Brain Pickings

Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design

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The much-awaited monumental monograph of the greatest graphic designer of all time.

Saul Bass (1920-1996) is one of the most iconic and influential visual communicators of the 20th century — possibly the most famous graphic designer of all time — having broken out of the conformity of the 1950s to shape the aesthetic of generations of designers and animators with his bold and lively film title sequences and graphic design. (His insights on creativity and advice on doing quality work are also a timeless treat for any creator.) Yet no definitive monograph of his prolific, monumental work has existed — until now. Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design, designed by Bass’s daughter Jennifer and written by renowned design historian Pat Kirkham, is a formidable 428-page volume featuring more than 1,400 of Bass’s illustrations, many never before published, that offer an unprecedented look at his legacy and the creative process behind his most celebrated posters, title sequences, and logo designs.

I want everything we do to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether the client understands that that’s worth anything, or that the client thinks it’s worth anything, or whether it is worth anything. It’s worth it to me. It’s the way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.” ~ Saul Bass

Publisher Laurence King put together this epic video of the making of the book, to give you a sense of the scale and ambition of the project:

From his iconic title sequences…

… to his unforgettable posters…

…to his legendary logos for mega-brands like AT&T, Quaker Oats, and United Airlines, the monograph contextualizes his most significant works and analyzes each film project individually to dissect its graphic elements and motifs.

Philip French has a fantastic review-and-so-much-more of the book over at The Guardian.

Had Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design been released before the publication of this selection of the 100 best graphic design books of the past 100 years, it would most certainly have been included, and quite possibly would have topped the list — it is, truly, one of the most beautiful, inspirational, important design books you’ll ever lay eyes and hands on.

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Stefanie Posavec on Her Obsessive Analog Data Visualization

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Inside the brain of one of today’s most creative information patternists.

There are no words to describe how much I heart the work of information designer Stefanie Posavec, whose Writing Without Words project remains one of the most poetic pieces of visual meta-storytelling you’ll ever see and who last year generously visualized the best of Brain Pickings. In the age of computational data visualization, part of what makes Posavec’s work so remarkable is that so much of it is code-free, done entirely by hand, with pencil and paper, extracting fascinating data patterns from ordinary subjects.

This wonderful feature by Protein offers a rare glimpse of Posavec’s creative process and a priceless tour of the wonderland that is her mind:

I spend lots of time reading and rereading text and counting words or counting numbers or just going through a subject matter repeatedly until I have all the data in a notebook, and then I use that data to create my graphics. By reading and rereading these texts, I’m able to understand more about a specific text or a specific subject matter than I would otherwise, than I would if I wrote a computer program to analyze that text for me.” ~ Stefanie Posavec

via feltron

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The Table Comes First: Adam Gopnik on the Meaning of Food

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A cultural history of our modern culinary obsession.

It seems to be the season of intriguing food-related releases. From Adam Gopnik, one of my favorite nonfiction writers working today, comes The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food — a fascinating journey into the roots of our modern obsession with food and culinary culture. From the dawn of our modern tastes in 18th-century France, where the first restaurant was born, to the kitchens of the White House to the Slow Food movement to Barcelona’s bleeding-edge molecular gastronomy scene, Gopnik tours the wild and wonderful world of cuisine, with all its concomitant sociocultural phenomena, to explore the delicate relationship between what goes on the table and what goes on around it as we come together over our food. It’s history, nutrition, philosophy, anthropology, and sociology all rolled up into one delectable streusel of insight and illumination, in Gopnik’s unapologetically intelligent yet charmingly witty style.

Having made food a more fashionable object, we have ended by making eating a smaller subject. When ‘gastronomy’ was on the margins of attention it seemed big because it was an unexpected way to get at everything — the nature of hunger; the meaning of appetite; the patterns and traces of desire; tradition, in the way that recipes are passed mother to son; and history, in the way that spices mix and, in mixing, mix peoples. You could envision through the modest lens of pleasure, as through a keyhole, a whole world; and the compression and odd shape of the keyhole made the picture more dramatic. Now the door is wide open, but somehow we see less, or notice less, anyway. Betrayed by its enlargement, food becomes less intimate the more intensely it is made to matter.” ~ Adam Gopnik

The book opens with Charles Darwin’s famous haikuesque meditation:

We have happy days, remember good dinners.”

Gopnik goes on to explore the two pillars of modern eating — the restaurant and the recipe book — both of which are modern developments, mere blips in evolutionary time, and reflects on their cultural history with his characteristically brilliant blend of keen analysis and ever-so-subtle smirk.

The restaurant was once a place for men, a place where men ate, held court, cooked, boasted and swaggered, and wooed women. The recipe book was traditionally ‘feminine': the kitchen was the place where women cooked, supervised, gave orders, made brownies, to steady and domesticate men. In the myth-world of the nineteenth century, the restaurant existed to coax women into having sex; the recipe book to coax men into staying home.” ~ Adam Gopnik

Deeply fascinating and absorbingly written, The Table Comes First is the kind of read you’ll want to devour in one sitting, despite its Thanksgiving-sized 320-page heft.

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