Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘maps’

22 FEBRUARY, 2010

Blog-Turned-Book Success Stories: Part One

By:

Maps of Utopia, posh Brooklynites, and what Whole Foods has to do with high school mixtapes.

The web may have its share of questionable content and lowest-common-denominator taste, but it has also democratized the content industry in a powerful way — with its low barrier of entry, anyone with a smart idea and excellent content can draw an audience and become the go-to authority in a niche or a publishing superstar of eclectic interestingness. And just like every waitress in LA dreams of being discovered by Hollywood, most superstar bloggers dream of getting the coveted and tangible acclaim that is a book deal.

We love nothing more than to see well-written, meticulously curated and brilliantly conceived content get the credit it deserves. And we’ve gathered proof that it is indeed possible. Here are five of our ten favorite blogs-turned-books.

BOX BOTTLE BAG

It’s no secret we’re big package design geeks — because, let’s face it, framing is everything; ideas are only as powerful as their presentation, and what are packages but presentation vehicles for the products that come in them?

For years, The Dieline has been our favorite go-to for packaging goodness. This month, they’re finally releasing the much-anticipated anthology of said goodness — Box Bottle Bag: The World’s Best Package Designs from TheDieline.com.

The book features 224 pages of richly visual, meticulously curated package design gems, including the site’s biggest hits as well as a handful of never-before-seen projects from legendary designers.

CASSETTE FROM MY EX

We’ve featured Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves before, and we even included it in our curated gift guide for books, so we won’t overelaborate.

Suffice it to say this lovely mixtape revivalist project takes the cheesiest parts of nostalgia and turns them into a wonderful celebration of youthful creative romanticism.

STUFF WHITE PEOPLE LIKE

It’s been nearly two years since Christian Lander’s brilliant, relentlessly funny-cause-it’s-true Stuff White People Like first drew critical acclaim from hipster pundits alike. The blog was so brilliant, in fact, that it got a book deal a mere three months after its launch, a pace of success that’s practically unheard of.

Wittily written and often surprisingly insightful beneath its surface humor, Stuff White People Like: A Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions is as much a cultural portrait of a certain Obama-loving, New-Yorker-reading, Whole-Foods-shopping, Scandinavian-furniture-admiring socioeconomic subset as it is a diagnostic tool for your own chronic white-clicheness.

STRANGE MAPS

We love the geeky art-science world of cartography. So when our favorite maps blog,
Strange Maps, got a book deal, we covered it promptly.

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities features 138 of the most fascinating, absorbing and remarkable maps from the blog’s 3-year history of culling the world’s forgotten, little-known and niche cartographic treasures. And it too made our book guide last year.

From the world as depicted in Orwell’s 1984, to a color map of Thomas More’s Utopia, to the 16th-century portrayal of California as an island where people live like the Amazons, the book is brim-full of priceless anecdotes from our collective conception of the world over the centuries.

THE SARTORIALIST

In 2005, Scott Schuman set out to photograph stylish people on the street, then began uploading these photos to a no-frills blog.

Little did Schuman, a.k.a. The Sartorialist, know that over the next few years, his blog would gain such enormous cultural traction that it would elevate him to the most influential observer of street style. TIME Magazine even named him one of the Top 100 Design Influencers.

Last year, the blog put its money where its mouth is, releasing the sleek, stylish and all-around gorgeous The Sartorialist: (Bespoke Edition). (Sure, you could settle for the paperback, but that would be like watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade on TV — you still get it, but half its glamor and beauty are lost.)

From Milan to Miami, Beijing to Brooklyn, the book is a global portrait of exquisite taste, an addictive and indulgent intersection of voyeurism and aesthetic appreciation.

UPDATE: Here’s Part 2, with 5 more

We don’t have a book deal, so we rely on your support to make this work. Brain Pickings takes over 200 hours a month to curate, edit and publish. If you find joy and inspiration in it, please consider supporting us with a small donation — it lets us know we’re doing something right.





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

08 FEBRUARY, 2010

Creative Derivatives of the London Tube Map

By:

Nebulae, web mavens, and what the Kabbalah has to do with 100 years of music history.

In 1931, Harry Beck designed the first diagramatic map of the London Underground. By 1960, the Tube Map had evolved into the icon of minimalist modern design that we know and love today — a meme, even. And as any meme, it has spawned a number of creative derivatives. Here are five such tube-map-inspired gems.

MILKY WAY TRANSIT AUTHORITY

A dreadfully long subway commute can often send you scrambling for ways to bend the space-time continuum. Now, one scientist has done just that — sort of. Samuel Arbesman, a Harvard postdoctoral fellow in computational sociology, has created The Milky Way Transit Authority — a brilliantly simplified map of the Milky Way displaying the complex interconnections of our galaxy in a digestible way.

