Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

15 JUNE, 2012

Iconic Designer Charles Eames’s Most Memorable Aphorisms

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“Beyond the age of information is the age of choices.”

Charles Eames (June 17, 1907–August 21, 1978) — legendary furniture designer, deft universe-explainer, celebrated champion of design as a force of culture, creative genius of uncommon “sincerity, honesty, conviction, affection, imagination, and humor” — is one of the most celebrated creative icons of the past century.

100 Quotes by Charles Eames (public library) is a tiny gem of a book, originally published for Eames’s centennial in 2007, full of exactly what it says on the tin. Each of the 100 pearls of Eames wisdom, culled from his articles, books, films, interviews, lectures, notes, and office files, appears in 7 languages — English, Complex Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, Brazilian, Portuguese, and Spanish. A beautiful, minimalist cover with debossed typography adds a layer of joy to holding and touching the micro-tome.

Here are 15 of my favorite quotes.

Eventually everything connects — people, ideas, objects… the quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.

Most people aren’t trained to want to face the process of re-understanding a subject they already know. One must obtain not just literacy, but deep involvement and re-understanding.

Beyond the age of information is the age of choices.

If nothing else, a student must get from his training a feeling of security in change.

Innovate as a last resort. More horrors are done in the name of innovation than any other.

Recent years have shown a growing preoccupation with the circumstances surrounding the creative act and a search for the ingredients that promote creativity. This preoccupation in itself suggests that we are in a special kind of trouble — and indeed we are.

To be realistic one must always admit the influence of those who have gone before.

(Because we already know everything is a remix, all art builds on what came before, and creativity is combinatorial.)

We work because it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads to the next.

I don’t believe in this “gifted few” concept, just in people doing things they are really interested in doing. They have a way of getting good at whatever it is.

(Cue in some famous thoughts on finding your purpose and doing what you love.)

Unlike Keats, who said that knowing about the rainbow shatters its beauty, I feel that the knowledge about an object can only enrich your feelings for the object itself.

(Cue in Richard Feynman on the pleasure of finding things out.)

Don’t be like I was. Don’t be afraid of history. Take all of it you can get.

At all times love and discipline have led to a beautiful environment and a good life.

Any time one or more things are consciously put together in a way that they can accomplish something better than they could have accomplished individually, this is an act of design.

Ideas are cheap. Always be passionate about ideas and communicating those ideas and discoveries to others in the things you make.

Take your pleasure seriously.

Used copies can be found online and at Eames Gallery.

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12 JUNE, 2012

Christoph Niemann: Insecurity Is Essential to Great Design

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Inside the mind of one of today’s finest visual communicators.

Christoph NiemannLEGO-lover, dispenser of irreverent wisdom on creativity, author of the excellent Abstract City and That’s How! — is one of my favorite illustrators. In this short video from Gestalten, Niemann discusses his philosophy on design, the state of visual language today, his creative process, his adorable non-neuroses, and more.

A certain amount of insecurity is a very helpful trait for any kind of designer.

Of particular note is Niemann’s point about insecurity, a point we’ve already seen made in other disciplines, from science to cinema.

The video is a teaser for Gestalten’s Data Flow 2, a fine complement to their fantastic Visual Storytelling.

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11 JUNE, 2012

French Polymath Henri Poincaré on How the Inventor’s Mind Works, 1908

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Why to create is to choose the right combinations.

Great books are always Rube Goldberg machines of discovery for other great books, with their intricately woven mesh of allusions, references, and citations. One such particularly prolific treasure trove of pointer to related works is the 1957 gem The Art of Scientific Investigation, which you might recall from recent looks at its insights on serendipity and chance-opportunism and the role of intuition in discovery and creation. Among the countless fascinating books it references is The Foundations of Science (public library), originally published in 1908 by the legendary French mathematician, philosopher of science, and polymath Henri Poincaré (1854-1912), who offers the following account of ideation and the creative process, emphasizing both the combinatorial nature of creativity and the importance of editing and subtraction:

To invent, I have said, is to choose; but the word is perhaps not wholly exact. It makes one think of a purchaser before whom are displayed a large number of samples, and who examines them, one after the other, to make a choice. Here the samples would be so numerous that a whole lifetime would not suffice to examine them. This is not the actual state of things. The sterile combinations do not even present themselves to the mind of the inventor. Never in the field of his consciousness do combinations appear that are not really useful, except some that he rejects but which have to some extent the characteristics of useful combinations. All goes on as if the inventor were an examiner for the second degree who would only have to question the candidates who had passed a previous examination.

The Foundations of Science is now in the public domain and is thus available for free in multiple formats, though with many errors due to the imperfections of optical character recognition technology, from The Internet Archive.

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08 JUNE, 2012

Legendary Architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Aphorisms on Education and Learning

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“You have to go wholeheartedly into anything in order to achieve anything worth having.”

Frank Lloyd Wright is frequently regarded as modern history’s greatest architect, having masterminded the Guggenheim Museum, Fallingwater, and a number of other iconic structures. He was also, unbeknownst to many, a formidable graphic artist. More than a legendary creator, however, he was also a deep, broad thinker of crisp conviction and wide-spanning wisdom. Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture, Nature, and the Human Spirit: A Collection of Quotations (public library) is lovely pocket-sized micro-tome from Pomegranate (previously), edited by Frank Lloyd Wright Archives director Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, meticulously culling more than 200 of Wright’s most memorable quotes from his published writings and his famous Sunday morning talks, which followed the Saturday evening dinners and film screenings he held at his Taliesin studio. The quotes are divided into subjects like Nature, Work & Success, Beauty, Democracy & Individual, and Creativity, but among his keenest insights explore education and learning. Here are ten of my favorites.

True study is a form of experience. (1958)

The present education system is the trampling of the herd. (1956)

(Cue in Sir Ken Robinson on the industrialization of education.)

Cultivate the poet. The poet is the unacknowledged legislator of this universe and the sooner we knock under to that the better. Get Emerson’s essay on the American scholar and read it once a year. (1957)

Culture is developed from within and education is to be groomed from without. (1959)

(Cue in William Gibson on cultivating a personal micro-culture.)

When anyone becomes an authority, that is the end of him as far as development is concerned. (1948)

Education, of course, is always based on what was. Education shows you what has been and leaves you to make the deduction as to what may be. Education as we pursue it cannot prophesy, and does not. (1955)

An expert is a man who has stopped thinking because ‘he knows.’ (1957)

You have to go wholeheartedly into anything in order to achieve anything worth having. (1958)

There is no real development without integrity, that is — a love of truth. (1957)

(Cue in this morning’s Richard Feynman commencement address on integrity.)

And, finally, an affirmation of networked knowledge and combinatorial creativity:

Quality consists in a developed consciousness and in a capacity for complete correlation of your faculties. If you are not a correlated human being, you are fragmentary, you are awkward, you are not there in any sense with the thing that is needed to be there. (1952)

Complement Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture, Nature, and the Human Spirit with the legendary architect’s lesser-known contributions to graphic design and his feisty critique of Corbusier, Philip Johnson, and the NYC skyline.

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