Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

10 DECEMBER, 2010

3 Ways to Visualize the David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest

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What dotted lines have to do with telenovelas, pop culture reverence and analog GPS.

David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest, a favorite book of many, is the kind of genre-bender that will thwart your mind with its convoluted narrative, plethora of allusions and cultural references, and multilateral connections between the characters. Navigating its maze of relationships and 400 footnotes could drive even the most seasoned literary disentanglers up the reading room wall.

So today, we look at three visual efforts to deconstruct the iconic novel.

INFINITE JEST CHARACTER FLOWCHART

To illuminate the essential points of the novel’s plot, German designer Jonny set out to flowchart the novel’s most essential characters, revealing an amusingly complex ecosystem that’s part Shakespearean play, part Mexican telenovela.

GEOLOCATION PHOTO TOUR

If the characters aren’t enough of a brilliant mess for you, David Foster Wallace adds another layer of confusion with a slew of locations that would send any GPS spinning. One brave Infinite Jest reader decided to take a tour of Boston, photographing all the locations mentioned in the book, then plotting them on a map.

INFINITE JEST CHARACTER DIAGRAM

From designer Sam Potts comes another visualization of the relationships between the characters, this time in the form of a diagram.

It’s really, really hard to know where exactly to delimit the Great Concavity. Where the novel is vague, a map must be specific, even when it is being demapped. I did the best that makes sense to me.” ~ Sam Potts

Since family is an important theme in the novel, a dotted line represents additional metadata showing a family connection.

The reverence in the designer’s tone as he explicitly points out that the diagram is no substitute for actually reading the novel bespeaks the height of the pedestal Infinite Jest has erected for itself in pop culture:

The best I can hope for in terms of this diagram’s relationship to Infinite Jest is that it’s a) as accurate as I could make it and b) a reminder of the seemingly endless details and pleasures to be found in Wallace’s masterpiece.” ~ Sam Potts

The poster is available as a free downloadable PDF and sold as a 36″ x 24″ print on 80# Lynx Opaque paper for a well-justified $20.

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02 DECEMBER, 2010

Stefan Sagmeister on Sustaining Creativity

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It’s hard not to love celebrated graphic designer and creative provocateur Stefan Sagmeister. In this excellent talk from The 99%, he shares some nuggets of insight on creative habituation, desensitization and how not to take creativity for granted — something that could befall most of us as we do what we do day in and day out, regardless of how much we may enjoy it and how much pride we may take in it.

Both of Sagmeister’s books, Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far and Made You Look, remain absolutely indispensable. Sample the magic below:

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29 NOVEMBER, 2010

Infinite City: A San Francisco Subcultural Atlas

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If you love maps as much as we do, the 13th book by author Rebecca Solnit‘ (of Wanderlust fame) will make you swoon. Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, out today, is a collection of 22 magnificent maps brimming with full-color whimsy that reveal the city in an entirely new light.

The result of collaboration between 27 writers, cartographers, designers, artists and researchers, the book is an absolute treat regardless of your relationship, or lack thereof, with San Francisco.

Monarchs and Queens

Butterly habitats mapped alongside popular queer public spaces

The maps, beautiful and often provocative in theme, are accompanied by 18 thoughtful essays that contextualize the geography depicted in insightful and unexpected ways to reveal a hidden city of thriving subcultures, political and commercial dynamics, and cross-cultural relations.

Who Am I Where? / ¿Quién Soy Dónde?

Paired with first-person interview from residents and day laborers in the iconic Mission District, this map draws the US-Mexico border at Cesar Chavez Street

I wanted to make maps gorgeous, seductive, delicious, and beautiful again. Cartography used to be both an art and a science. I wanted to return to that.” ~ Rebecca Solnit

Poison / Palate

Toxic mines and factories in the Bay Area plotted alongside farmers markets, farms, and artisan food producers

If you call San Francisco home, the book will fill your heart and tickle your brain. If you don’t, you’ll want to visit. But, above all, Infinite City will give you a broader awareness of cities as living organisms and complex ecosystems of art, culture, commerce and politics that exist in multiple, layered realities.

via 7×7 HT @kvox

In 2010, we spent more than 4,500 hours bringing you Brain Pickings — the blog, the newsletter and the Twitter feed — over which we could’ve seen 53 feature-length films, listened to 135 music albums or taken 1,872 trips to the bathroom. If you found any joy and inspiration here this year, please consider supporting us with a modest donation — it lets us know we’re doing something right.





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