Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

18 AUGUST, 2009

Poetry On The Road’s VisualPoetry


Goethe in code, the texture of text, and what Flickr has to do with rhyme and rhythm.

You may think of poetry as the ultimate analog art, but the Poetry On The Road international literary festival in Bremen begs to differ. For the past decade, the festival has been aiming to liberate poetry from the constraints of convention, and one of the ways it does that is through the VisualPoetry initiative.

Every year, Poetry On The Road commissions German designer and developer Boris Müller to capture the festival’s theme visually. Although the resulting abstract graphic motifs and patterns are visually complex, they all follow the same simple idea: Müller takes all the text of all the poetry from the festival’s program, calculates the frequency of each word, and and uses Processing — the software of choice for most data viz art — to generate visual representations, varying the aesthetics each year.

These images are then used in the festival’s annual poster and live as an interactive playground that lets viewers explore the poetry in a visual, non-linear way.

For this year’s visual theme, for example, Müller represents each word as a rectangle, scaled based on the word’s frequency, then stitches the many rectangles together into a barcode that captures the text in its entirety. In theory, you could decode and “read” the poetry with a regular barcode scanner.

And in 2007, he crafted a visualization entirely from Flickr images, swapping each word in a poem for a photo tagged with that word.

The 2003 theme was reminiscent of Stefanie Posavec’s Writing Without Words project, which you may recall from a couple of months ago. Here, Müller explores the nature, texture and inner structure of poems, letting the text lay itself out through the software.

The VisualPoetry experiment is a beautiful effort to capture poetry through rhyme and rhythm of a different kind, to add a dimension that makes it more accessible and alluring and exciting to new audiences and, ultimately, to create a new kind of storytelling that challenges our assumptions about the experience of poetry as a conceptual medium.

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17 AUGUST, 2009

Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life


Birds, insects, monkeys, and 12.6 pounds of design genius.

If you think of nature illustration as the sterile visuals of a science book, you haven’t seen the work of Charlie Harper. The iconic American modernist, famous for his spunky stylized wildlife illustrations, spent more than six decades adorning books and posters with his highly distinctive artwork.

In 2001, New York based designer Todd Oldham — a legend in his own right — rediscovered Charley’s work and decided to comb through his ample archive, collaborating closely with Harper to curate, edit and design a book that captures the iconic style of the great master. When Charley passed away in 2007 at the age of 84, Oldham went on to publish Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life — a magnificent coffee table tome full of illustrations in Harper’s unique self-described “minimal realism.”

The book is massive tribute to Harper’s work — literally. At 12.6 pounds, the 424-page A3 monster is a dramatic, visually gripping antidote to today’s nano-culture. It’s also a lovely reminder that — as much as we love the interwebs — experiencing artwork on the screen is just never quite the same as the rich, lush, tactile glory of perfect print.

Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life comes as a must-have for the serious design aficionado — so snag it for your own library, or as a certain-to-floor gift for a visually passionate other.

via Melexodus

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11 AUGUST, 2009

Design-Off: Top 3 Live Design Competitions


Cardboard monsters, digital marathons, and why design is just like tennis.

Geeks may be the new rock stars, but designers are the new jocks. Live, real-time design competitions are springing up as gauntlets of creative prowess. Here are the top 3 live design-offs, where seasoned designers and rising stars alike get to hash it out for honor and glory.


Every year, 10 artist duos from all around Europe get invited to Zurich’s Art Clash — a live art battle, where teams compete against each other in 3 rigorous rounds of painting and drawing on different objects, from a cardboard box to the back door of a car.

The competition is a super-condensed version of the creative life, reduced to the bare bones of a design career: deadlines and ego.

In June, Austria’s Permanent Unit, took home the 2009 title.

See more of the work, impressive in its own right but even more so in light of the adrenaline-inducing time constraints.


We love Coudal and their numerous incarnations. One of them is the cleverly conceived Layer Tennis — a series of live design events, held over a “season” of Fridays, where players from all over the world face off with with video, animation, sound, photos, typography and more.

The format is part competition, part collaboration — two players swap a file back and forth in real-time, adding to and embellishing the work. Each artist gets fifteen minutes to complete a “volley,” after which the artwork gets posted to the website. A third participant, a writer, provides play-by-play commentary on the action during each ten-volley match. In the end, the 9,000+ Season Ticket Holders — that’s how seriously they take the tennis metaphor — vote on the winner.

Chattanooga-based designer and developer Shaun Inman took the Second Season title in July.

Sign up for next season’s tickets — it’s free — and join in this glorious work/leisure intersection for creatives. Once you do, you’ll have the opportunity to nominate yourself or a friend to actually compete — they’re now accepting nominations for next season.


We’ve featured Cut&Paste before, so we won’t overelaborate. Suffice it to say the global digital design tournament has only been getting more intense over the years, drawing high-profile designers and animators from all over the world, backed by an army of heavyweight sponsors.

The competition includes three divisions — 2D Design, 3D Design and Motion Design. Each round is a grueling 8-hour face-off, where four competitors go head-to-head, frame by frame, to render their way to victory.

After a series of qualifying events in 16 cities worldwide, this year’s global championship will be held on October 16 in New York, where the 48 finalists will battle it out for the grand title. The event will be broadcast via live webcast, so stay tuned.

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