Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

13 NOVEMBER, 2009

A Metaphor for Creativity: 5 Shapes, 3520 Artworks

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Why ideas are like pieces of leather and what sneakers have to do with your capacity for creativity.

We believe creativity is all about innovative ways of combining the existing ideas, skills and pieces of inspiration that live in your mental pool of resources. (And we make it our mission to continuously fill that mental pool of yours with fascinating bits of diverse and eclectic brilliance.)

Which is why we love the concept behind Hayworth Mid II, the latest line of limited-edition sneakers by Y-3, in collaboration with graffiti artist Momo.

The idea is brilliantly simple — Momo cut five double-sided shapes, combinable into 3520 artworks by changing up their layered order on a nail. (Well, technically, there are 3840 possible combinations, but 320 of them become redundant when the ring, the smallest shape, becomes obscured by one of the larger shapes.)

Y-3 only produced 350 pairs of sneakers, so each was technically unique, but this sort of semi-customization raises an interesting question: Can we really automatize customization while still maintaining its psychological and conceptual appeal?

In a way, ideas are like these shape combinations — except only a fraction of the combinations are truly great ideas. Which is why it’s so important to build a vast pool of mental “shapes” — thoughts and memories and pieces of inspiration — combinable in near-infinite ways into new ideas, thus maximizing the drops of brilliance within that sea of possibility. And there’s no better way to do that than by growing indiscriminate curiosity about the eclectic interestingness of culture.

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11 NOVEMBER, 2009

Physical Data Art by Willem Besselink

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What a 1950’s house has to do with 125 days in Berlin and the weather in Sarajevo.

Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen a number of artists experimenting with data visualization at the intersection of digital and analog — you may recall Nadeem Haidary and his In-Formed series of physical data art. But Dutch artist Willem Besselink plays on a whole different level.

In his latest project, RE:ID, he tracked the movement of the 12,500 visitors to Rotterdam’s Museumnight, then visualized the data in real-time both online and as a large-scale public installation. The physical visualization was built out of bricks and cement on a public square, with full-blown construction equipment including a churning concrete mixer, red and white tape, and a crew of 10 construction workers working in near-real-time. Cement piles reflected the changing amount of visitors, “updated” every 15 minutes, and brick walls indicated the most popular Museumnight routes throughout the city.

Besselink has a long hisotry of physical data installations. In 2004, he exhibited 16 Days in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina — a cubic grid of 16×16 nylon wires, with one axis visualizing his pulse recorded in 30-minute intervals over the course of 16 days, intersected with temperature variations in the city over that period of time on the other axis. (This pulse visualization is somewhat reminiscent of Jonathan Harris’ 2007 project, The Whale Hunt.) The resulting 3-dimensional installation was suspended in mid-air in the gallery space.

Timelines offers an ambitious visualization juxtaposing how one specific house was used in the 1950’s, and how it is going to be used in the future, after a large-scale neighborhood renovation project.

Berlin Rotterdam is an abstract comparison of the scale of the two cities. During his 125-day stay in Berlin, Besselink recorded his position in the city in fixed intervals, then visualized these time and location data with glass beads, hanging from a map of Berlin suspended on the ceiling, down towards a map of Rotterdam laid out on the floor, moving closer to Rotterdam as the days progressed.

Explore the rest of Besselink’s data sculptures — while it may be tempting to dismiss this as cool-for-coolness’-sake postmodernist experimentation, it bespeaks a deeper cultural concern: Our restless need to make sense of all the abstract data that surrounds us, to make it more digestible and graspable by making it more tangible, more physical, more real. And art has always been a potent vehicle for exorcising our collective restlessness over the cultural concerns of the day.

via Infosthetics

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10 NOVEMBER, 2009

The Visual Miscellaneum

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Infoporn meets brain candy, creationism vs. evolution, and how to make data relatable.

It’s no secret we’re majorly obsessed with data visualization. And one of the main sources fueling this obsession over the past couple of years has been David McCandless’ wonderful Information is Beautiful blog. So we’re delighted to see David’s book, The Visual Miscellaneum, is finally out — and it’s fantastic.

Through remarkable visualizations and infographics, the book dissects our relationship with information in the digital age, offering hope and inspiration for making sense of the cold and alienating world of raw data.

From the most pleasurable guilty pleasures, to how long it takes different condiments to spoil, to the creationism-evolution spectrum, The Visual Miscellaneum scoops you up and tosses you into a fascinating world of knowledge and learning that feels like whimsy, not work.

But what makes the book so special is that it goes much deeper than pretty infoporn. Through all the eye-and-brain candy, McCandless implicitly answers the pivotal question of what makes information design good — something relevant to anyone, not just designers. Because, at its bare bones, information is just ideas. And we all want to communicate and share our ideas in compelling, engaging ways — whether they’re on a storyboard for a client, or a paper napkin at a dinner party, or a brainstorming doodle in your garage.

The Visual Miscellaneum is easily one of the most exciting design-and-beyond books to come by this year, not just an essential handbook of modern visual culture, but also a potent digestive aid for the information age.

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