• Steven Heller

The Good War, For Design

World War II may have been necessary, but, like all wars, the horrors outweighed the fruits of victory. There was, however, what might be called an unintended consequence, as there are in most wars. World War II gave rise to new technologies, for instance. It also brought forth the talents of many designers. Charles and Ray Eames are prime examples of designers who used their wartime ingenuity, their case for molding plywood for splints into making lounge chairs. The war also produced well-designed insignia, charts and graphs. Considering that military design is to design what military music is to music, the high level of consistency, imagination and taste contributed to well-designed military regalia. (Also see my post on airborne logos.)

This isn’t a suggestion that war will be more acceptable if only designers were hired early in the game, but it’s an observation that when focused on the needs of the nation on the battlefield, designers added an helping had. That said, many of the images below were created by anonymous designers – some in the Institute of Heraldry of the U.S. Government (read more here), others in the various art departments of the respective branches.

There was also an industrial and business outpouring of support for the war and troops, with materials that sold services while educating the public, as is the case with the map Sunoco chart below.

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