Brain Pickings

Gerd Artnz Graphic Designer: The Visual Legacy of 4,000 Symbols

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It’s been a great month for Isotype, the vintage pictogram language that gave rise to much of today’s visual communication and sparked the infographics revolution. Yesterday, we featured the story of Otto Neurath, considered the father of Isotype, and last week we raved about the ace iPhone app testing your memory through pictograms by Gerd Arntz (1900-1988), the politically engaged Modernist German graphic designer who collaborated with Neurath on the invention of Isotype.

Today we turn to Gerd Arntz Graphic Designer — an absolutely fantastic recent book about Arntz’s work, exploring the 4000 symbol signs he designed in his lifetime and their visual legacy.

Best-known for his iconic black-and-white wood and linoleum cuts, Arntz also created an astounding array of Isotype color icons spanning nature, industry, people, architecture, mobility, food and more.

And here’s something we found wildly interesting, a living testament to the iconic designer’s cultural footprint: Does the F in this Arntz logo look familiar?

A major case of Similarities, it seems, and proof that everything does indeed build on what came before.

Beautifully designed and thoughtfully written, Gerd Arntz Graphic Designer is both a treasure trove of Isotypes and a priceless overview of the system, its political and historical context, and its timeless design legacy.

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Sub City New York: A Cinematic Celebration of Urbanity

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We love cities, especially our current home base: New York. Last year, we featured a breathtaking love letter to NYC in HD and today, we’re back with another mesmerizing ode to one of the world’s most interesting cities.

From filmmakers Sarah Klein and Tom Mason comes Sub City New York — “a visual poem about that moment in New York when you emerge from the subway and find yourself in a new and sometimes unexpected world.”

The film is part of a larger series to be filmed in Paris, Moscow, London and Hong Kong — we can’t wait.

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Climate Kid: UNICEF’s Platform for Preparedness

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What evolutionary fantasies have to do with the future of practical education.

The true litmus test for the value of education is how well it equips us for navigating modern life. And while it might be an uncomfortable one, climate change is one of its increasingly urgent realities. Yet traditional education rarely equips kids with the essential lifeskills for dealing with the consequences of climate change, many of which will reach threatening proportions within the lifetimes of today’s youth. To address this, our friends at Do The Green Thing (remember them?) have teamed up with UNICEF to launch Climate Kid — a new platform for UNICEF’s work in helping children around the world adapt to climate change.

Though wonderfully animated and playful in tone, the short film raises the important question of how we adapt — biologically, maybe, but certainly socially — to a world changing before our eyes.

The effort is accompanied by a Twitter competition to win some lovely original artwork by talented independent illustrators who have developed their own interpretation of climate kid. To enter, simply tweet about what evolutionary enhancements you think a climate kid would need in the future, and hashtag it #climatekid.

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Vintage Visual Language: The Story of Isotype

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In the 1930s, Austrian sociologist, philosopher and curator Otto Neurath and his wife Marie pioneered ISOTYPE — the International System Of TYpographic Picture Education, a new visual language for capturing quantitative information in pictograms, sparking the golden age of infographics in print.

The Transformer: Principles of Making Isotype Charts is the first English-language volume to capture the story of Isotype, an essential foundation for our modern visual language dominated by pictograms in everything from bathroom signage to computer interfaces to GOOD’s acclaimed Transparencies.

The real cherry on top is a previously unpublished essay by Marie Neurath, who was very much on par with Otto as Isotype’s co-inventor, written a year before her death in 1986 and telling the story of how she carried on the Isotype legacy after Otto’s death in 1946.

Richly illustrated and contextualized with fascinating historical essays, The Transformer is a vital primer for a visual langauge that not only frames much of today’s communication but also speaks to us on a powerful intuitive level.

HT Information Is Beautiful

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