Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

24 AUGUST, 2009

The Ancient Book of Sex and Science

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The alchemy of erotica, or what’s making Walt Disney blush in his grave.

This summer, four insanely talented Pixar animators — Scott Morse, Nate Wragg, Lou Romano, and Don Shank — got together and released a racy side project exploring, in broad color and evocative commentary, humanity’s most popular topic from the least likely of angles.

The Ancient Book of Sex & Science was born.

In 80 whimsical pages, the collection of vintage-inspired artwork is a voyage into the human mind, with all of its carnal obsessions and romantic mythologies.

The book traces the full spectrum of sex and science — sex and aliens, sex and robots, sex and math, sex and the tools of innovation, sex and the Atomic Age — with pure, playful whimsy that disarms any preconceptions of vulgarity.

As I began working on this book, I found myself heavily inspired by the cover artwork of old science books. A favorite series of mine is the “How and Why Wonder Books.” As I looked over the entire series, I thought to myself, “There is no Sex and Science issue.” This gave me the perfect excuse to create my own volume for the series. The end result is the long lost “Sex and Science” edition that was never published. ~ Nate Wragg for Nerve

The Ancient Book of Sex & Science is the second in a series grouped around themes the animators couldn’t explore in their regular work. The first, titled The Ancient Book of Myth and War, sold out in a matter of weeks and is now available — and priced — as a collector’s item.

Miraculously, Amazon still has this one.

The Pixar team is planning two more.

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18 AUGUST, 2009

Poetry On The Road’s VisualPoetry

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Goethe in code, the texture of text, and what Flickr has to do with rhyme and rhythm.

You may think of poetry as the ultimate analog art, but the Poetry On The Road international literary festival in Bremen begs to differ. For the past decade, the festival has been aiming to liberate poetry from the constraints of convention, and one of the ways it does that is through the VisualPoetry initiative.

Every year, Poetry On The Road commissions German designer and developer Boris Müller to capture the festival’s theme visually. Although the resulting abstract graphic motifs and patterns are visually complex, they all follow the same simple idea: Müller takes all the text of all the poetry from the festival’s program, calculates the frequency of each word, and and uses Processing — the software of choice for most data viz art — to generate visual representations, varying the aesthetics each year.

These images are then used in the festival’s annual poster and live as an interactive playground that lets viewers explore the poetry in a visual, non-linear way.

For this year’s visual theme, for example, Müller represents each word as a rectangle, scaled based on the word’s frequency, then stitches the many rectangles together into a barcode that captures the text in its entirety. In theory, you could decode and “read” the poetry with a regular barcode scanner.

And in 2007, he crafted a visualization entirely from Flickr images, swapping each word in a poem for a photo tagged with that word.

The 2003 theme was reminiscent of Stefanie Posavec’s Writing Without Words project, which you may recall from a couple of months ago. Here, Müller explores the nature, texture and inner structure of poems, letting the text lay itself out through the software.

The VisualPoetry experiment is a beautiful effort to capture poetry through rhyme and rhythm of a different kind, to add a dimension that makes it more accessible and alluring and exciting to new audiences and, ultimately, to create a new kind of storytelling that challenges our assumptions about the experience of poetry as a conceptual medium.

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17 AUGUST, 2009

Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life

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Birds, insects, monkeys, and 12.6 pounds of design genius.

If you think of nature illustration as the sterile visuals of a science book, you haven’t seen the work of Charlie Harper. The iconic American modernist, famous for his spunky stylized wildlife illustrations, spent more than six decades adorning books and posters with his highly distinctive artwork.

In 2001, New York based designer Todd Oldham — a legend in his own right — rediscovered Charley’s work and decided to comb through his ample archive, collaborating closely with Harper to curate, edit and design a book that captures the iconic style of the great master. When Charley passed away in 2007 at the age of 84, Oldham went on to publish Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life — a magnificent coffee table tome full of illustrations in Harper’s unique self-described “minimal realism.”

The book is massive tribute to Harper’s work — literally. At 12.6 pounds, the 424-page A3 monster is a dramatic, visually gripping antidote to today’s nano-culture. It’s also a lovely reminder that — as much as we love the interwebs — experiencing artwork on the screen is just never quite the same as the rich, lush, tactile glory of perfect print.

Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life comes as a must-have for the serious design aficionado — so snag it for your own library, or as a certain-to-floor gift for a visually passionate other.

via Melexodus

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