Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

16 SEPTEMBER, 2009

The Art of Pixar Short Films


Birds, toys, or what the history of computing has to do with the creative legacy of our time.

After the wild popularity of The Ancient Book of Sex & Science a couple of weeks ago, we thought we’d explore the wondrous world of Pixar art a bit further.

Today, we bring you The Art of Pixar Short Films from animation art historian Amid Amidi — a fantastic book that takes us behind the scenes of what we consider to be Pixar’s true gems: Their beautifully animated short films, told with utter brilliance and elegance of visual narrative.

These shorts, brimming with contagious energy and subtle humor, set the stage for Pixar’s award-winning features that followed — from the earliest animated short, The Adventures of André & Wally B, which proved computer animation possible, to Tin Toy, which later evolved into the feature-length smash hit Toy Story.

As for the authors, they bring their own magic to the mix. New-York-based animation journalist Amid Amidi has numerous books to his credit, and is it’s almost embarrassing to “introduce” a creative culture legend like John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Pixar.

The Art of Pixar Short Films illuminates the Emeryville studio’s extraordinary history, artistry and unique creative process through essays and interviews with the animators, directors, producers and artists who created the iconic For The Birds, Luxo Jr., and eleven more short films. With more than 250 full-color pastels pencil sketches, photographs, storyboards and final rendered frames, it offers a glimpse of Pixar’s incredible brand of storytelling, which creates powerful narrative not through traditional dialogue but through character emotion, music, and perfectly timed humor.

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15 SEPTEMBER, 2009

Biology-Inspired Art


Swine flu, eye color, and what fractals have to do with gene sequences.

Science and art have long been enamored with each other, albeit on more abstract levels. Today, we look at four examples of art that borrows from science in the most literal of ways.


In 1904, German biologist Ernst Haeckel published Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature) — a beautifully illustrated book full of artistic interpretations of the biological forms Haeckel studied.

Recently, the copyright on the book expired and all the images entered the public domain — they are now available for free on Wikimedia Commons.

Depicted with amazing, fractal-like clarity of symmetry and detail, the illustrations bespeak an intersection of art and engineering — more than a century before the current fascination with science-centric design and biomimcry.


Sculptor Luke Jerram explores the microscopic and scientific on an artistic macro scale. His series Glass Microbiology depicts various viruses and phages as large, transparent, three-dimensional sculptures.

From swine flu to e.coli, the sculptures offer a perfect play on the tension between the aesthetic beauty and functional ugliness of these biological villains.

Thanks, Maura


Dancing around the line between interpretive art and factual science, DNA Art Forms identify 15 unique regions of your genetic code, have an artist capture it as your choice of abstract form, landscape, or portrait set against the background of the actual DNA representation image.

The artwork isn’t your grandma’s digital art — it’s real oil on canvas. But it does come with a hefty price tag: Portraits start at $1,350.


My Gene Image takes genetic portraits to a whole new level. Well, sub-level, really. They let you select a specific gene you are interested in — like, say, eye color or pheromone or circadian rhythm — and identify it in your genetic sample, then render the gene sequence of A’s, T’s, G’s, and C’s against a colorful background.

Talk about making interior design very, very personal.

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11 SEPTEMBER, 2009

Book Spotlight: Design Revolution


What soccer balls have to do with blind children and water transportation in Africa.

In 2008, in the midst of the “going green” craze, San-Francisco-based product designer and activist Emily Pilloton came to the restless realization that design can be so much more than pure aesthetics, and certainly more than a mere fad — it could, with a completely nonpageantry sentiment, really change the world.

So she launched, with $1,000 from her desk at Architecture for Humanity, Project H Design — a radical nonprofit supporting initiatives for “Humanity, Habitats, Health and Happiness.”

With hundreds of international volunteer designers and 9 global chapters, Project H crusades for industrial design as a potent solution for social issues. From education in Uganda to homelessness in L.A., the project’s global-to-local model offers a tangible, truly transformational implementation of design as a change agent.

This fall, Project H is releasing Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People — a fascinating anthology of 100 contemporary design products and systems that change lives in brilliantly elegant ways.

From a high-tech waterless washing machine, to low-cost prosthetics for landmine victims, to Braille-based Lego-style building blocks for blind children, to a DIY soccer ball, the book reads like a manual, thinks like a manifesto, and feels like a powerful jolt of fire-in-your-belly inspiration.

Pilloton was recently awarded a $15,000 Adobe Foundation grant to support work on the book. Here, she talks — passionately and candidly — about the Project H mission and the very real, practical ways in which design matters.

Get yourself a copy of Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People — we couldn’t recommend it more.

via TrackerNews

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