Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘art’

29 SEPTEMBER, 2011

Hall of Femmes: The Female Icons of Graphic Design

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Four self-made women who shaped the course and voice of modern graphic design.

After spending some time in the creative industry, Swedish design duo Hjärta Smärta (“Heart Pain”) observed that there weren’t nearly enough female design role models at the forefront of our cultural awareness. So they started Hall of Femmes, an online project (alas, in Swedish) highlighting female designers and art directors who have significantly influenced creative culture. In 2009, the pair traveled to New York to interview some of these design icons as the basis for a series of books and soon thereafter they published four of these volumes honoring female creative legends.

A few years ago, we traveled to New York to meet up with a few iconic female graphic designers. We wanted to connect with women whose successes we could aspire to. With the book series HoF, we direct attention to these unsung heroines.” ~ Angela and Samira, Hjärta Smärta

Hall of Femmes: Lillian Bassman tells the story of one of the first art directors, who got her start as an assistant to Alexey Brodovitch at Harper’s Bazaar during the golden age of the American magazines in the late 1940s. In 1945, Bassman became art director for the newly launched Junior Bazaar, a fashion magazine focused on teenagers that functioned as a creative lab for up-and-coming creatives. The magazine folded just three years later, but the creatively agile Bassman taught herself photography and became one of Harper’s Bazaars’ most sought-after photographers. At 94 today, she still works every day.

Hall of Femmes: Carin Goldberg highlights the legacy of postmodernist book designer who earned the prestigious AIGA Gold Medal for lifetime achievement in 2009. Her career began in the 1970s as a designer at CBS Television and CBS Records, an era that expected you to be, as Goldberg puts it, “a cool, irreverent, experimental, hungry, talented smart-ass”. In the 1980s, she founded her own firm, Carin Goldberg Design, where she heads to this day. Over the past three decades, Goldberg has designed more than 1000 books for every iconic publishing house and has worked with legends like Madonna and Steve Reich, as well as Brain Pickings favorites Kurt Vonnegut and Susan Sontag.

Hall of Femmes: Ruth Ansel highlights one of the greatest magazine designers of all time, who over the past half-century has been shaping the visual aesthetic of some of the most influential magazines of our time as a visionary art director — Harper’s Bazaar in the 1960s, The New York Times Magazine in the 1970s, Vanity Fair in the 1980s, and running her own design studio since the 1990s. She has collaborated with nearly every icon of magazine publishing — Diana Vreeland, Richard Avedon, Annie Leibowitz, Bruce Weber, Tina Brown, and many more.In her 70s, answer remains active and creatively restless as ever.

The most recent in the series, Hall of Femmes: Paula Scher, covers one of my personal heroes, whose views on combinatorial creativity capture the founding ethos of Brain Pickings with remarkable eloquence. Scher began her graphic design career as a rebellious record cover art director at both Atlantic and CBS Records in the 1970s, where her hate for the then-ubiquitous Helvetica led her to create some of the most innovative and memorable typography of all time, which helped define the visual voice of New York City. In 1991, she joined iconic design firm Pentagram as a partner. Her stunning typographic maps have become one of the most celebrated feats of creative cartography. Her identity and branding systems have helped shape iconic cultural institutions and brands like Bloomberg, Coca-Cola, the Metropolitan Opera, the MoMA, and Citi. In 2001, Scher earned the coveted AIGA Medal for her contributions to graphic design. In 2006, she was awarded the Type Directors Club Medal. At 63, Scher remains a principal at Pentagram and teaches at New York’s School of Visual Arts.

Hat tip Fab

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28 SEPTEMBER, 2011

Gorgeous Grimm: 130 Years of Brothers Grimm Visual Legacy

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What evil stepmothers and conniving wolves have to do with understanding the future of reading.

The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register for the preservation of cultural documents, have been delighting and terrifying children since 1812, transfixing generations of parents, psychologists, and academics. The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm is an astounding new volume from Taschen editor Noel Daniel bringing together the best illustrations from 130 years of The Brothers Grimm with 27 of the most beloved Grimm stories, including Cinderella, Snow White, The Little Red Riding Hood, and Sleeping Beauty, amidst artwork by some of the most celebrated illustrators from Germany, Britain, Sweden, Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, and the United States working between the 1820s and 1950s.

The new translation is based on the final 1857 edition of the tales, and stunning silhouettes from original publications from the 1870s and 1920s grace the tome’s pages, alongside brand new silhouettes created bespoke for this remarkable new volume.

An introduction by Daniel explores the Grimms’ enduring legacy, from the DNA of fairy-tale scholarship to the shadow play and shape-shifting at the heart of the stories, and a preface to each tale frames it in its historical and sociocultural context.

The Grimms’ were a vital engine for a whole new caliber of artistic activity […] Suddenly, artists across the Western world could make a living illustrating books, and they found a solid foundation for new work in the heroes and princesses, talking animals, dwarfs, and witches of fairy tales. The tales were an important part of each technological advancement along the way, and the best of this visual iconography still influences artist, art directors, filmmakers, and animators today […] Even as our modes of reading continue to change with new technologies, taking a measure of the interactivity of text and image in past treasures helps us understand the changing landscape of reading in the future.”

And in case you were wondering why Taschen, purveyors of high-end and often risque art and design books, are doing a children’s book, they’ve got a thoughtful answer:

Taschen recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. We have many readers who have come of age with us and are now have their own families. These readers are interested in beautifully produced children’s books that take seriously a child’s exposure to stories and images with depth and historical meaning. We wanted The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm to embody our mission to create meaningful books that are timeless yet original, modern but classic.”

Rigorously researched and breathtakingly art-directed, The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm is a whimsical wonderland in its own right, blending seminal cultural history with our private individual nostalgia in an utterly gorgeous volume to charm the design lover, the history buff, and the eternal kid all at once.

Images courtesy of Taschen

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27 SEPTEMBER, 2011

Austin Kleon on Cultivating Creativity in the Digital Age

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The genealogy of ideas, why everything is a remix, or what T.S. Eliot can teach us about creativity.

UPDATE: Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist synthesizes his ideas on creativity and is absolutely fantastic.

Austin Kleon is positively one of the most interesting people on the Internet. His Newspaper Blackout project is essentially a postmodern florilegium, using a black Sharpie to make art and poetry by redacting newspaper articles.

In this excellent talk from The Economist‘s Human Potential Summit, titled Steal Like an Artist, Kleon makes an articulate and compelling case for combinatorial creativity and the role of remix in the idea economy.

Kleon, who has clearly seen Kirby Ferguson’s excellent Everything is a Remix, echoes the central premise of my own recent talk on networked knowledge and combinatorial creativity:

Nothing is completely original. All artists’ work builds on what came before. Every new idea is just a remix or a mashup of two previous ideas.

Amen.

And even more in the vein of the Brain Pickings ethos, reminiscent of this favorite quote by iconic designer Paula Scher:

We can pick our teachers and we can pick our friends and we can pick the books we read and the music we listen to and the movies we see, etcetera. You are a mashup of what you let into your life.

So here’s to filling our mental petri dishes with the best, most diverse and cross-disciplinary ideas possible, so we can be our best combinatorial mashup-selves.

via @wendymac

Donating = Loving

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:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.