Beyond the clever visualization concept, we love the fusion of science and philosophy in Arbesman approach:

People ask why I haven’t marked ‘You Are Here’ on the map – but I think it’s more humbling to realize that we aren’t the center of the universe.” ~ Samuel Arbesman

We also find it fascinating to think of the incredible and daunting vastness of the universe in such mundane terms — there’s something eerily soothing about this hop-hop-there-it-is approach to the celestial expanse.

GOING UNDERGROUND

In 2006, the ambitious folks at The Guardian‘s Culture Vulture blog set out to plot the branches and connections of 100 years of music on a London-Tube-style map. From Ray Charles to Radiohead, the project is an impressive feat of musicology and cultural history.

Each line represents a different genre, with the influential musicians in it as the stops.

We strongly encourage you to explore this priceless and fascinating blueprint to 20th-century music culture — grab a high-res PDF here.

KABBALAH TREE OF LIFE

Making sense of religious doctrine can get messy and confusing. This tube-style map of the Kabbalah Tree of Life, first spotted in Alan Moore’s comic book series Promethea, attempts to shed light on the Sephiroth — the ten attributes of God in the Kabbalah.

Despite the seeming simplicity of the map, it plays on many of the Kabbalah’s sacred numbers and relationships. The three columns, for instance, arrange the ten sepiroth according to the three pillars — the Pillar of Mildness, the Pillar of Mercy, and the Pillar of Severity. And the twenty-two lines connecting the sephiroth reflect the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

To make things even more elaborate, adding the 10 sepiroth and 22 lines together makes 32, the number of Masonic degrees and the number of Kabbalistic paths to wisdom.

SOMERSET TOURS

I’m a big believers in using the familiar as a metaphor that introduces and piques interest in the unfamiliar. And the folks at the Somerset Tourism Bureau in the UK tend to agree — so they created this wonderful Heritage Touring Map based on the London Tube Map, featuring seven thoughtfully curated “lines” of tourist attractions and must-sees.

Already a clear box-breaking thinker in tourism communication, the Somerset office even has its very own Vimeo channel, including seven short films, one about each tour “line”.

WEB TREND MAP

Every year, Japanese-Swiss design studio Information Architects maps the web’s biggest influencers, subway-style. The project’s latest installment, Web Trend Map 4, is an absolute masterpiece of design, data visualization, and digital anthropology — which, in fact, has enjoyed a level of viralness deeming it worthy of being on the map itself.

Sure, WTM may be based on the Tokyo Metro Map, but that was actually built borrowing heavily from the London Tube Map, so it’s just a matter of degrees of creative separation.

BONUS

I’ve featured it before, to a great response, so it’s worth mentioning the MBTI Personality Map and its psychosocial genius.

Each subway line represents one of the 16 Myers-Briggs personality types, arranged based on the semantic distance between the 39 core word descriptors. The outer circle contains the 161 original word descriptors from the MDS test, grouped into 8 layers based on hierarchical order. Finally, the colors of the words intuitively represent their meaning — so “calm” is in the blue spectrum and “passionate” in the red.

Information design for the social sciences — now that’s something to encourage more of.

Donating = Loving

Bringing you (ad-free) Brain Pickings takes hundreds of hours each month. If you find any joy and stimulation here, please consider becoming a Supporting Member with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of tea and a good dinner:





You can also become a one-time patron with a single donation in any amount:





Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.

29 OCTOBER, 2009

Strange Maps: The Book

By:

What George Orwell has to do with the Amazons of California and Utopia.

Today is the day we’d been waiting for for a long, long time. For today, Strange Maps — an absolute favorite blog of ours, a frequent source of inspiration, and one of the shiniest hidden gems on the Interwebs — is finally gifting the world with its eponymous book.

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities features 138 of the most fascinating, absorbing and remarkable maps from the blog’s 3-year history of culling the world’s forgotten, little-known and niche cartographic treasures.

From the world as depicted in Orwell’s 1984, to a color map of Thomas More’s Utopia, to the 16th-century portrayal of California as an island where people live like the Amazons, the book is brim-full of priceless anecdotes from our collective conception of the world over the centuries.

But what makes all these maps really special is that they somehow capture and reveal a great deal about human psychology and thought — the humor of political parody (Hey there, United States of Canada vs. Jesusuland), the tragicomic bias of a New Yorker’s vantage point, the odd propositions of science gone awry (No, we won’t rename the stars after famous dictators), the inflation of political ego (Sorry, China, you’re not the Middle Kingdom at the center of the world), the absurdity of rampant religious fundamentalism (Really? The final battle between God and Satan in Armageddon will take place exactly at the Megiddo Valley in Israel?), the universal and age-old mistrust of cabbies (Who knew a hexagonal layout of London would prevent passengers from getting ripped off?).

Strange Maps: An Atlas of Cartographic Curiosities is certainly unusual and idiosyncratic — in the most wonderful way possible. At the intersection of history, design, politics and humor, it’s one of those rare beasts that tackle so many facets of culture with utter ease, readability and can’t-put-it-down magnetism.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.