Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

26 SEPTEMBER, 2012

Minimalist Posters Celebrating Six Pioneering Women in Science

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One designer’s homage to Marie Curie, Jane Goodall, Rosalind Franklin, Grace Hopper, Rachel Carson, and Sally Ride.

Despite what Einstein may have advised a little girl looking to be a scientist but fearing her gender, an enormously important — and heartbreaking — new study has demonstrated that there is, indeed, a tangible, persistent gender bias in science. To blame it all on some great conspiracy by The Man would be, of course, foolish and simplistic — it’s a complex, systemic issue, a significant factor in which is the tragically low visibility of female scientists. Chipping away at a tiny but inspired corner of the problem is cryptically named designer Hydrogene with this fantastic posters series honoring six pioneering women in science — radioactivity researcher Marie Curie (who was not only the first woman to win a Nobel Prize but also the first person to win two Nobel Prizes, and in two different sciences at that, chemistry and physics), physicist and astronaut Sally Ride (the youngest American astronaut and first American woman in space), legendary primatologist Jane Goodall, marine biologist Rachel Carson (whose work was critical in sparking the global environmental movement), British biophysicist Rosalind Franklin (who helped discover and understand the structure of DNA), and computer scientist Grace Hopper (who was instrumental in developing the first computer and first computer programming language).

For a comprehensive and thoughtful overview of the gender issue in science and technology that peers beyond the standard explanations, see Julie Des Jadins’s The Madame Curie Complex: The Hidden History of Women in Science.

Science Chicks from History

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20 SEPTEMBER, 2012

The Frank Show: An Illustrated Homage to Grandparents and the Art of Looking Twice

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Because the most interesting stories sometimes come disguised in the least intriguing of packages.

As a lover of vintage and vintage-inspired children’s books, I was instantly enamored with The Frank Show (public library) by British illustrator and designer David Mackintosh — a charming homage to grandparents and the art of seeing beneath the grumpy exterior. Illustrated in a style that’s part Miroslav Šašek, part Paul Rand, it tells the story of a little boy forced to bring his Grandpa Frank — who’s always around and complains tirelessly about how things were better in the olden days — to school for show-and-tell. But, just as the young narrator is dreading total mortification at grandpa’s boringness, Frank rolls up his sleeve to reveal a curious tattoo and tells the wild story of how he got it, a tale of danger and heroism and, above all, a reminder that interestingness lurks beneath the surface of even the most insipid-seeming. Because, as artist Keri Smith wisely put it, “Aways be looking… Everything is interesting. Look closer.”.

Page illustrations courtesy Abrams Books

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18 SEPTEMBER, 2012

The Elements of the Periodic Table, Personified as Illustrated Heroes

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An irreverent take on chemistry from Japanese artist Bunpei Yorifuji.

As a lover of children’s books, especially illustrated scienceinspired and nonfiction children’s books, I was instantly smitten with Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified (public library) by Japanese artist Bunpei Yorifuji, whose ingenious subway etiquette posters you might recall.

Lively and irreverent, this comic-inspired take on the Periodic Table gives each of the 118 known elements a distinctive character, with attitude and style reflective of the element’s respective chemical properties, era of discovery, and natural states. From Carbon’s ancient beard to the Nitrogen family’s rebellious mohawks to Hydrogen’s boastful might, the charming micro-vignettes nudge the young reader towards that ever-marvelous space where science and whimsy intersect.

Inside, there’s even a beautiful large-format poster of the entire personified Periodic Table:

Wonderful Life with the Elements comes from geek culture connoisseurs No Starch Press, who previously gave us The Cult of LEGO, and is the best thing since They Might Be Giants’ animated homage to the elements from their 2009 album, Here Comes Science.

It’s Okay To Be Smart

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17 SEPTEMBER, 2012

The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design

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Six centuries of seminal design history, condensed into a stunning artifact.

Every once in a while, along comes a book-as-artifact that becomes an instant, inextricable necessity in the life of any graphic design aficionado. This season, it’s The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design — an impressive, exhaustive, rigorously researched, and beautifully produced compendium of 500 seminal designs spanning newspapers, magazines, posters, advertisements, typefaces, logos, corporate design, record covers, and moving graphics, examined through 3000 color and 300 black-and-white illustrations in their proper historical and sociocultural context.

Though the concept is hardly novel, wedged somewhere between 100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design and Bibliographic, the book-in-a-box execution holds a rare kind of mesmerism, its dividers inviting you to organize and explore the wealth of design legacy by designer, subject, chronology, or alphabetical order.

The Man of Letters or Pierrot's Alphabet (1794)

Paul Rand: IBM (1956-1991)

Saul Bass: Vertigo (1958)

Charles Minard: Chart showing the number of men in Napoleon's 1812 Russian campaign army, their movements, and the temperature they encountered on the return path (1869)

Aleksandr Rodchencko: Luchshih Sosok ne bilo i nyet (1923)

A. M. Cassandre: Dubo Dubonnet (1932)

Featuring such beloved design icons as Milton Glaser, Paula Scher, Saul Bass, and Paul Rand, the selections explore how graphic design coalesced out of the traditions of printing and fine art thanks to two key developments — the invention of the printing press in 15th-century Europe and the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries — emerging as one of the most powerful, ever-evolving tools of modern human communication.

At once a stunning artifact and an illuminating time-capsule of design history, The Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design isn’t just a beautiful addition to your personal library — it is in itself a miniature, portable library of watershed graphic design work and the cultural context that gave it shape.

Some images via It’s Nice That

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