smaller scale, Will Burtin’s contributions to design can be characterised as important as Einstein’s contributions to science.

While his brilliant discoveries in physics gave Einstein his reputation, Burtin’s scientific approach to design should have also given him a revolutionary place in design history. But why does Burtin not have the same level of recognition as other names in the field? Why haven’t his ideas and ways of thinking received the acknowledgment that they should have?