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Army Ranger Semaphore

Posted By Josh Dillon

Everything is better in semaphore.

The gallery addition of the U.S. Army Ranger Handbook, circa 1980, may seem a little out of place at first glance, but when you stop to think about it from a design perspective it’s inclusion as our flagship gallery really does have quite a bit of meaning behind it. When taking a closer look at this particular gallery from a communication arts perspective several key points stand out.

The posted images, made up of simple, but informative graphics, act as the backbone for the written text of the handbook. The image’s simplicity allows the reader a quickly referenced understanding of the ways in which the Ranger ground crew can communicate with the helicopter pilots when landing. The iconography makes these motions and stances easily recognized, even at a glance.

Once this information is understood by the reader, then this act of nonverbal communication is transferred from the 2D panels of a simple handbook to the field for practical application. When following through with the actions indicated the ground crew operator could easily be construed as performing a dance so elegantly choreographed that it may very well appear on a stage, backed by an orchestra.

This act of non-verbal communication that takes place between the ground instructor and the helicopter pilot also acts as a parallel for the creative communication professional and either the client, or the receiver of the client’s information. The ground instructor creates the shapes, symbols and understood nomenclatures needed for the helicopter to land, and the pilot, in turn, recognizes the value of this information, and based on the unsaid understanding between them, lands with no problem.

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