Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

23 NOVEMBER, 2012

The R&D Lab of Creativity: Inside the Sketchbooks of Beloved Illustrators and Designers

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A memory warehouse… a means of detachment… the perfect place to document daydreams.

As an unapologetic voyeur with a soft spot for the notebooks and sketchbooks of famous artists, designers, and other creators, I was instantly enamored with Sketchbooks: The Hidden Art of Designers, Illustrators, and Creatives (public library) from British publisher Laurence King, who brought us the fantastic series 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design, 100 Ideas That Changed Film, 100 Ideas That Changed Architecture, 100 Ideas That Changed Photography, and 100 Ideas That Changed Art.

From sources of inspiration to process, the collection offers a rare glimpse of how 42 of the world’s most exciting illustrators, artists and designers think and create. Alongside each visual entry is a short essay by its owner, detailing his or her relationship with keeping a sketchbook.

Spanish book cover designer Pep Carrió sees his notebook as a kind of creative R&D lab:

For me, a sketchbook is like a kind of a portable laboratory, a space to mark with references, to capture the immediate, to experiment; a memory warehouse to which I can return whenever I am searching for an idea or when I simply want to remember an instant, a time in the past.

Pep Carrió: Sketchbook 'Visual Diary Untitled,' gouache

Legendary British designer Peter Saville, best-known for his iconic Joy Division album covers, sees his notebooks as an oasis for conversing with the self amidst an overwhelming landscape of other people’s creative problems:

I started keeping sketchbooks in my mid-teens so they were mainly pop culture oriented. It was the early 1970s and the first concert I went to was David Bowie supporting Blind Faith, and he was as much about image as bout music. My interests became focused through pop, and the relationship between music and imagery.

In the 1980s, as a graphic designer, I was dealing with the visual problems of others alongside my own interests. My drawings showed the visual problem I had to solve, whereas my notes were predominantly discussions with myself.

[…]

Within the sphere of communication design and graphic design, we do not have a professional vehicle for our own thoughts and proposals. The job involves finding solutions to other people’s problems rather than solutions to our own. one of my greatest problems for the last 20 years has been what to do with my own ideas, my notebooks.

Peter Saville: Pencil on paper sketch, 1982

Peter Saville: Pencil on paper sketches, 1999 (top) and 1996 (bottom)

The wonderful Oliver Jeffers, whose children’s books never cease to delight, approaches his sketchbooks like Anaïs Nin did her diaries:

I have kept sketchbooks continuously since I was 18. I think there are around 23 so far. My sketchbooks are mostly paint, ink, paper and concepts that need working out.

Oliver Jeffers: 'Mister,' a study painting from 2006; 'Accomplished,' googly-eye collage; 'Things of Interest,' one of many lists made in 2007; 'Easy,' collage on found advertisement

Spanish illustrator Pablo Amargo offers his system of managing creativity:

I like to work on two sketchbooks at the same time. One is for work, with lots of little drawings, ideas for postcards and books. The second one is for pleasure, with collages, my thoughts, people I admire, quotes from books, news and film reviews, that sort of thing. … My sketchbooks are not a removed, strange or chaotic place; they’re actually quite ordered and are a natural extension of my published work.

Pablo Amaro: Birds

Pablo Amaro: The Whale

Pablo Amaro: Fishes

Pablo Amaro: There Are a Hundred Reasons to Buy a House

Soho-based Parisian illustrator Serge Bloch shares his poetic relationship with newspapers:

I like drawing for newspapers. I like newsprint. I like the grey of the text, the black of the titles, the elegance of the compositions. A page of newspaper is like a wall or a gallery where hundreds of thousands of people can visit, without being prevented by shyness from entering the gallery. You can be on a train, in bed or on a sunny bench. But that exhibit is ephemeral because, the following day, there is nothing left, just a piece of paper to dry your boots with or peel vegetables on.

Serge Bloch: Except the bird and the sticker (found in a Paris flea market), these are sketches to find an idea for the New York Times’ science section on the subject of why we like pets

Elephant; Head found in an old book of anatomy by Serge Bloch

Serge Bloch: Birds for McKinsey magazine

Celebrated artist and graphic design educator Ed Fella uses his sketchbooks as both escapism and reservoir for combinatorial creativity:

For me these books are a means of detachment. They are a discharge, a continuation of form studies based on my 30 years of work as a professional illustrator and graphic designer. They are mostly non-objective or ‘deconstructed’ form drawings, decorative and embellished with techniques I learned in my commercial art illustration practice. They reference a history (late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century) that was before my time, but one that I find rich in possibilities for reworking.

Ed Fella: Four-color ballpoint pen with white and yellow prismacolor pencil on paper from a 2004 sketchbook

Ed Fella: Collages from a 1983 sketchbook

Ed Fella: Three collage pages from a 2002 sketchbook (Moleskine Accordion Fold). All fragments of posters from streets in Melbourne, Australia.

