Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

20 NOVEMBER, 2009

Tim Burton’s MoMA Retrospective


What rotten eyeballs have to do with creative storytelling and the visual heritage of our era.

Tim Burton is one of the great creative storytellers of our day, purveying delightful darkness since the 80’s. This Sunday, the Museum of Modern Art open a major retrospective of his work, from Beetlejuice to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by way of the fascinating photos, props, puppets and hand-drawings Burton has done over the course of the past two decades.

And it comes as no surprise that Burton himself would direct this brilliant spot promoting the exhibition — including a beautiful animated reconstruction of the MoMA logo.

Part of what makes Burton so extraordinary is that he is a true contemporary Renaissance man — director, producer, fiction writer, illustrator, photographer and concept artist. In an era of micro-niche specialization and outsourcing of everything, it’s refreshing to see that the singularity of artistic vision and creative control is still alive.

Taking inspiration from sources in pop culture, Burton has reinvented Hollywood genre filmmaking as a spiritual experience, influencing a generation of young artists working in film, video, and graphics.

The exhibition spans an enormous breadth of Burton’s work, from his earliest non-professional films to his big blockbusters to never-before-seen pieces and unrealized projects.

If you’re in the NYC area, this exhibition is a must-see. And, if not, you can still experience it vicariously through this excellent sneak-peek slideshow.

via New York Magazine

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19 NOVEMBER, 2009

Nonsequential Narratives: Hypertextual Books


What your weapon of choice has to do with the evolution of storytelling.

Remember Choose Your Own Adventure gamebooks, the interactive fiction hit of the 80’s? Designer Christian Swinehart is dissecting the genre in CYOA — an incredibly ambitious atomic-level structural analysis of a dataset of 12 such books, visualizing all the possible reader paths within the narrative.

The color-coded visualizations divide the plot of each book into different structural elements and groups based on the number of choices offered and how positive or negative the story ending is. The twelve books are then laid out chronologically, each arranged into rows of ten pages to better reveal their structural patterns. You can even explore each of the narratives as an animated visualization.

This visual dissection of literature reminds us of Stefanie Posavec’s Writing Without Words, though Swinehart’s approach is much less abstract and far more technically elaborate.

While CYOA books may seem like a fad of the past, they’re actually an early example of much of the non-linear storytelling and interactive narratives that take place on the web today — jumping around book pages, constructing your own story, is a lot like exploring a blog through its tag cloud rather than reading the entries sequentially, or skimming your RSS reader with articles from different publishers showing up in a shared timeline, or just hopping around your countless browser tabs.

What makes Swinehart’s CYOA visualizations noteworthy is that they offer insight not only into the structural patterns of the genre, but also into its evolution, revealing a gradual decline in possible endings — the earlier books show a colorful mix of reds and oranges, the middle of the story outcome polarity spectrum, while in the later ones a single favorable ending, in yellow or blue, tends to emerge.

And we hope this isn’t a prophetic metaphor for where the evolution of modern storytelling is headed — but we have to agree with artist and explorer Jonathan Harris, who has spoken up against the sad homogenization of the web. In an era where anyone can be the co-creator of our collective story, it’s all the more important to preserve the authenticity of voices and the diversity of proverbial “reader paths.”

Explore CYOA and think about the endings you’re choosing for your own stories through the kinds of content and narratives you engage with daily, both online and off.

via Information Aesthetics

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16 NOVEMBER, 2009

Ed Emberley’s Make a World: The Film


What alligators from 1972 have to do with the visual culture of modern design.

In 1972, iconic illustrator Ed Emberley published Make a World — a seemingly simple yet tremendously influential 32-page book, filled with 400 priceless illustrations that taught children how to draw anything and everything, from alligators to zeppelins. It shaped the visual culture of an entire generation of artists, designers and casual art-dabblers, democratizing aesthetic perception and practice.

This year, a collective of dedicated enthusiasts is working on Make a World: The Film — an independent documentary about the life and magic of Ed Emberley.

One of the project’s goals is to crowdsource stories, drawings and sketches inspired by Emberley’s work — so if you have one, email it to the filmmakers.

And like any grassroots art and culture project, the film could use some help from like-minded Emberley evangelists — you can get involved by donating money or your professional services, support the film by buying one of these gorgeous t-shirts from their store, and follow the project on Twitter.

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