Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

07 MAY, 2009

Writing Without Words: Visualizing Jack Kerouac’s On The Road

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Literature as a canvas, a book as a living organism, and rhythm as a texture.

London-based artist Stefanie Posavec has a gift for words. Or for the lack thereof, to be exact. Her latest project, Writing Without Words, explores the literary world when its most important building blocks are removed by visually representing text.

Writing Without Words

The project uses Jack Kerouac’s iconic On The Road and takes a number of different approaches in dissecting its content visually. One examines “literary organism patterns” through simple tree structures that divide each of the book’s three parts into chapters, which divide into paragraphs, paragraphs into sentences, and sentences into words. All these elements are color-coded based on key themes in the book.

Sentence Drawings

Another visualization technique looks at sentences, representing them by lines organized according to the number of words per sentence and color-coded to the theme.

Sentence Length

Finally, there’s an exploration of rhythm textures — visualizing sentences by using their punctuation to create circular diagrams. Each line represents a word, with the thickness of the lines and the space between them representing the cadence, pauses and emphasis created by the punctuation.

Rhythm Textures

So if you fancy yourself a fan of the written word and an advocate of visual literacy, now’s your chance to nail both — to your wall, that is: The work is available as on-demand posters here.

More about Stefanie and her work from NOTCOT.

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01 MAY, 2009

The Sale of Manhattan: A Saul Bass Gem Circa 1962

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What Saul Bass has to do with George W, or why Manhattan is worth $32 worth of junk jewelry.

Today’s short-and-sweet is a cultural gem in more ways than we can count — illustrated by iconic graphic designer Saul Bass, this animation segment comes from the 1962 ABC hit special Stan Freberg Presents: The Chun King Chow Mein Hour and tells, humorously and creatively, the story of The Sale of Manhattan.


Although undeniably marked with the stylistic stamp of that era, it isn’t hard to see how this short is a distant predecesor to the animated political comedy of today. (JibJab’s This Land, we’re looking at you.)

Or, it’s simply a testament to our timeless cultural need for storytelling, humor and art.

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29 APRIL, 2009

Pure Process: Picking the Creative Brain

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What coffee, ironing and crying newborns have to do with the birth of an idea.

UPDATED: The Creative Process Illustrated: How Advertising’s Big Ideas Are Born is now out and we highly recommend it.

What if we knew how great ideas were born? Do great minds really think alike, or is the creative process as unique as our DNA? Can insight into another person’s process help you enrich and polish your own?

Creative academics and researchers Glenn Griffin, PhD and Deborah Morrison, PhD set out to answer these questions and more in an exploratory project-turned-book-deal dubbed Pure Process — an investigation into the minds of the advertising industry’s greatest creative thinkers. In a series of experiments, the researchers analyzed the “process drawings” of these top creative professionals — a visual answer to the question:

 What does your creative process look like?

Illustrated with a Sharpie on what Griffin and Morrison call a “process canvas,” the creatives revealed the routes they take to finding and catching ideas. The results: Just as incredibly diverse, wild and, yes, messy as you’d expect them to be.

So far, the lineup includes all-stars like Alex Bogusky, David Kennedy, Luke Sullivan, Kevin Roddy, Nancy Rice, and David Baldwin, among others. But they’re still looking for submissions — so if you live and work in the larger world of ideas, and you’d like your own creative process dissected and shared with the world, shoot them an email to be considered for inclusion.

It’s important to spend time NOT thinking of ideas. It often comes together when I’m neutral and quiet like in the shower or sound asleep. ~ Danny Gregory, ECD of McGarry Bowen

Pure Process is set for publication next summer by How Books. You can follow Glenn and Deborah on Twitter for updates on the project.

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