We adore“curious octopus”Paola Antonelli, MoMA’s remarkable curator of architecture and design, and one of the great creative visionaries of our time. In this excellent BigThink interview, Antonelli answers the grand question of design: What makes good design?
[T]he truth is this: It’s a very complex recipe. The world has become more complex, and you can’t anymore have an equation with just two variables. [I]t’s a differential equation with many variables. What I can tell you as one of the litmus tests is, think if this object were not on earth. Would it be a pity? Would you miss it?” ~ Paola Antonelli
What augmented reality has to do with farm animals and talking sidewalks.
We’re big fans of Paola Antonelli, MoMA’s brilliant and eloquent curator of Architecture and Design, whose work continues to be a beacon of where design is headed both as a creative discipline and as cultural currency for making sense of the world. Under her tenure, MoMA has made such thought-provoking acquisions as early computing ephemera, the @ sign and, as of this week, 23 digital typefaces, challenging the notion of what a design “object” is and how it interlaces with everyday life.
In this excellent interview, she talks about the vision behind her latest MoMA show, Talk To Me, while in her signature fashion interjecting higher-order insights about the role of design that transcend the immediate context of the exhibition.
Many people think that technology is a problem in that it dehumanizes people. And, instead, I think it’s a great thing because it humanizes objects.” ~ Paola Antonelli
Technology would not become life without design and design would not function without technology, because design is a matter of translating technology into things that people can use.” ~ Paola Antonelli
Paola mentions several Brain Pickings favorites, including Jonathan Harris’ I Want You to Want Me project and Christien Meindertsma’s ingenious PIG 05049.
See all the ideas tickling the brains of Talk To Me‘s curators here and tip them off to something worthy of consideration.
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We reported yesterday with great sadness that Benoît Mandelbrot, known as the father of fractal geometry, has passed away. We have to agree with Jason Kottke that one day, Mandelbrot’s contribution to mathematics will be regarded as Einstein’s contribution to physics is today — his geometrical algorithms have been applied to everything from lung surgery to financial markets. And while we don’t go as far as making a dizzifying animated-gif tombstone, we’d like to commemorate the great thinker with a few of our favorite Mandelbrot gems.
In February, we had the pleasure of seeing him speak at TED, where he gave a fantastic talk on fractals and the art of roughness. The talk is based on Mandelbrot’s theory of roughness, best articulated in this excellent Edge interview from 2004.
I prefer the word roughness to the word irregularity because irregularity — to someone who had Latin in my long-past youth — means the contrary of regularity. But it is not so. Regularity is the contrary of roughness because the basic aspect of the world is very rough.” ~ Benoît Mandelbrot
Curiously, Mandelbrot didn’t get his start with fractals as a physicist or mathematician or geometrist. He started by studying stock market prices. His book, Fractals and Scaling In Finance: Discontinuity, Concentration, Risk, is utterly fascinating in a deep yet lateral and cross-disciplinary way that hardly any other financial book has managed to be.
Visually, Mandelbrot fractals have propagated the synth-creative field in the form of trippy, mesmerizing artwork and animation, such as this treat from teamfresh. (An additional hat tip is due to the great mathematician for his indirect contribution to language with such delightfully incongruous linguistic bedfellows as “math porn” — a term that has been used to describe the vibrant, colorful artwork based on Mandelbrot fractals.)
Finally, a gem as priceless as they come — Benoît Mandelbrot in conversation with our greatest creative and curatorial hero, MoMA’s Paola Antonelli, at a SEED/MoMA salon in 2008:
The power of fractals is that they’re so instinctive, immediate graspable, even without knowing there’s a geometric law behind them.” ~ Paola Antonelli
If you haven’t yet read The Fractal Geometry of Nature, his seminal work offering a compelling yet digestible mathematical explanation of everything from snowflakes to coastlines to capillary beds, do yourself a favor and do.
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Design as a systemic solution, or what an octopus has to do with democratizing innovation.
MoMA curator of architecture and design Paola Antonelli is among our biggest cultural heroes. Arguably, she has done for design in the past decade what John Szarkowski did for photography in the 1960s — create a cultural dialogue beyond aesthetic appreciation, crafting a space for design as social commentary and problem-solving rather than a fixture of form fetishism.
Last month, Antonelli spoke at the excellent Creative Mornings event series organized by our friend Swiss Miss. Among other compelling insights, she shared one particular notion that hits particularly close to home for us: Antonelli sees her intellectual life as a “curious octopus”, reaching into and grabbing from a wide spectrum of disciplines, from design to architecture to science to technology. Which resonates deeply with what we’re all about — harnessing cross-disciplinary curiosity to create a rich intellectual and creative resource that allows for the cross-pollination of ideas, in turn spurring deeper creativty and innovation.
This idea of innovation belonging to [design or technology] is so moot. Innovation demands everybody. It’s called ‘disruptive innovation’ because when it’s only in the hands of scientists and technicians, it can’t be used by people. Designers are the interface. Sometimes designers are the innovators, sometimes the innovators are artists. Innovation is much more complex than a light bulb going off.” ~ Paola Antonelli
On a final note, the Talk To Me exhibition Antonelli mentions is an absolute must-see, exploring the relationship between people and objects in a compelling way that really peels away at the social significance of what some have termed “the Internet of things.”
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