Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

16 FEBRUARY, 2012

Stone Is Not Cold: Miroslav Šašek’s Playful Vintage Children’s Illustrations of Classical Sculpture

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Medusa goes to the hairdresser, or what Cicero has to do with press conferences.

Czech illustrator Miroslav Šašek is best-known for his fantastic and timeless This Is… series of vibrant vintage travel books, designed for children but beloved by adults as well, which he produced between 1950 and 1970. But in 1961, in a lesser-known yet no less wonderful project, he took on a subject at once more intimate and more esoteric than cities. In Stone Is Not Cold, unearthed by the lovely Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves, Šašek brings to life famous sculptures from London, Rome and the Vatican City in irreverent vignettes from everyday life. The subdued black-and-grey drawings are nonetheless infinitely playful and lively, a feat of contrasts that reflects Šašek’s rare gift for visual storytelling.

Yes, Hercules, too, had a mother — and she, like any mother, worried:

Curiously, despite the book’s humor and buoyancy, Šašek is quoted describing the illustrations as “very gray and black — very sad, as life is” — tragic validation for the myth of the tortured genius, even in the carefree realm of children’s books.

All of Šašek’s illustrated books are an absolute treat, but if you haven’t laid eyes and hands on the glorious This Is New York (1960), you are missing out on something particularly magical and exquisite.

Images courtesy of Vintage Kids’ Books My Kid Loves

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16 FEBRUARY, 2012

David Brooks on the Dangerous Division Between Reason and Emotion, Animated

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The false division of the self, or what’s wrong with using physics to assess human behavior.

Yesterday, we marveled at a fantastic short film that captured Michael Pollan’s classic Food Rules in animated stop-motion vegetables. Another wonderful motion graphics entry from the same RSA film competition by Tomas Flodr is based on an RSA talk The New York Times’ David Brooks gave about his newish book, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement, which echoes an older RSA sketchnote animation about the divided brain and the dangers that lurk in modern society’s propensity for prioritizing the left brain over the right. (Something at which Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Anne Lamott would all have raised an eyebrow.)

We have inherited a view of ourselves that we’re divided selves. We have reason over here and emotion over here, and if anything, they’re on a teeter-totter — that if reason is up emotion is down or vise versa, and society advances to the extent that reason can suppress the passions. So this has created methodologies of studying human behavior that try to use the methodologies of physics to do social science, which emphasize the things we can count and measure, and which amputate all the rest.”

For more, see Brooks’ TED talk and, of course, the book itself.

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15 FEBRUARY, 2012

Michael Pollan’s Food Rules Animated in Stop-Motion

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182% of brilliance, three weeks in the making.

The fine folks at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, known for their brilliant sketchnote animations of talks by prominent authors and scientists, recently launched a competition, inviting emerging filmmakers to bring RSA talks to life in fresh ways. This fantastic stop-motion entry by Marija Jacimovic and Benoit Detalle, which took more than three weeks to create, is based on Michael Pollan’s iconic Food Rules and is the most refreshing take on the classic since Maira Kalman’s illustrated edition.

You can give this gem your vote here and help the talented duo win £2,000.

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14 FEBRUARY, 2012

Designer Kelli Anderson on Disruptive Wonder and the Hidden Talents of Everyday Things

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Exploring the intersection of irreverence and whimsy, or how to expand what we demand from reality.

Kelli Anderson is one of the most talented, thoughtful, inspiring young designers working today, bringing to each project an artist’s flair, a scientist’s rigor, and a philosopher’s deliberation. In this fantastic talk from TEDxPhoenix, she pulls the curtain on the machinery of her magic — something she calls “disruptive wonder,” a mechanism for revealing the extraordinary talents of ordinary things.

From a solar-powered popsicle truck, a kind of “physical infographic on wheels,” to a holiday card that makes paper interactive, to a wildly believable counterfeit New York Times from the utopian future, to an ingenious paper record player, her projects probe our most fundamental assumptions — about political reality*, about material experience, about design itself — to deliver a potent cocktail of irreverence and delight. Let these 16 minutes make your day:

The world is full of order that doesn’t necessarily deserve our respect. Sometimes there is meaning, justice, and logic present in the way things are — but sometimes there just isn’t. And I think the moment that we realize this is the moment we become creative people. Because it prompts us to mess things up and do something better with the basic pieces of experience.”

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