While paying a visit to the studio of San Francisco artist Alanna Spence recently, Telstar Logistics was introduced to a lost gem of a book called "Flight thru Instruments."
Published as a pilot-training manual by the US Navy in 1945, "Flight thru Instruments" teaches proper aeronautical navigation techniques through the use of elaborate illustrations -- the kind of stuff that today might be called "info-graphics."
But oh, what info-graphics these are! Produced entirely by hand, the illustrations in "Flight thru Instruments" possess a richness and accuracy of detail that -- if we may say so -- puts the majority of today's graphic artists to shame.
In fairness, however, "Flight thru Instruments" wasn't produced by an average group of 1945 artists, either. Not at all.
After our visit to Alanna's studio, we hurried home to search online for a copy of the book to add to the Telstar Logistics corporate library. Along the way, however, we also learned a bit about the book's pedigree. It turns out, "Flight thru Instruments" is so beautiful because it was created by the General Motors "Graphic Engineering" Staff under the leadership of Harley Earl.
And who was Harley Earl? Earl worked as a designer at General Motors from 1929 until 1959, where he rose to become the postwar chief of GM's styling section. He drew styling inspiration from airplanes throughout his career, and Earl's most famous design innovation was a little trick he cribbed from the swooping rear fins of the P-38 Lighting fighter flown during World War II. Earl adapted the design for the 1948 Cadillac, and in a stroke, he set in motion a "tailfin" craze that would continue for more than a decade. Before that, however, he put his staff in the service of the war effort, and "Flight thru Instruments" was created in response to a US government contract.
With all that in mind, "Flight thru Instruments" provides a sneak peek at the shapes, styles, and aesthetics that would inspire Earl's automotive work for years to come. But if you're just looking for a good primer on how to fly an airplane safely in nasty weather, the book is great for that too.
Flight thru Instruments (additional illustrations from the book in a Flickr photoset)
Recalling the Graphics Feast At GM Styling During the War Years (Article about "Flight thru Instruments" on the "Official Harley Earl website.")
Harley Earl, Father of the Dream Car (Concise Harley Earl biography by the Detroit News)