Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘design’

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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14 FEBRUARY, 2012

Vintage Valentine’s Day Postcards from the Early 1900s

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“If she be not fair for me what care I how fair she be.”

There are a million better ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with a card — perhaps by revisiting the very first kiss in cinema, smiling over artist Eero Saarinen’s endearing list of his wife’s positive attributes, exploring a love story in geometric diagrams, getting goosebumps from Virginia Woolf’s love letter to Vita Sackville-West, or even taking a sobering look at the psychology of love. But if cards must be your thing, they can at least come with the vintage charisma of the early 1900s, thanks to The New York Public Library’s digital gallery.

The era’s Valentine’s greetings come with a rather limited visual vocabulary — little girls, little boys, cupids, flowers, hearts.

There is also the occasional playful delight:

And what’s love without some indignant bitterness?

Then there’s gangsta Valentine:

And, of course, some classic anti-Suffragette mild misogyny:

But my heart belongs to this “wireless telegram” circa 1903:

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13 FEBRUARY, 2012

The Bomb and the General: A Vintage Semiotic Children’s Book by Umberto Eco circa 1966

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How symbols become symbols, or what keeping atoms in harmony has to do with language acquisition.

Novelist and philosopher Umberto Eco once said that the list is the origin of culture. But his fascination with lists and organization grew out of his longtime love affair with semiotics, the study of signs and symbols as an anthropological sensemaking mechanism for the world. In bridging semiotics with literature, Eco proposed a dichotomy of “open texts,” which allow multiple interpretations, and “closed texts,” defined by a single possible interpretation. Since semiotics is so closely related to language, one of its central inquiries deals with language acquisition — when, why, and how children begin to associate objects with the words that designate those objects. Most children’s picture books, with their simple messages and unequivocal moral lessons, fall within the category of “closed texts.”

In 1966, Eco published The Bomb and the General — a children’s book that, unlike the “open texts” of his adult novels with their infinite interpretations, followed the “closed text” format of the picture book genre to deliver a cautionary tale of the Atomic Age wrapped in a clear message of peace, environmentalism, and tolerance. But what makes the project extraordinary is the parallel visual and textual narrative reinforcing the message — the beautiful abstract illustrations by Italian artist Eugenio Carmi contain recurring symbols that reiterate the story in a visceral way as the child learns to draw connections between the meaning of the images with the meaning of the words.

This particular page presents a lovely wink at Brian Cox’s The Quantum Universe, featured here earlier today:

Mom is made of atoms.
Milk is made of atoms.
Women are made of atoms.
Air is made of atoms.
Fire is made of atoms.
We are made of atoms.

The Bomb and the General is a fine addition to these littleknown but fantastic children’s books by famous authors of adult literature.

via the lovely We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie; images courtesy of Ariel S. Winter

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