Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘history’

11 JUNE, 2013

Design in a Nutshell: One-Minute Animated Primers on Six Major Creative Movements

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From Gothic Revival to Postmodernism, or how Bauhaus ushered in the age of minimalism.

From the fine folks at Open University — who have previously brought us delightful 60-second animated primers on philosophy’s famous thought experiments and the world’s major theories of religion — comes Design in a Nutshell, a lovely six-part series of their signature animated primers on six major design movements.

Gothic Revival gave us many of the ideas that changed architecture, including the magnificent vaulted ceilings of European cathedrals, and without it Lewis Carroll may never have given us Alice in Wonderland:

The Arts and Crafts movement emerged as a rebellion to the negative impact of mass-production and the Industrial Revolution, and its romantic ideals still reverberate today:

Bauhaus, one of the 100 ideas that changed graphic design, revolutionized design education by introducing a cross-disciplinary curriculum and embraced the intersection of innovation and inspiration:

Modernism emerged from a disillusionment with history after the World War and spanned every corner of creative expression, from art (e.g., Agnes Martin) to music (e.g., John Cage) to design (e.g., Charles and Ray Eames), becoming the single most influential creative movement of the 20th century:

After The Great Depression erased consumer demand, American industrial design set to out rebuild the world of tomorrow and reignite people’s appreciation for objects by making things that previously didn’t need to appear attractive now sleek and desirable, effectively bridging form and function and ushering in The Century of the Self:

Postmodernism criticized modernism for having failed at reinvigorating society and set out to transform culture politically, philosophically, and creatively, pushing society to question why things are the way they are:

Pair with the best design books of 2012.

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10 JUNE, 2013

Happy 50th Birthday, Equal Pay Act: A Brief History and Future of the Gender Wage Gap

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“Even in creative fields, such as book publishing, advertising, and journalism, where there was a pool of educated females, women were given menial jobs.”

On June 10, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law — a historic bill that aimed to abolish wage discrimination on the basis of gender in an era when newspapers published separate job listings for men and women. It stated:

No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section [section 206 of title 29 of the United States Code] shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs[,] the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex.

In her fantastic book The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace (public library), which tells the untold story of the lawsuit that changed the modern workplace, Lynn Povich contextualizes the monumental role the act played in turning the tide on gender-based discrimination:

In just about every industry, “office work” for women meant secretarial jobs and typing pools. Even in creative fields, such as book publishing, advertising, and journalism, where there was a pool of educated females, women were given menial jobs. In the 1950s, full-time working women earned on average between fifty-nine and sixty-four cents for every dollar men earned in the same job. It wasn’t until the passage of the Equal Pay Act in June 1963 that it became illegal to pay women a lower rate for the same job. And there were very few professional women. Until around 1970, women comprised fewer than 10 percent of students in medical school, 4 percent of law school students, and only 3 percent of business school students.

Upon signing the Equal Pay Act, JFK remarked:

I am delighted today to approve the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits arbitrary discrimination against women in the payment of wages. This act represents many years of effort by labor, management, and several private organizations unassociated with labor or management, to call attention to the unconscionable practice of paying female employees less wages than male employees for the same job. This measure adds to our laws another structure basic to democracy. It will add protection at the working place to the women, the same rights at the working place in a sense that they have enjoyed at the polling place.

While much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity — for the average woman worker earns only 60 percent of the average wage for men — this legislation is a significant step forward.

American Association of University Women members with President John F. Kennedy as he signs the Equal Pay Act into law on June 10, 1963.

Image: Abbie Rowe, White House Photographs; courtesy JFK Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

But for all its significance, the EPA was still crippled by the era’s gender stereotypes — for its first nine years, it didn’t extend to executive or even administrative-level jobs, thus rendering white-collar women professionals exempt from and unaffected by the new anti-discrimination policy. It wasn’t until 1972 — the same year that groundbreaking feminism magazine Ms. forever changed women’s visibility, that the Educational Amendment extended coverage to the executive class. In 2009, in the first signing of his presidency, Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, overturning the Supreme Court’s ruling on the statute of limitations on gender-unequal paychecks and holding each such paycheck as a new violation to the law.

So where are we today, half a century after the EPA’s passing? Not too far, it seems: The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that women’s wages have risen from 62% to 80% of men’s in the three decades following 1970, but there is still a palpable wage gap or, as some have argued, a job gap — even if it is smaller than myth suggests. Even though women are earning more higher education degrees, gender inequality in the workforce still exists. And yet, some critics are ringing the death toll on men’s income dominance, largely due to the tipping of the education scales:

What are we to make of all this? (Pete Seeger might have some thoughts.) At the end of the day, policy is only half the battle in winning the war on society’s most heartbreaking instances of gender inequality. When it comes to work, however much employment may be legislated, there might, just might, be greater gratification in finding our purpose and pursuing fulfilling work by defining our own success rather than being somebody’s employee.

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07 JUNE, 2013

The Lives of 10 Famous Painters, Visualized as Minimalist Infographic Biographies

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Pollock, Dalí, Matisse, Klimt, Picasso, Mondrian, Klee, Boccioni, Kandinsky, and Miro, visually distilled.

For their latest masterpiece, my friend Giorgia Lupi and her team at Accurat — who have previously given us such gems as a timeline of the future based on famous fiction, a visualization of global brain drain, and visual histories of the Nobel Prize and the 100 geniuses of language — have teamed up with illustrator Michela Buttignol to visualize the lives of ten famous painters, using the visual metaphors of painting and the specific stylistic preferences — shapes, colors, proportions — of each artist.

The artists include Jackson Pollock (whose meditation on art and life is a must-read and who had a pretty amazing dad), Salvador Dalí (whose little-known Alice in Wonderland illustrations never cease to delight), Gustav Klimt (who was a key figure in sparking the cross-pollination of art and science that shaped modern culture), Henri Matisse (who, unbeknownst to many, once illustrated Joyce’s Ulysses) and Piet Mondrian (who has even inspired artisanal cake), and each painter is represented by a cleverly designed pictogram reflective of his signature style:

Each visual biography depicts key biographical moments — births, deaths, love affairs, marriages, birth of children, travel — as well as notable and curious features like handedness (mostly righties, with the exception of Klee), astrological sign, and connections.

For a closer look, click each image to view the full-size version:

The visualizations are available as art prints on Society6.

You can see more of Giorgia’s wonderful work on her site and follow her on Twitter.

For an even more minimalist distillation of famous lives, see the delightful, if much less scholarly, Life In Five Seconds.

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Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





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