Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

01 JUNE, 2011

Designing Minds: Uncovered Video Profiles of Prominent Designers

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Peeking inside creative crania, or what giant bananas have to do with the difference between design and art.

In 2008, a now-defunct podcast program by Adobe called Designing Minds — not to be confused with frogdesign’s excellent design mind magazine — did a series of video profiles of prominent artists and designers, including Stefan Sagmeister (whose Things I have learned in my life so far isn’t merely one of the best-produced, most beautiful design books of the past decade, it’s also a poignant piece of modern existential philosophy), Yves Behar (of One Laptop Per Child fame), Marian Bantjes (whose I Wonder remains my favorite typographic treasure) and many more, offering a rare glimpse of these remarkable creators’ life stories, worldviews and the precious peculiarities that make them be who they are and create what they create.

My favorite quote about what is art and what is design and what might be the difference comes from Donald Judd: ‘Design has to work, art doesn’t.’ And these things all have to work. They have a function outside my desire for self-expression.” ~ Stefan Sagmeister

When designers are given the opportunity to have a bigger role, real change, real transformation actually happens.” ~ Yves Behar

While the series may now be a sad ghost town of creative investment, as many such short-lived corporate initiatives tend to wither into, it remains an illuminating time-capsule of our era’s design thought-leadership. Luckily, all 70 episodes remain intact — and free — on iTunes.

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31 MAY, 2011

An Illustrated Guide to Cockroaches

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What superhuman sprinting has to do with democracy, the power of design and your kitchen sink drain.

If you’ve ever lived in a city, especially a densely populated, neighbors-across-the-street-staring-down-your-dinner-plate kind of city, you’ve likely had your run-in with a neighbor of the least likable yet most inevitable kind: The cockroach. And while for most people, it’s an endless source of variations on the ewww response, for Siberian-born, New-York-based artist Ekaterina Smirnova it’s been the unlikely source of design inspiration. In An Illustrated Guide to Cockroaches, she offers an irreverent and beautifully designed blueprint to better understanding your six-legged roommate in a graphic style that’s part Shepard Fairey, part Olly Moss, Lynd Ward, part something entirely its own.

The book began as an experiment, a study in the power of graphic design, as Smirnova was assigned to come up with an idea for a book in her editorial design class at the SVA. The winning idea: To muster the most tedious, even repulsive subject possible, and use design-driven storytelling to make it something interesting to read and study. And, as far as I’m concerned, she’s aced her assignment — the book is as fascinating as it is visually stimulating.

From the remarkable talents of roaches (did you know that an American cockroach can run a distance distance of 50 times his size in a second, which in human scale would translate to running at 186 miles per hour?) to their unusual intelligence (they seem to make democratic group decisions better than most human societies) to their enduring role in science fiction and pop culture, the book offers an extraordinary black-white-and-red look a character we spend our lives actively trying not to look at, delivering an unexpectedly delightful punch of trivia treats, obscure scientific factoids and artful graphic explorations.

In pop culture, cockroaches are often depicted as filthy, disgusting pests. Their shiny, greasy shells make them look like they are creatures born of filth and slime, but in fact they are obsessively clean.”

An Illustrated Guide to Cockroaches, yet another treat from my friends at Mark Batty Publisher, is out today and the kind of book you never thought you’d love until you do — which you will.

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31 MAY, 2011

Drawing Nature: Learning to See the World by Learning to Draw It

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From pine needles to zen in 192 pages.

After last week’s look at how field scientists do nature-inspired art, it’s only fitting to take a look at how art does nature. Over the past decade, illustrator Jill Bliss has charmed the world with her colorful, playful and distinctive nature-inspired designs, brimming with vibrant dots, lines and other bold shapes. This season, she’s inviting the rest of us to join her in this wonderful visual language for celebrating nature. In Drawing Nature: A Journal by Jill Bliss, she offers an invaluable guide to drawing natural objects with ease, joy and, yes, artistic merit. Almost scientific in its methodical rigor, the journal features a series of exercises broken down into categories, each starting out with blind contour drawings and building upon them to break your expectations of what a natural object is “supposed” to look like.

Throughout the years, I’ve learned various techniques to successfully teach people who aren’t necessarily drawers how to draw and how to see things better by drawing them.” ~ Jill Bliss

Images courtesy of Buy Olympia

Whimsical, artful and meditative, Drawing Nature is the missing link between your favorite childhood pastimes and that always-wanted-to-learn-but-never-got-around-to-it grown-up creative hobby.

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