Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

29 OCTOBER, 2009

East Meets West: An Infographic Portrait

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German punctuality, Western ego and how to stand in line like a Chinese.

What’s not to love about minimalist infographics — such an elegant way to depict complex concepts with brilliant simplicity. We also have a longtime love affair with social psychology, some of which deals with the fascinating cultural differences between Eastern and Western mentality — from the individualistic tendencies of the West versus the pluralism of Asian societies, to how differently Westerners and Easterners read the emotions of others. Naturally, we’re head-over-heels with designer Yang Liu‘s ingenious East Meets West infographic series, tackling everything from differences in self-perception to evolution of transportation.

Born in China but living in Germany since she was 14, Liu has a unique grip of this cultural duality — and she channels it with great wit and eloquent minimalism in graphics that say so much by showing so little.

Lifestyle: Independent vs. dependent

Attitude towards punctuality

Problem-solving approach

Size of the individual's ego

Perception: How Germans and the Chinese see one another

How to stand in line

Complexity of self-expression

The evolution of transportation over the last three decades

The volume of sound in a restaurant

Catch an interview with Liu about the project over at the always-excellent NOTCOT. The book is still finable online and an absolute delight.

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29 OCTOBER, 2009

Strange Maps: The Book

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What George Orwell has to do with the Amazons of California and Utopia.

Today is the day we’d been waiting for for a long, long time. For today, Strange Maps — an absolute favorite blog of ours, a frequent source of inspiration, and one of the shiniest hidden gems on the Interwebs — is finally gifting the world with its eponymous book.

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities features 138 of the most fascinating, absorbing and remarkable maps from the blog’s 3-year history of culling the world’s forgotten, little-known and niche cartographic treasures.

From the world as depicted in Orwell’s 1984, to a color map of Thomas More’s Utopia, to the 16th-century portrayal of California as an island where people live like the Amazons, the book is brim-full of priceless anecdotes from our collective conception of the world over the centuries.

But what makes all these maps really special is that they somehow capture and reveal a great deal about human psychology and thought — the humor of political parody (Hey there, United States of Canada vs. Jesusuland), the tragicomic bias of a New Yorker’s vantage point, the odd propositions of science gone awry (No, we won’t rename the stars after famous dictators), the inflation of political ego (Sorry, China, you’re not the Middle Kingdom at the center of the world), the absurdity of rampant religious fundamentalism (Really? The final battle between God and Satan in Armageddon will take place exactly at the Megiddo Valley in Israel?), the universal and age-old mistrust of cabbies (Who knew a hexagonal layout of London would prevent passengers from getting ripped off?).

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities is certainly unusual and idiosyncratic — in the most wonderful way possible. At the intersection of history, design, politics and humor, it’s one of those rare beasts that tackle so many facets of culture with utter ease, readability and can’t-put-it-down magnetism.

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26 OCTOBER, 2009

Art of the Toilet Paper Roll

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Simplicity and complexity, human emotion, and the intersection of craft and storytelling.

While Charmin gets busy staffing NYC bathrooms with bloggers this holiday season, we thought we’d focus on the less commercial, more artistic side of the backbone of this whole toilet paper thing: The toilet paper roll. Here are three artists who have turned the inglorious brown tossaway into beautiful and inspired design goodness.

JUNIOR FRITZ JACQUET

French artist Junior Fritz Jacquet has been fascinated by paper since a very young age. Among various other paper and cardboard creations, he transforms plain toilet paper rolls into remarkable miniature masks. His technique is inspired by origami, in that it uses a single piece and folds it into a shape, but has a unique smoothness that deviates from the sharpness and jagged edges of origami, creating shapes that are astonishingly human.

The masks are sculpted by hand, then coated with shellac and different pigments. A testament to the power of taking something incredibly simple and transforming it into something impressively expressive, each piece exudes a complexity of human emotion conveyed in just a few brilliantly orchestrated folds.

ANASTASSIA ELIAS

French artist Anastassia Elias is a master of collage. But her Paper Cuts series is something else entirely. Like a pop-up book that unfolds inside a toilet paper roll, Elias’ work is a beautiful intersection of art, craft and modern storytelling.

YUKEN TERUYA

Japanese artist Yuken Teruya, whom you may recall from our paper art omnibus feature, takes everyday objects and transforms them into works of art. His toilet paper roll mini-sculptures are created just by cutting silhouettes into the paper and folding them out, adding and subtracting nothing.

Teruya’s work is as much an innovation in artistic technique as it is a conceptual criticism of contemporary culture’s preoccupation with adding more and more to our lives while taking more and more from nature — an ode to the brilliance and charm of simplicity.

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