Brain Pickings

Unruly Alphabet: The Macabre, Anthropomorphic Lives of Letters

Yes, we’re officially on an alphabet binge. After marveling at it in mesmerizing motion graphics, on fabulous Mad Scientist wooden blocks, and in a brilliant typographic anthology, we’ve discovered a worthy new addition to our selection of creative ABC books — illustrator Aaron McKinney’s Unruly Alphabet. With wit and beautifully detailed illustration, McKinney brings each letter to macabre, hauntingly playful life, weaving a dialogue of gallows humor between the letters built on a larger metaphorical narrative on the most loathesome human qualities.

I’ve always been interested in etymology. The way words, a human constructed concept, play off one another to somehow convey thought and expression in our minds fascinates me. With that thought in mind, I decided to strip language down to its most primitive form, the alphabet. To make it interesting, I anthropomorphized each letter with some of humanity’s most common, despicable traits. With each letter playing off the next, the end result is the alphabet, a pretty inorganic and deliberate thing made more barbarically human.” ~ Aaron McKinney

Blending the nostalgic charisma of the classic childhood alphabet book with adults’ taste for dark comedy and sophisticated aestheticism, The Unruly Alphabet is a treasure trove of gorgeously gory glyphs that will delight you with artistic merit and surprise you with a philosophical prompt to contemplate human nature.

Published December 17, 2010




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