Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

16 NOVEMBER, 2009

Ed Emberley’s Make a World: The Film


What alligators from 1972 have to do with the visual culture of modern design.

In 1972, iconic illustrator Ed Emberley published Make a World — a seemingly simple yet tremendously influential 32-page book, filled with 400 priceless illustrations that taught children how to draw anything and everything, from alligators to zeppelins. It shaped the visual culture of an entire generation of artists, designers and casual art-dabblers, democratizing aesthetic perception and practice.

This year, a collective of dedicated enthusiasts is working on Make a World: The Film — an independent documentary about the life and magic of Ed Emberley.

One of the project’s goals is to crowdsource stories, drawings and sketches inspired by Emberley’s work — so if you have one, email it to the filmmakers.

And like any grassroots art and culture project, the film could use some help from like-minded Emberley evangelists — you can get involved by donating money or your professional services, support the film by buying one of these gorgeous t-shirts from their store, and follow the project on Twitter.

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13 NOVEMBER, 2009

A Metaphor for Creativity: 5 Shapes, 3520 Artworks


Why ideas are like pieces of leather and what sneakers have to do with your capacity for creativity.

We believe creativity is all about innovative ways of combining the existing ideas, skills and pieces of inspiration that live in your mental pool of resources. (And we make it our mission to continuously fill that mental pool of yours with fascinating bits of diverse and eclectic brilliance.)

Which is why we love the concept behind Hayworth Mid II, the latest line of limited-edition sneakers by Y-3, in collaboration with graffiti artist Momo.

The idea is brilliantly simple — Momo cut five double-sided shapes, combinable into 3520 artworks by changing up their layered order on a nail. (Well, technically, there are 3840 possible combinations, but 320 of them become redundant when the ring, the smallest shape, becomes obscured by one of the larger shapes.)

Y-3 only produced 350 pairs of sneakers, so each was technically unique, but this sort of semi-customization raises an interesting question: Can we really automatize customization while still maintaining its psychological and conceptual appeal?

In a way, ideas are like these shape combinations — except only a fraction of the combinations are truly great ideas. Which is why it’s so important to build a vast pool of mental “shapes” — thoughts and memories and pieces of inspiration — combinable in near-infinite ways into new ideas, thus maximizing the drops of brilliance within that sea of possibility. And there’s no better way to do that than by growing indiscriminate curiosity about the eclectic interestingness of culture.

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11 NOVEMBER, 2009

Physical Data Art by Willem Besselink


What a 1950’s house has to do with 125 days in Berlin and the weather in Sarajevo.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a number of artists experimenting with data visualization at the intersection of digital and analog — you may recall Nadeem Haidary and his In-Formed series of physical data art. But Dutch artist Willem Besselink plays on a whole different level.

In his latest project, RE:ID, he tracked the movement of the 12,500 visitors to Rotterdam’s Museumnight, then visualized the data in real-time both online and as a large-scale public installation. The physical visualization was built out of bricks and cement on a public square, with full-blown construction equipment including a churning concrete mixer, red and white tape, and a crew of 10 construction workers working in near-real-time. Cement piles reflected the changing amount of visitors, “updated” every 15 minutes, and brick walls indicated the most popular Museumnight routes throughout the city.

Besselink has a long hisotry of physical data installations. In 2004, he exhibited 16 Days in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina — a cubic grid of 16×16 nylon wires, with one axis visualizing his pulse recorded in 30-minute intervals over the course of 16 days, intersected with temperature variations in the city over that period of time on the other axis. (This pulse visualization is somewhat reminiscent of Jonathan Harris’ 2007 project, The Whale Hunt.) The resulting 3-dimensional installation was suspended in mid-air in the gallery space.

Timelines offers an ambitious visualization juxtaposing how one specific house was used in the 1950’s, and how it is going to be used in the future, after a large-scale neighborhood renovation project.

Berlin Rotterdam is an abstract comparison of the scale of the two cities. During his 125-day stay in Berlin, Besselink recorded his position in the city in fixed intervals, then visualized these time and location data with glass beads, hanging from a map of Berlin suspended on the ceiling, down towards a map of Rotterdam laid out on the floor, moving closer to Rotterdam as the days progressed.

Explore the rest of Besselink’s data sculptures — while it may be tempting to dismiss this as cool-for-coolness’-sake postmodernist experimentation, it bespeaks a deeper cultural concern: Our restless need to make sense of all the abstract data that surrounds us, to make it more digestible and graspable by making it more tangible, more physical, more real. And art has always been a potent vehicle for exorcising our collective restlessness over the cultural concerns of the day.

via Infosthetics

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