What microwave oscillators have to do with ray guns and the fundamentals of creativity.
Archival footage can be an endless source of paleofuture edutainment. We’ve previously enjoyed vintage educational documentaries on everything from the art of bookbinding to the dawn of computer music. Today, we turn to a 1963 educational film from Bell Laboratories. Titled Principles of the Optical Maser, it introduces the “optical maser” — the device that came to be known as “laser,” or Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, the first functioning Bell prototype of which made its debut in 1960. (A laser, in most basic terms, is merely a maser that works with photons in the light spectrum.)
More than anything, delightfully dorky as the footage may be, it’s also an illuminating glimpse of incremental innovation at work — a reminder that even the most advanced technologies of our time built upon the work of those who came before, as Steven Johnson keenly argues in his excellent Where Good Ideas Come From
What Bob Dylan has to do with civic pride and Ancient Rome’s views on the purpose of art.
Milton Glaser is one of the greatest graphic designers alive today, and a longtimefavorite around here. From his iconic I ♥ NY logo to his prolific newspaper and magazine designs, logos, brand identities, posters and other celebrated visual ephemera, Glaser is as revered for his exceptional visual output as he is for his thoughtful reflections on the role of design at large. His work, equal parts playful and poignant, explores the intersection of form and light to inform and delight, these being the purpose of art as defined by Ancient Roman poet Horace.
That’s the inspiration behind the title of the fantastic 2008 documentary Milton Glaser: To Inform & Delight, a remarkable debut by first-time filmmaker Wendy Keys. The film, now out on DVD, iTunes and Amazon Instant Video (free for Amazon Prime members, bless), offers an unprecedented glimpse of the ordinary moments of Glaser’s personal life, his creative process and the cross-pollination between the two, revealing the genuine humility, warmth and extraordinary intelligence of a modern-day Renaissance man.
I have made nothing on I [heart] New York, ever. There’ve been no cash rewards as a consequence of doing it. On the other hand, it really makes me feel very, very proud to have taken part in that shift in the city’s consciousness from being indifferent to itself to realizing, ‘We love this place.’” ~ Milton Glaser
As the creator of I ♥ NY and the moving sequel that followed 9/11, he may be the best-known graphic designer in the world. But they don’t begin to even hint at the impact and significance of Milton Glaser’s work. He’s taken the gifts he had to start with and developed them along a dazzling variety of lines that have influenced every serious designer I can think of, and that have materially affected the way we get information, the way we buy things and, in fact, the things that we buy.” ~ Ralph Caplan, Design Writer
With reflections from some of today’s most acclaimed design critics and direct footage of Glaser himself talking about everything from humorous anecdotes pf the 1960s to the problem-solving capacity of the brain to the profound impact music has had on his life and process, To Inform & Delight is an essential piece of creative history and will inform and will delight. (Amazon also has the beautiful poster for the film, based on Glaser’s iconic 1967 Bob Dylan poster, at 90% off.)
I [internalized] this idea that it didn’t matter whether I was called an artist or a designer or an illustrator or whatever else it was. The core value was always the act of making things, and the transformation of an idea that you hold in your mind that becomes real or material. That, to me, still is the glory of any creative activity.” ~ Milton Glaser
How to name a new species after your exwife, or what bioluminescent fish have to do with world peace.
Last week, we highlighted the discoveries of the Census of Marine Life — a global collaboration between researchers from more than 80 nations, constituting the first concentrated effort to better understand the past, present and future of marine biodiversity. Life in the Abyss is a fascinating short documentary about the ambitious endeavor, inviting you aboard an Arctic Ocean research vessel as scientists scoop up organisms from the ocean floor to see new species being discovered before your very eyes. From bioluminescence to deep-sea life, the short film offers a glimpse of an astounding and otherworldly microcosm — a precious final frontier of humanity’s exploration of Earth.
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