For London-based Japanese illustrator Fumie Kamijo, the sketchbook is a physical filing cabinet for the lived experience that feeds creativity:

Everything I have experienced goes into my sketchbooks, the things I have seen, eaten, heard, felt, and, perhaps most importantly, they are the perfect place to document my strange daydreams.

Fumie Kamijo: 'Rabbit’s Family Tree,' pen and ink, 2007

Complement Sketchbooks with Drawn In: A Peek into the Inspiring Sketchbooks of 44 Fine Artists, Illustrators, Graphic Designers, and Cartoonists, then revisit Joan Didion’s timeless piece on keeping a notebook.

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22 NOVEMBER, 2012

Bruno Munari on Design as a Bridge Between Art and Life

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“The designer of today re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the public, between living people and art as a living thing.”

In the preface to his 1966 classic Design as Art (public library) — one of the most important and influential design books ever published — legendary Italian graphic designer Bruno Munari, once described by Picasso as “the new Leonardo,” makes a passionate case for democratizing art and making design the lubricant between romanticism and pragmatism.

Revisiting Munari’s iconic words is at once a reminder of how much has changed, and how little — but mostly a timeless vision for design’s highest, purest aspiration.

Munari begins:

Today it has become necessary to demolish the myth of the ‘star’ artist who only produces masterpieces for a small group of ultra-intelligent people. It must be understood that as long as art stands aside from the problems of life it will only interest a very few people. Culture today is becoming a mass affair, and the artist must step down from his pedestal and be prepared to make a sign for a butcher’s shop (if he knows how to do it). The artist must cast off the last rags of romanticism and become active as a man among men, well up in present-day techniques, materials and working methods. Without losing his innate aesthetic sense he must be able to respond with humility and competence to the demands his neighbors may make of him.

The designer of today re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the public, between living people and art as a living thing. … There should be no such thing as art divorced from life, with beautiful things to look at and hideous things to use. If what we use every day is made with art, and not thrown together by chance or caprice, then we shall have nothing to hide.

In the introduction, he cites Maxim Gorky:

Munari cautions against holding on too stringently to conceptions of what art is and isn’t:

Anyone working in the field of design has a hard task ahead of him: to clear his neighbor’s mind of all preconceived notions of art and artists, notions picked up at schools where they condition you to think one way for the whole of your life, without stopping to think that life changes — and today more rapidly than ever. It is therefore up to us designers to make known our working methods in clear and simple terms, the methods we think are the truest, the most up-to-date, the most likely to resolve our common aesthetic problems. Anyone who uses a properly designed object feels the presence of an artist who has worked for him, bettering his living conditions and encouraging him to develop his taste and sense of beauty.

Munari cites from the school prospectus of Walter Groupis, who founded the Bauhaus in 1919 in what is considered the birth moment of design, with a lens on art education that parallels Isaac Asimov’s vision for science education:

‘We know that only the technical means of artistic achievement can be taught, not art itself. The function of art has in the past been given a formal importance which has severed it from our daily life; but art is always present when a people lives sincerely and healthily.

‘Our job is therefore to invent a new system of education that may lead — by way of a new kind of specialized teaching of science and technology — to a complete knowledge of human needs and a universal awareness of them.

‘Thus our task is to make a new kind of artist, a creator capable of understanding every kind of need: not because he is a prodigy, but because he knows how to approach human needs according to a precise method. We wish to make him conscious of his creative power, not scared of new facts, and independent of formulas in his own work.’

Munari ends on a note reminiscent of Lloyd Wright’s ethos, arguing for beauty as a kind of right:

When the objects we use every day and the surroundings we live in have become in themselves a work of art, then we shall be able to say that we have achieved a balanced life.

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21 NOVEMBER, 2012

A Visual Timeline of the Future Based on Famous Fiction

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Proof that in the year 802701, the world will still exist.

The past has a long history of imagining the future, and humanity has an equally long history of mapping time. Several months ago, I shared a link to a timeline of future events as predicted by famous novels. Italian information visualization designer Giorgia Lupi saw it on Twitter and was inspired to create an ambitious visual version for La Lettura, the Sunday literary supplement of Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera, with her design team at Accurat.

Giorgia was recently visiting and after she shared the story, I asked her to create an English edition of the exquisite timeline exclusively for Brain Pickings, which she generously did:

(Click image for hi-res version)

Giorgia explains:

The visualization is built on a main horizontal axis depicting a distorted time-line of events (in fact we put them regularly, in sequence), starting our future-timeline in 2012. The y-axis is dedicated to the year the novel / book foretelling the event was published.

On the lower half of the visualization you can find the original quotes (shortened)

We then wanted to add further layers of analysis to our piece:

– finding out main typologies of foretold events (are they mainly social, scientific, technological, political?)
– discovering and depicting the genre of the book,
– and most of all, dividing them into positive, neutral or negative events.

Finally, good news, in 802,701 the world will still exist!

Here are a few progress sketches for a fascinating glimpse of her process:

See more of Giorgia’s wonderful work on her site, then imbibe some visualization lessons from the world’s top information designers and data artists.

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