Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

19 NOVEMBER, 2010

Gadget Sculptures: The Afterlife of Devices


What bionic mosquitoes have to do with vintage cinema and sustainability.

Given the passionate love affair most of us have with our gadgets, we give surprisingly little thought to their afterlife. And when we do, it’s for purely utilitarian concerns of reselling and recycling. But for old gizmos can actually provide a fascinating and unusual canvas and raw material for art. Here are three artists who create fantastic and fantastical sculptures from old gadgets, breathing a new kind of animated whimsy into what was once a mere conduit of communication.


Artist Jeremy Mayer is part MacGuyver, part Michelangelo. He disassembles old typewriters and reassembles them into fantastic full-scale, anatomically correct sculptures that emanate a kind of techno-dystopian romanticism.

He uses no glue, soldering or welding, just pure physics and patience.

I do not introduce any part in the assemblage that did not come from a typewriter.” ~ Jeremy Mayer

Mayer’s sculptures embody the haunting retro-futurism of Fritz Lang’s aesthetic — something particularly timely given this month’s highly anticipated DVD release of the complete restored Metropolis.


Mike Rivamonte creates delightfully playful robots from vintage cameras, radios, microphones and other antique ephemera, some more than a century old. Each of the robots has its own personality, infused with the kind of charm that Rivamonte’s whimsical touch brings out of the cold metal parts.



Cuban-born artist Steven Rodrig creates sculptures that hit the spot for art lovers, geeks and environmentalists alike. Made of recycled circuit boards and other computer parts, his remarkable creations range from insects to flowers to intricate cityscapes, rescuing PCBs from the landfills they would otherwise haunt for a few thousand years.

My goal is to manipulate each PCB into becoming an organic life form “~ Steven Rodrig

And on an important PSA aside, recycling your electronics is no small matter. Even if you can’t masterfully reassemble them into artistic creations, it doesn’t mean you can’t dispose of them responsibly — just consult this handy EPA guide to e-cycling.

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18 NOVEMBER, 2010

The Story of Eames Furniture


Charles and Ray Eames are among the most influential American designers in history, whose contributions to modernist architecture and furniture, as well as graphic design, fine art and film, shaped the American aesthetic for decades to come. Today, we see Eames pervasive legacy in everything from the set of Mad Men to the pages of design history books to the streets of downtown LA.

This fall, Gestalten is capturing the legacy of the great couple in an ambitious and absolutely gorgeous 800-page hardcover volume 13 years in the making, fittingly authored by another husband-and-wife duo, Marilyn Neuhart and John Neuhart. The Story of Eames Furniture is a design geek’s lustful dream, brimming with detailed technical diagrams, glamorous product shots, vintage advertisements, anecdotes and other rare peeks at the Eames’ creative process.

Among the book’s major contributions is that it identifies the Eames’ numerous collaborators, who would’ve never otherwise been credited for their work. From the creative conception of specific pieces of furniture to profiles of individual designers, it’s as intimate a look at the Eames universe as the world has seen.

Going into the Eames’ office was like watching people take their brains out and knead them on their desks like dough.” ~ John Neuhart

In this exclusive interview, the authors talk about everything from the cultural significance of Eames’ work to why Charles hated the word ‘creative':

It was such a clean breath of fresh air. The furniture was a clear expression of the modern movement that went on in graphics and architecture.” ~ John Neuhart

Grab a copy of The Story of Eames Furniture for the design geek in your life or for your own coffee table. Which, more likely than not, is a distant but palpable descendant of Eames’ legacy.

via Susan Everett

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17 NOVEMBER, 2010

Alphabets: A Miscellany of Letters by David Sacks


It’s no secret we’re obsessed with alphabet books. But a new book by David Sacks offers much more depth than the designerly eye candy the genre lends itself to.

Alphabets: A Miscellany of Letters is an ambitious exploration of the pervasiveness of letters in everyday life, tracing our visual vocabulary to its roots in Egyptian hieroglyphs, Kanji characters and other ancient alphabets with rich illustrations, beautiful graphic design and typography, found objects, graffiti and more.

B from Linotype Zootype

The Zootype font, with its animal heads poking holes into the backs of letters, was created by Argentine designer Victor Garcia in 1997

E in lights

Composed of thousands of E-letters, rendered in a bright neon light, this image seems almost kinetic

F from Peter Blake's Alphabet

Pop artist Peter Blake is a master of typographic collages and found objects

Sacks explores the persona of each of the 26 letters of the alphabet, treating it as a separate symbol with its own design history and cultural legacy. It’s interesting to consider letters outside the context of text and words — suddenly, they come to life as conceptual creations that carry a powerful and complex aesthetic, symbolic and interpretational charge.

The letter N, rendered in grass

X from Pin Ups

From a provocative book shaping letters out of women's bodies represented by negative space

And for a special tickle of our appetite for creative derivatives of the London Tube map, this gem:

Q from A to Z

London-based designer and illustrator Tim Fishlock posterized Harry Beck's famous alphabet made of sections and lines from the London Underground map

From Braille to the Morse code to Muji alphabet ice cube moulds, Alphabets covers an astounding range of linguistic symbolism, giving the nostalgically familiar alphabet book of our childhoods an adult upgrade with remarkable design sophistication and aesthetic sensibility.

Images courtesy of The Guardian

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