Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘typography’

19 OCTOBER, 2010

I Wonder: Marian Bantjes Explores Joy Through Typography


Marian Bantjes is one of those creators that make pigeonholing impossible. Trained as a graphic designer, with a decade-long career as a typesetter under her belt and a penchant for the intricate beauty of letterform illustrations, she calls herself a ‘graphic artist’ and is an avid advocate for self-education and self-reinvention. Stefan Sagmeister, a longtime Brain Pickings favorite, calls her “one of the most innovative typographers working today” — with no exaggeration. (So innovative, in fact, that Sean “P. Diddy” Combs felt compelled to shamelessly, blatantly rip her off recently.)

I exist somewhat outside of the mainstream of design thinking. Where others might look at measurable results, I tend to be interested in more ethereal qualities like does it bring joy? is there a sense of wonder? and does it invoke curiosity?”

Bantjes’ highly anticipated new book, I Wonder, is out today and I couldn’t recommend it more — a remarkable journey of visual joy and conceptual fascination, intersecting logic, beauty and quirk in a breathtaking yet organic way.

I’m using my own writings as a kind of testing ground for a book that has an interdependency between word and image as a kind of seductive force. I think that one of the things that religions got right was the use of visual wonder to deliver a message. I think this true marriage of art and information is woefully underused in adult literature. And I’m mystified as to why visual wealth is not more commonly used to enhance intellectual wealth.”

For more of Bantjes’ unique brand of visual curiosity and creativity, don’t miss her excellent TED talk.

I Wonder is positively one of the season’s finest visual communication gems.

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06 SEPTEMBER, 2010

Need to Want Less: Modern Philosophy via Graphic Design


What Facebook and the food pyramid have to do with our deep desire for self-acceptance.

The disconnect between our wants and needs is one of the most fundamental and universal paradoxes of being human. Virtually everyone comes in contact with it in various levels of intensity. That piece of rich flourless chocolate cake after a perfectly healthy and nourishing meal. The lover you so desire even though you don’t need all the drama. And does anyone really need an iPad?

A few months ago, we micro-raved about artist and designer Erin Hanson’s brilliant Need To Want Less series of visual modern philosophy, and today — as we confront and try to reconcile our own wants and needs — we’re taking a closer look.

when i was 8 i wanted a puppy

when i was 10 i wanted parachute pants

when i was 12 i wanted an ogilvie perm

when i was 14 i wanted a boy named robbie

when i was 16 i wanted a car

when i was in my 20s i wanted to make bad choices

now i want everything

i only need enough to survive

From the playful to the profound, the project captures the wistful aspiration of who are versus who we want to be — and beneath the humor and facetiousness lies a somewhat tragic longing to be something else, something better, bespeaking the harsh judgement in which we consistently engulf ourselves, our desires, our very thoughts.

But sombre contemplation aside, it’s hard not to appreciate the cheeky self-derision and honesty with which Hanson approaches these very human issues. So take a look at the entire set for a dose of delightful neo-philosophy.

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25 AUGUST, 2010

The Beast File: Infographic Storytelling


Catholic priests, Greenpeace terrorists, and what Tim Burton has to do with Obama’s entourage.

We have a soft spot for infographic storytelling — from a data-driven take on The Little Red Riding Hood to animated infoviz for kids to an infographic breakdown of web history. We’ve recently discovered a wonderful Australian program, The Hungry Beast, whose series The Beast File hits right in the middle of this sweet spot — part modern muckraking, part typographic animation, part data-driven storytelling. Sadly, Hungry Beast got pulled from the air in April, but we’ve curated five fantastic episodes to immortalize its infographic legacy.


In the past 50 years, some 30,000 people in 25 countries have reported abuse by Catholic priests. The Beast File takes a critical look at a serious problem that has been well-documented yet unresolved in over 2,000 years of Catholic church history.


Hungry Beast pulls back the curtain to probe a bit deeper into the world’s premiere purveyor of “Don’t be evil” philosophy, from the Big G’s impressive media portfolio to their 187 patents and the many subtle ways in which the search giant has penetrated our daily lives.


Controversial environmental activist Paul Watson was among the most influential early members of Greenpeace, but was notoriously axed from the organization for supporting strategies of direct, radical action that conflicted with Greenpeace’s philosophy of nonviolence. Though his work was pivotal in enforcing marine regulations against illegal whalers and sealers, The Beast File nails Watson’s aura of controversy by calling him “one man’s freedom fighter, another man’s terrorist.”


MDMA, or 3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine, was synthesized by accident in 1912 and enjoyed a long career of illicit use as ecstasy. Because of its reckless recreational use, MDMA was quickly pulled from the world of medicine and banned as part of the war on drugs, but doctors continued to campaign for its use in medical research, uncovering some evidence for the drug’s efficiency in treating PTSD and anxiety disorders.


A job consisting solely of keeping track of throat lozenges may seem like the kind of absurd occupation you’d encounter in a Tim Burton film, unless these are Obama’s throat lozenges. Then it becomes a matter of national security — and the very non-fictional job of one man on the president’s 500-person entourage. In this episode, The Beast File introduces us to some of the more curious portable White House staffers that go everywhere Obama goes.

And is it just us, or did the voiceover lady slip a Bushism in there with her “nucular” pronunciation?

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10 JUNE, 2010

CitID: A (Type)face for Every City in the World


Typefacing Tegucicalpa, or what hometown homages have to do with postmodernism.

We recently raved about GOOD Magazine‘s neighborhood flags project and these 50 brilliant Japanese town logos. But what if every city in every country in the world could recruit its design talent to create typographic homages to the city? That’s exactly what CitID aims to do — and they’ve already gotten submissions from over 150 cities spanning all — yes, all — continents.

CitID is a ambitious project aiming to gain global consciousness by giving a (type)face to every city worldwide; big or small, rich or poor, famous or infamous, well-known or unheard-of.”

From tongue-twisters like Tegucicalpa to cross-cultural icons like New York, the project is as much a creative endeavor as it is an educational exercise. The ultimate aim is to harness creatives’ love for their cities and create a global visual anthology of city identities.

Budapest // Design by: Áron Jancsó

Berlin // Design by: Axel Raidt

Portland // Design by: Santiago Uceda

London // Design by: Rob Gonzalez & Jonathan Quainton

Sofia // Design by: Ivan Hristov

Breda // Design by: Nikki Smits

Raleigh // Design by: Bryan Flynn

Our favorite has to be this postmodern entry by designer Dustin Kemper:

Philadelphia // Design by: Dustin Kemper

So go ahead and represent your city by submitting a design — or sweet-talking your favorite local designer into doing it.

via [TMB]

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