Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘omnibus’

26 APRIL, 2010

Subway Etiquette Posters: New York, Toronto, Tokyo


Sardines, anthropomorphic luggage, and what the beach has to do with train doors.

The thing about public space that’s both a blessing and a curse is that we have to share it. And in order to avoid complete anarchy, we need a set of commonly agreed upon rules to govern this sharing — a code of etiquette. Subways, with their boisterous highschoolers, gospel-preaching nomads and vocal trinket sellers, are among the most anarchy-prone of public spaces. So today, we look at three brilliantly irreverent efforts to foster subway etiquette with wit, humor and a wink at authority.


Last week, artist Jason Shelowitz, a.k.a. Jay Shells, took New York’s Metropolitan Transit System by storm with his clever guerrilla campaign promoting subway etiquette to combat people’s chief complaints. He surveyed 100 commuters on their top pet peeves, then designed a series of posters modeled after the typical MTA Service Changes announcements, silkscreened 400 of them and began deploying them under the “Metropolitan Etiquette Authority.”

Shells encourages people to take the posters home before the MTA starts taking them down in typical no-fun fashion.


Never late to the sticking-it-to-the-man party, the Canadian were quick to appropriate Shell’s idea. Only two days after the New York deployment, the good folks at Toronto’s National Post designed their own version of the posters, hijacking TTC, the Toronto Transit Commission, and turning it into TTCC, Toronto Transit Civility Commission. Under TTCC, they released a series of etiquette posters, encouraging the public to print their own copies and plaster them all over the subway.

Decidedly snarkier than the New York ones, these posters do make one question the whole but-Canadians-are-so-much-nicer stereotype.


In a lot of ways, a subway train is full of Hollywood movie set staples — the stuntman diving through the door and escaping its clench by an inch, the diva in the corner powdering her nose, the muscle-jockey doing pull-ups on the hand-grips. The Japanese are here to remind us the subway is no movie set with a series of tongue-in-cheek but very to-the-point etiquette posters by graphic artist Bunpei Yorifuji that are tragicomically accurate in the stereotypical annoyances they depict.

Of course, the directive to go home and exercise binge drinking does raise a whole other set of concerns, but we’ll settle for it if it keeps the chin-up masters at bay.

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.

30 MARCH, 2010

Retro Revival: Vintage Posters for Modern Movies


Helvetica, Hitchcock and what Saul Bass can teach J.J. Abrams about mystery.

The retro revival design trend has been around for a while, but over the past few months we’ve seen one particularly interesting and wonderful niche manifestation — vintage-inspired, retrostalgic posters for modern television and film. Here are seven of our favorites, plus some extras.


A few days ago, we tweeted a delightful what-if: Spanish digital creative Hexagonall‘s vision for what Tron and Lost opening sequences would’ve looked like if the iconic Saul Bass had designed them.

It gets better: Hexagonall has an entire poster series under the Tron vs. Saul Bass umbrella — and they’re all fantastic.

And despite curmudgeonly remarks disputing whether Saul Bass would approve of these, we think what’s important here, and what Bass would certainly approve of, is the fact that almost half a century after his heyday, his visual heritage is still being celebrated and is still a force of inspiration. What more could a creator ask for?


Speaking of Lost and past Twitter raves, these fab vintagey Lost posters by designer Ty Mattson are an absolute treat.

Our favorite: This distinctly Saul Bassean hand.


Count on one of our favorite illustrators, Olly Moss, to reimagine iconic film posters with brilliant vintage-inspired minimalism.

His Films in Black and Red series is a piece of quiet genius.

Bonus points for the mandatory Helvetica overuse.


In another bout of brilliant minimalism, designer Nick Tassone reimagines his 10 favorite Stephen King films.

The only downside: All this slick and stylish designerliness makes the films appear considerably less creepy, which makes them technically counterproductive.


After BAFTA (the British Academy for Film and Television Arts) announced this year’s nominees, London-based designer Tavis Coburn set out to illustrate each of the films as unspeakably gorgeous vintage-inspired posters.

Needless to say, we’re back to the age-old question of why everything is better in Britain.


Designer Brandon Schaefer may be only 25, but he’s got a knack for the vintage aesthetic that he employs brilliantly in his retrofied posters for modern movies.

The collection also includes Schaefer’s reenvisionings for older, iconic movies, like Rear Window and Star Wars.


Tom Whalen has some classically vintage renditions of contemporary horror and scifi films, in a style that’s both recognizably retro and distinctly his own.


Also of note: Penney Design reimagines modern movies as vintage games; the brilliant I Can Read Movies has been around for some time now, but it never ceases to amaze and amuse with its assortment of vintagey film-based mock book covers; Ibraheem Youssef’s has a delightfully vintage-minimalist take on Quentin Tarantino movies; though not designed as posters, these typographic covers for the new digitally remastered box set of Hitchcock films are just as indulgent; speaking of, British designer Matt Needle’s Modern Hitchcock series is utterly fabulous.

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.

19 MARCH, 2010

Infoviz Education: Animated Visualizations for Kids


Helium, carbon, and what Little Red Riding Hood has to do with malnutrition in Africa.

We love infographics. We love animation. And we’re all for engaging kids in creative education. So today we’re looking at three educational infoviz animations that shed light on complex or important issues in beautifully art-directed ways that make little eyes widen and little brains broaden.


Directed by Denis van Waerebeke, How To Feed The World is a brilliant animated short film made for the Bon appétit exhibition in Paris science museum. Though aimed at helping kids ages 9 to 14 understand the science behind eating and why nutrition is important, the film’s slick animation style and seamless visual narrative make it as educational for kids as it is for budding designers, looking to master the art of using design as a storytelling medium.

Bonus points for the obligatory British voiceover, always a delightful upgrade.


Though not necessarily aimed at kids alone, Annie Leonard’s brilliant The Story of Stuff — which we reviewed extensively some time ago — condenses the entire materials economy into 20 minutes of wonderfully illustrated and engagingly narrated storytelling that makes you never look at stuff the same way again.

The Story of Stuff recently got a book deal, further attesting to its all-around excellence. We highly recommend it.


A few months ago, we reviewed They Might Be Giants’ fantastic Here Comes Science 2-disc CD/DVD album aimed at the K-5 set, a brilliant intersection of entertainment and creative education. One of the highlights on it is this wonderful animated journey across the periodic table, a true exercise in art-meets-science.

The entire album is well worth the two Starbucks lattes that it costs, both as a tool of inspired education for kids and a timeless music treat for indie rock fans of all ages.


Though certainly not educational, and likely not aimed at kids, this fantastic animation — which we featured exactly a year ago today — offers a brilliant infographic reinterpretation of the Brothers Grimm children’s classic The Little Red Riding Hood, inspired by Röyksopp’s Remind Me.

We’d love to see this as a series, celebrating the cross-pollination of some of our favorite facets of creative culture — animation, data visualization, and classic children’s literature — with quirk, humor and superb art direction.

We’ve got 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.