Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

22 NOVEMBER, 2012

Bruno Munari on Design as a Bridge Between Art and Life

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“The designer of today re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the public, between living people and art as a living thing.”

In the preface to his 1966 classic Design as Art (public library) — one of the most important and influential design books ever published — legendary Italian graphic designer Bruno Munari, once described by Picasso as “the new Leonardo,” makes a passionate case for democratizing art and making design the lubricant between romanticism and pragmatism.

Revisiting Munari’s iconic words is at once a reminder of how much has changed, and how little — but mostly a timeless vision for design’s highest, purest aspiration.

Munari begins:

Today it has become necessary to demolish the myth of the ‘star’ artist who only produces masterpieces for a small group of ultra-intelligent people. It must be understood that as long as art stands aside from the problems of life it will only interest a very few people. Culture today is becoming a mass affair, and the artist must step down from his pedestal and be prepared to make a sign for a butcher’s shop (if he knows how to do it). The artist must cast off the last rags of romanticism and become active as a man among men, well up in present-day techniques, materials and working methods. Without losing his innate aesthetic sense he must be able to respond with humility and competence to the demands his neighbors may make of him.

The designer of today re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the public, between living people and art as a living thing. … There should be no such thing as art divorced from life, with beautiful things to look at and hideous things to use. If what we use every day is made with art, and not thrown together by chance or caprice, then we shall have nothing to hide.

In the introduction, he cites Maxim Gorky:

Munari cautions against holding on too stringently to conceptions of what art is and isn’t:

Anyone working in the field of design has a hard task ahead of him: to clear his neighbor’s mind of all preconceived notions of art and artists, notions picked up at schools where they condition you to think one way for the whole of your life, without stopping to think that life changes — and today more rapidly than ever. It is therefore up to us designers to make known our working methods in clear and simple terms, the methods we think are the truest, the most up-to-date, the most likely to resolve our common aesthetic problems. Anyone who uses a properly designed object feels the presence of an artist who has worked for him, bettering his living conditions and encouraging him to develop his taste and sense of beauty.

Munari cites from the school prospectus of Walter Groupis, who founded the Bauhaus in 1919 in what is considered the birth moment of design, with a lens on art education that parallels Isaac Asimov’s vision for science education:

‘We know that only the technical means of artistic achievement can be taught, not art itself. The function of art has in the past been given a formal importance which has severed it from our daily life; but art is always present when a people lives sincerely and healthily.

‘Our job is therefore to invent a new system of education that may lead — by way of a new kind of specialized teaching of science and technology — to a complete knowledge of human needs and a universal awareness of them.

‘Thus our task is to make a new kind of artist, a creator capable of understanding every kind of need: not because he is a prodigy, but because he knows how to approach human needs according to a precise method. We wish to make him conscious of his creative power, not scared of new facts, and independent of formulas in his own work.’

Munari ends on a note reminiscent of Lloyd Wright’s ethos, arguing for beauty as a kind of right:

When the objects we use every day and the surroundings we live in have become in themselves a work of art, then we shall be able to say that we have achieved a balanced life.

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21 NOVEMBER, 2012

A Visual Timeline of the Future Based on Famous Fiction

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Proof that in the year 802701, the world will still exist.

The past has a long history of imagining the future, and humanity has an equally long history of mapping time. Several months ago, I shared a link to a timeline of future events as predicted by famous novels. Italian information visualization designer Giorgia Lupi saw it on Twitter and was inspired to create an ambitious visual version for La Lettura, the Sunday literary supplement of Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, with her design team at Accurat.

Giorgia was recently visiting and after she shared the story, I asked her to create an English edition of the exquisite timeline exclusively for Brain Pickings, which she generously did:

(Click image for hi-res version)

Giorgia explains:

The visualization is built on a main horizontal axis depicting a distorted time-line of events (in fact we put them regularly, in sequence), starting our future-timeline in 2012. The y-axis is dedicated to the year the novel / book foretelling the event was published.

On the lower half of the visualization you can find the original quotes (shortened)

We then wanted to add further layers of analysis to our piece:

- finding out main typologies of foretold events (are they mainly social, scientific, technological, political?)
- discovering and depicting the genre of the book,
- and most of all, dividing them into positive, neutral or negative events.

Finally, good news, in 802,701 the world will still exist!

Here are a few progress sketches for a fascinating glimpse of her process:

See more of Giorgia’s wonderful work on her site, then imbibe some visualization lessons from the world’s top information designers and data artists.

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20 NOVEMBER, 2012

Tiny Collaborative Stories

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A charmingly minimalist cross-pollination of word and image at the heart of being human.

Last year, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, better-known as RegularJOE in the hitRECord universe he created, asked thousands of contributors to submit tiny stories through words and images. He sifted through more than 8,000 submissions to cull 67 contributions, which were then collected in The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 1. The hitRECord crew is now back with The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 2 — a delightful compilation of 62 such tender, poignant, beautiful micro-narratives selected from nearly 15,000 submissions. All the stories are made collaboratively — a writer would submit a story to the site, then an artist who likes it would illustrate it, or vice-versa, then others would join in and remix the stories and artwork.

In a heartening twist on traditional publishing, hitRECord is splitting all proceeds from the book 50-50 with the contributing artists and writers.

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 2 will be followed by Volume 3 in 2013, for which submissions are already being accepted.

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