Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

19 MARCH, 2009

The Creative (Re)Touch

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Aliens, the real Iron Man, and what an orangutan has to say about your electric bill.

A common booby trap that befalls design rookies is the tendency to get all giddy and excited over the various tools and filters of visual editing software, spitting out visual atrocities each more garish and over-the-top Photoshoppy than the next. But, like Spiderman’s aunt likes to say, with great power comes great responsibility — the mark of an exceptional designer is the gift of conceptual vision, the mastery of technical skill, and the wisdom of restraint.

Here are three such creative visionaries, who use the tools of image manipulation to craft sophisticated visuals that capture compelling concepts  or, at the very least, tickle our curiosity and our visceral appetite.

CHRIS SCARBOROUGH

Chris Scarborough makes photographic caricatures, in a good way. He takes ordinary subjects’ existing features and exaggerates them to a dehumanized extent, creating an air of unearthly eeriness about the images.

In some, the manipulation is so subtle you can barely detect it, yet you can’t help feeling the haunting alienness oozing from the image.

ERIC JOHANSSON

23-year-old Swedish interaction designer Eric Johansson has a rare eye for capturing that elusive quantum intersection of reality and the surreal. He takes ordinary landscapes and subjects, transforming them into sometimes slightly creep, often amusing, and always fascinating what-if’s.

Johansson’s work is part Alice in Wonderland, part Tim Burton, part the slapstick visual puns we all make in the privacy of our own creatively restless minds.

Explore the rest of Johansson’s portfolio for a whimsical journey to all the places your mind has always dreamt of going.

CHRISTOPHE HUET

Professional photo whiz Christophe Huet, a.k.a. “The French (Re)Touch,” is a modern-day illusionist. He works with the world’s best creative teams to craft an alternate reality of delightfully surreal images.

His work is an elaborate production that involves entire armies of art directors, makeup artists, actors, extras, creative directors, photographers, fashion stylists, set directors, assistants — you get the picture. And the picture happens to be exceptionally striking, both visually and conceptually — like the brilliant campaign Huet created for French anti-AIDS organization AIDES.

What we find most compelling about Christophe’s brand of creativity is that it is vocally visceral, but it does more than to merely amuse — it uses that visceral element to create visual metaphors that illuminate culturally relevant and socially important issues.

Like this brilliantly simple yet brilliantly powerful illustration of the link between our daily habits and the living beings they affect — a crisp reminder that “the environment” isn’t just some abstract concept we donate to at the Whole Foods checkout aisle.

See Huet’s entire portfolio for images that make your eyes pop while drawing them a little bit closer to your brain.

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17 MARCH, 2009

Product Design Spotlight: The Little Bottle That Could

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Why the key to revolutionary innovation is being completely incompetent.

UPDATE: Thanks to reader Kimmo for pointing out that we (as in our source) had gotten both the designer’s and the product name wrong. Thanks, AdAge, for the always-reliable information…

Is it possible to create a plastic bottle that isn’t just a despicable hallmark of human wastefulness? According to Finish designer Stefan Lindfors, yes.

Linfoss has created PLUP, a donut-shaped plastic bottle that not only revolutionizes the aesthetics of beverage manufacturing, but also solves some of the industry’s largest functional and environmental problems.

One of the biggest shortcomings of traditional bottles is that they can’t be stacked. Which means they take up too much space to store, they tip over on the table, and they’re a nightmare to transport. With PLUP, a waiter can put several bottles on a stick and take them to the table, and you can use the string that comes with the product to attach it to your belt when you go for a run on a hot day or just roam around town.

I think it’s very important that you don’t have too much knowledge of the industry as a designer, because it prevents you from flying high enough. If you do have a lot of knowledge, you have to have the ability to let go of it in the creative process.

But here’s the best part: PLUP is made of a modified PET polymer, which is not only highly recyclable, but also extremely durable, making the bottle as reusable as your average Nalgene, but without the carcinogenic connotations. At the same time, the design — pure aesthetic brilliance — is “cool” enough to actually encourage such reuse, transforming the bottle from a functional aid into a lifestyle accessory.

plup Okay, we lied: The real best part is that in every country where PLUP is distributed, a major share of the profits from each bottle sold goes to a charity fighting a major local environmental problem. (In Finland, for instance, donations go towards cleaning up the Blatic Sea, which is the world’s most polluted natural water resource.)

See the interview with Stefan and watch as PLUP transforms the packaging industry’s sorest spot.

via 3-Minute AdAge

13 MARCH, 2009

The World of 100: Our Global Village

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The real minority report, or what the world would look like if it were a village of 100.

From data visualization to infographics, we’re big on the power of smart graphic design to convey big concepts that are otherwise hard to grasp in their raw numberness. Which is why we love designer Toby Ng‘s poster series The World of 100 — an experimental graphical representation of statistical information about the world, based on the allegorical scenario of reducing the world to a village of 100 people.

The series is pure design crispness — simple vectors make the shapes clean enough to make their point, with vibrant, solid colors making those points all the more visceral and impactful.

In a weird way, we were the most shocked by the least consequential ones, our daily entitlements that we take for granted — somehow, PSA’s and the general sense of social responsibility have made most of us aware of severe problems like hunger, deadly disease, and the lack of clean drinking water. But computers? Not something we’d given much thought to, and yet:

We wish we could show you the actual posters — some of the web images are too small to read the text, which is a pity as the information is nothing short of humbling. For instance, in our proverbial village of 100:

48 can’t speak, act according to their faith and conscience due to harassment, imprisonment, torture or death.

And some of it, although common knowledge, makes some of our societal ironies particularly salient. Like the notion of “minorities” — in public policy, in employment recruiting, in education quotas. It’s never been this evident that the ratios of power are not contingent upon the ratios of numbers.

Check out all 20 posters here. And enjoy that computer of yours — the other 93 villagers can’t.

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12 MARCH, 2009

Accidents: The Abstract Art of Data Visualization Goofs

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What New York City homicide rates have to do with Beijing circa 1917 and Twitter.

We’re the first to admit our recent data viz obsession has gotten out of hand. So, before we bow to data visualization as the be-all-end-all that will save the world and do your laundry in the process, we’re taking a step back with a look at its imperfections.

Enter New York Times graphics editor Matthew Bloch‘s series Accidents — a collection of data visualization goofs and bloopers that happened while he was working on maps and other graphics.

So what if we happen to find them charming.

They make absolutely no sense, represent nothing whatsoever, and have no bearing on any statistical relationship. But they are accidental art at its most viscerally supreme.

Some of the images were eventually debugged to produce the intended data visualizations for the actual The New York Times. (Matthew’s real work is admittedly fantastic — from the most tweeted words during the Super Bowl, to a timeline of space exploration.)

But we love the idea that data can take on a life of its own, deviating from its intended purpose to produce accidental abstractions — perhaps a new breed of art that we can call metamodernism?

via @BBHLabs