Brain Pickings

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04 NOVEMBER, 2011

Science Ink: Carl Zimmer Catalogs the Tattoos of Science Nerds

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An anthropology of the geek-rebel, or what astrophysics has to do with the delicacies of the dermis.

Brain Pickings is all about cross-disciplinary curiosity and the unexpected pollination of ideas across different fields. Nowhere does that cross-pollination get more unexpected than between popular science and tattoo culture. That’s exactly what celebrated curiosity monger Carl Zimmer explores in Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed — a weird and wonderful almanac of the lovable geek who immortalized passion for science on their living flesh. Zimmer divides the book into sections around each of the major sciences — math , chemistry, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, astronomy, and even an entire chapter on DNA — and uses each tattoo as a meditation pillow from whence to reflect on the science in question with his unmistakeable essay style of intelligent wit.

A foreword by Mary Roach adds the ultimate cherry on top.

The concept for the project was born in 2007, when Zimmer asked his blog readers whether scientists were hiding tattoos of their science. A surprising number stepped up, and Zimmer began posting images of their ink on his blog for Discover Magazine. The rest was history.

Without intending it, I became a curator of tattoos, a scholar of science ink. I began giving people advice about how to best photograph a tattoo. Rule one: don’t take a picture right after you get the tattoo. Shiny, puffy skin does not please the eye. Tattoo enthusiast magazines called to interview me. All in all, it was a strange experience; I have no tattoos of my own and no intention of getting any. But the open question I posed brought a river of pleasures.” ~ Carl Zimmer

Images courtesy of Sterling Publishing

Tasteful, thoughtful, and tantalizing, Science Ink will make you reconcile your inner geek and rebel, then dust off your old science textbooks for mischievous inspiration.

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03 NOVEMBER, 2011

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

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The much-awaited monumental monograph of the greatest graphic designer of all time.

Saul Bass (1920-1996) is one of the most iconic and influential visual communicators of the 20th century — possibly the most famous graphic designer of all time — having broken out of the conformity of the 1950s to shape the aesthetic of generations of designers and animators with his bold and lively film title sequences and graphic design. (His insights on creativity and advice on doing quality work are also a timeless treat for any creator.) Yet no definitive monograph of his prolific, monumental work has existed — until now. Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design, designed by Bass’s daughter Jennifer and written by renowned design historian Pat Kirkham, is a formidable 428-page volume featuring more than 1,400 of Bass’s illustrations, many never before published, that offer an unprecedented look at his legacy and the creative process behind his most celebrated posters, title sequences, and logo designs.

I want everything we do to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether the client understands that that’s worth anything, or that the client thinks it’s worth anything, or whether it is worth anything. It’s worth it to me. It’s the way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.” ~ Saul Bass

Publisher Laurence King put together this epic video of the making of the book, to give you a sense of the scale and ambition of the project:

From his iconic title sequences…

… to his unforgettable posters…

…to his legendary logos for mega-brands like AT&T, Quaker Oats, and United Airlines, the monograph contextualizes his most significant works and analyzes each film project individually to dissect its graphic elements and motifs.

Philip French has a fantastic review-and-so-much-more of the book over at The Guardian.

Had Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design been released before the publication of this selection of the 100 best graphic design books of the past 100 years, it would most certainly have been included, and quite possibly would have topped the list — it is, truly, one of the most beautiful, inspirational, important design books you’ll ever lay eyes and hands on.

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03 NOVEMBER, 2011

Stefanie Posavec on Her Obsessive Analog Data Visualization

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Inside the brain of one of today’s most creative information patternists.

There are no words to describe how much I heart the work of information designer Stefanie Posavec, whose Writing Without Words project remains one of the most poetic pieces of visual meta-storytelling you’ll ever see and who last year generously visualized the best of Brain Pickings. In the age of computational data visualization, part of what makes Posavec’s work so remarkable is that so much of it is code-free, done entirely by hand, with pencil and paper, extracting fascinating data patterns from ordinary subjects.

This wonderful feature by Protein offers a rare glimpse of Posavec’s creative process and a priceless tour of the wonderland that is her mind:

I spend lots of time reading and rereading text and counting words or counting numbers or just going through a subject matter repeatedly until I have all the data in a notebook, and then I use that data to create my graphics. By reading and rereading these texts, I’m able to understand more about a specific text or a specific subject matter than I would otherwise, than I would if I wrote a computer program to analyze that text for me.” ~ Stefanie Posavec

via feltron

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Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner.





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount.





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.