Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

02 NOVEMBER, 2009

Esoteric Creativity: Michael Paukner’s Visualizations

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What 100 monkeys have to do with Atlantis, Indian yoga and Stonehenge.

One of the reasons we love data visualization and the infographic arts so much is that at their best, they can bring a level of intuitive understanding to overwhelmingly esoteric subjects. Which is why we’re head-over-heels with Austrian visualization artist Michael Paukner, who tackles the obscure and the enigmatic with creative quirk and a unique graphic style.

The Hundredth Monkey Effect: Theory, which posits that a learned behavior or idea spreads instantaneously within a group, in an almost paranormal fashion, once a critical number is reached. Click image for details.

His work is a kind of modern artistic alchemy, exploring both real phenomena and the eeriest corners of quasi-science, those fringe worldviews that have always coexisted with and challenged the dominant scientific dogmas of the time.

The Celtic Zodiac: 13-month lunar calendar dating back to around 1000 B.C., devised by Celtic priests known as Druids and constituting the ancient origins of Halloween. Click image for details.

Kundalini: Sanskrit word meaning either 'coiled up' or 'coiling like a snake.' The Kundalini movement in Indian yoga deals with 'corporeal energy' that circulates in and around the human body in an artificial electromagnetic flow. Click image for details.

Stonehenge Rebuilt: Click image for details.

Metatron's Cube: Pattern believed to have sacred geometry with religious value depicting the fundamental principles of space and time. Click image for details.

Capital City of Atlantis: Reconstruction of the mythical city based on a German plan Michael found on an obscure website. Click image for details.

See more of Michael’s work in his relentlessly fantastic Flickr stream.

via Coudal

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30 OCTOBER, 2009

Retro Revival: Man as Industrial Palace

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Vintage German artwork on digital steroids, or why you house a factory.

In 1926, German writer and artist Fritz Kahn came up with his famous Der Mensch als Industriepalast (Man as Industrial Palace) analogy. Kahn’s illustrations compartmentalized the body’s functions in great detail, brilliantly depicting human physiology through analogies with an industrial factory. His work was a visual commentary on industrial modernity and an intersection of two timeless fascinations — with machines and with the human body.

In 2006, German visual communication and animation student Henning Lederer discovered Kahn’s poster and decided to resurrect this complex and unusual way of explaining the body, growing on the original work and translating it into motion graphics. He made himself a cabinet with a mix of analog and digital objects and technologies, and set to creating Industriepalast — an interactive application based on the poster.

Lederer explores human physiology in six cycles — five representing the five main biological systems, and one melding them together into the complex human factory Kahn had envisioned.

For thousands of years, human beings have used metaphors as ways of understanding the body. We talk about our ‘ear drums’, or our ‘mind’s eye’. When we are in love we say our hearts are ‘bursting’ or ‘broken’ [...] These familiar images help to explain the unfamiliar and to comprehend the complexity of our bodies.

This is the wonderfully animated preview for the project:

We find this project a particularly timely reminder of our growing inability to reconcile our incessant lust for technology with a dwindling appreciation of the purely human. In an era where incredible robots in our image draw oohs and ahhs from all sides, it’s easy to forget the complex, intricate and utterly awe-inspiring machinery that is the human body. Let’s not.

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29 OCTOBER, 2009

East Meets West: An Infographic Portrait

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German punctuality, Western ego and how to stand in line like a Chinese.

What’s not to love about minimalist infographics — such an elegant way to depict complex concepts with brilliant simplicity. We also have a longtime love affair with social psychology, some of which deals with the fascinating cultural differences between Eastern and Western mentality — from the individualistic tendencies of the West versus the pluralism of Asian societies, to how differently Westerners and Easterners read the emotions of others. Naturally, we’re head-over-heels with designer Yang Liu‘s ingenious East Meets West infographic series, tackling everything from differences in self-perception to evolution of transportation.

Born in China but living in Germany since she was 14, Liu has a unique grip of this cultural duality — and she channels it with great wit and eloquent minimalism in graphics that say so much by showing so little.

Lifestyle: Independent vs. dependent

Attitude towards punctuality

Problem-solving approach

Size of the individual's ego

Perception: How Germans and the Chinese see one another

How to stand in line

Complexity of self-expression

The evolution of transportation over the last three decades

The volume of sound in a restaurant

Catch an interview with Liu about the project over at the always-excellent NOTCOT. The book is still finable online and an absolute delight.

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