Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

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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08 NOVEMBER, 2010

Designing Media: Lessons from Today’s Greatest Media Innovators


Design titan Bill Moggridge has formidable credentials — designer of the world’s first laptop, director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, co-founder of design innovation powerhouse IDEO, and celebrated as a pioneer of interaction design.

His new book, Designing Media, is exactly the kind of ambitious, compelling volume you’d expect from his reputation.

The book explores the evolution of mainstream media, both mass and personal, looking closely at the points of friction between old and new media models and the social norms they have sprouted. From design to civic engagement to the real-time web, Moggridge offers a faceted and layered survey of how our media habits came to be, where they’re going, and what it all means for how we relate to the world and each other.

To be fair, Designing Media isn’t exactly — at least not only — a book: The tome features a DVD containing 37 fascinating interviews with some of today’s greatest media innovators, including This American Life‘s Ira Glass, Pandora founder Tim Westergren, prominent New York Times design critic Alice Rawsthorn, Twitter founder @Ev, statistical stuntsman Hans Rosling, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The laws of narrative are the laws of narrative. What engages us is what engages us.” ~ Ira Glass

Designing Media is out via MIT Press this month and atop our must-read books list this season.

via @HelenWalters

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