Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

21 SEPTEMBER, 2009

Art Meets Science: They Might Be Giants’ Creative Education


What paleontology has to do with stop-motion animation and kindergartners.

They Might Be Giants are among the most iconic and revolutionary alt-rock bands of our time. They’ve founded one of the first artist-owned online music stores, stunned critics with an unorthodox children’s project, performed at TED, and consistently challenged the conventions of the music industry. Oh, and they’ve won a few Grammys along the way.

This month, TMBG have released the latest installment in their critically acclaimed Here Comes children’s series. The Here Comes Science 2-disc CD/DVD album is a bundle of creativity and entertainment, tied with a ribbon of education. Although aimed at the K-5 set, the playful lyrics and brilliantly animated videos are an absolute treat for musicologists and design junkies alike — we can attest.

From the charming illustration in this Amazon-exclusive video, to the wonderful paper-cutout stop-motion animation in Electric Car, to the infographic ode to the periodic table in Meet The Elements, the album is a testament to the transformational power of a fresh approach to a stale subject.

What makes us particularly enamored with this project is that it addresses of the sore need for creativity in education, the lack of which is often a dealbreaker in kids’ engagement in the learning process. As Sir Ken Robinson so bluntly yet fairly pointed out in his TED talk, today’s schools may well be killing creativity.

Check out Here Comes Science for 19 unexpected takes on paleontology, evolution, astronomy, photosynthesis, anatomy and other delightfully geeky curiosities that you probably slept through in school.

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16 SEPTEMBER, 2009

The Art of Pixar Short Films


Birds, toys, or what the history of computing has to do with the creative legacy of our time.

After the wild popularity of The Ancient Book of Sex & Science a couple of weeks ago, we thought we’d explore the wondrous world of Pixar art a bit further.

Today, we bring you The Art of Pixar Short Films from animation art historian Amid Amidi — a fantastic book that takes us behind the scenes of what we consider to be Pixar’s true gems: Their beautifully animated short films, told with utter brilliance and elegance of visual narrative.

These shorts, brimming with contagious energy and subtle humor, set the stage for Pixar’s award-winning features that followed — from the earliest animated short, The Adventures of André & Wally B, which proved computer animation possible, to Tin Toy, which later evolved into the feature-length smash hit Toy Story.

As for the authors, they bring their own magic to the mix. New-York-based animation journalist Amid Amidi has numerous books to his credit, and is it’s almost embarrassing to “introduce” a creative culture legend like John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Pixar.

The Art of Pixar Short Films illuminates the Emeryville studio’s extraordinary history, artistry and unique creative process through essays and interviews with the animators, directors, producers and artists who created the iconic For The Birds, Luxo Jr., and eleven more short films. With more than 250 full-color pastels pencil sketches, photographs, storyboards and final rendered frames, it offers a glimpse of Pixar’s incredible brand of storytelling, which creates powerful narrative not through traditional dialogue but through character emotion, music, and perfectly timed humor.

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15 SEPTEMBER, 2009

Biology-Inspired Art


Swine flu, eye color, and what fractals have to do with gene sequences.

Science and art have long been enamored with each other, albeit on more abstract levels. Today, we look at four examples of art that borrows from science in the most literal of ways.


In 1904, German biologist Ernst Haeckel published Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature) — a beautifully illustrated book full of artistic interpretations of the biological forms Haeckel studied.

Recently, the copyright on the book expired and all the images entered the public domain — they are now available for free on Wikimedia Commons.

Depicted with amazing, fractal-like clarity of symmetry and detail, the illustrations bespeak an intersection of art and engineering — more than a century before the current fascination with science-centric design and biomimcry.


Sculptor Luke Jerram explores the microscopic and scientific on an artistic macro scale. His series Glass Microbiology depicts various viruses and phages as large, transparent, three-dimensional sculptures.

From swine flu to e.coli, the sculptures offer a perfect play on the tension between the aesthetic beauty and functional ugliness of these biological villains.

Thanks, Maura


Dancing around the line between interpretive art and factual science, DNA Art Forms identify 15 unique regions of your genetic code, have an artist capture it as your choice of abstract form, landscape, or portrait set against the background of the actual DNA representation image.

The artwork isn’t your grandma’s digital art — it’s real oil on canvas. But it does come with a hefty price tag: Portraits start at $1,350.


My Gene Image takes genetic portraits to a whole new level. Well, sub-level, really. They let you select a specific gene you are interested in — like, say, eye color or pheromone or circadian rhythm — and identify it in your genetic sample, then render the gene sequence of A’s, T’s, G’s, and C’s against a colorful background.

Talk about making interior design very, very personal.

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