15 November 2012


1960s, Aaron Burns, Design Conference, USA, Will Burtin

Vision 65: World Congress on New Challenges to Human Communication

From October 21–23, 1965, more than 500 people worldwide gathered at Southern Illinois University in the small city of Carbondale, Illinois to participate in Vision 65: World Congress on New Challenges to Human Communication.* Sponsored by the International Center for Typographic Arts (Aaron Burns, Director) in cooperation with S.I.U., Vision 65 had the ambitious task of exploring the challenges of communications as a result of recent technological and social developments. The conference was organized by Will Burtin with program advisers Lou Dorfsman (Director of Design, Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc.) and Bruce MacKenzie (Director of International Communications, I.B.M. World Trade Corporation). Herbert Roan (Dept. of Design, S.I.U) was the Educational coordinator of the conference.

Similar to the International Design Conference in Aspen (started in 1951) and the World Design Conference (Tokyo, 1960), Vision 65 invited an impressive roster of speakers in design and beyond including: artists, architects, designers, educators, film producers, art historians, authors, music theorists, philosophers and more. Among the presenters: Ousmane Socé Diop, Will Burtin, R. Buckminster (Keynote Address, PDF of Summary Lecture) Fuller, Max Bill, Masaru Katzumi, Eugenio Carmi, Thorold Dickinson, Willem Sandberg, Vera Horvat-Pintaric, Stan VanDerBeek, Charles D. Tenney, Roger L. Stevens, Aubrey Singer, Herbert Spencer, W.H. Ferry, Bruce MacKenzie, William Perk, David Hertz, Carl Lindegren, Edward Hamilton, Will Gay Bottje, Gottfried Michael Koenig, Tony Schwartz, Josef Müller-Brockmann, Wim Crouwel, Franco Grignani, Michael Farr, Marshall McLuhan, Delyte W. Morris and Robert Osborn.

All the conference lectures have been printed verbatim, in some cases translated into English, in the book also titled Vision 65. This important historical record is a fascinating look into the problems faced by designers – the speed of globalization, technological advancements in television, radio and film, the control of mass communication, mechanized systems such as computers, the role of education and science in the advancement of society. Although Vision 65 is now almost 50 years old, these issues continue to be relevant and the responses of the visionary thinkers at the conference still resonate today. Among the lecture highlights:

Although sometimes the advent of thinking machines has given us the feeling that the end of humanity in the world is in sight, man's intuitive capacity and claims of free imagination have him still anchored firmly in his pre-eminent position.
Franco Grignani (Session: Aspects of Communication Design in a Shrinking World)

A wide range of technological advancements is waiting to be exploited by imaginative printers, designers, authors and bold publishers willing to adopt energetic and original methods of selling and distributing their products.
Herbert Spencer (Session: Social and Cultural Responsibility of Mass Communications)

Instead of real information and the proper use of the means of communication, we sell gadgets, sell every kind of nonsense, sell even things nobody needs. We live in a world where the smallest problems are not yet very well solved according to human needs. 
– Max Bill (Session: Mass Communications as a Tool of Cultural Progress)

We are getting a bit dizzy. Especially the younger designers, stepping into this interesting and turbulent period, quite often do not know just where and why they are. A lack of style is evident everywhere. I mean by style the sense of being equipped with sound judgment by which one faces as assignment.
Wim Crouwel (Session: Aspects of Communication Design in a Shrinking World)

The human researcher and inventive spirit, with the aid of grand technological accomplishments, have reduced our planet earth in size. The distances of lands and oceans are no longer a hindrance to the contact and understanding between peoples. 
– Josef Müller-Brockmann (Session: Aspects of Communication Design in a Shrinking World)

We can not progress – or even survive – in our professions or as a society if we do not study the difficulties based on new conditions and aspirations, and define a new design perspective of social responsibility in all communication forms and techniques. We are living in dissonant times in which many well established practices, privileges and beliefs are questioned. We are living in a time of profound shift, which we cannot afford to sit out by discussing “safe” subjects, useful for professional specialists perhaps but often masking complacency or even unwillingness to review basic questions and make basic decisions.
Will Burtin, Program Chairman

In 1967, the conference continued – Vision 67 was held from October 19–21 at New York University with Will Burtin again serving as chairman. Many of the same speakers participated in Vision 67 and presented on the theme Survival and Growth. Some notable additions include: Max Bense, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Umberto Eco, Ken Garland and Jean Tinguely.

* The cost of the 3-day conference was $85.00 ($65.00 for those traveling from outside the US). Accommodations ranged from $5.50 to $12.50 per day.