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The Open Day Book: Perpetual Calendar by 365 Leading Artists

How to fill your days with art and your art with days.

This week’s summer solstice offered an invitation to revisit our civilization’s cult of the calendar. Stepping outside its conventions, The Open Daybook by LA-based writer and artist David P. Earle offers an interactive perpetual calendar with artwork by 365 of today’s most exciting visual artists, one for each day of the year. Each dated page allows you to fill in your schedule or jot down a creative response to the artwork, turning it into a weird and wonderful hybrid of datebook, sketchbook and daily art journal. (And we know sketchbooks hold a special place in the Brain Pickings heart.)

Featured in the book are favorite artists like Chuck Jones, Miranda July, Dallas Clayton (), Stefanie Posavec ( ), and Christoph Niemann ( ).

Christoph Niemann
Dallas Clayton
Miranda July
Chuck Jones
Chris Scarborough
Deb Sokolow
Starlee Kine
Mark Alan Stamaty
Stefanie Posavec
Luke Ramsey

The Open Daybook comes from Mark Batty Publisher, who also brought us Shapes for sounds, Notations 21, Cultural Connectives, Drawing Autism and many more gems.

BP

Shapes for Sounds: A Visual History of the Alphabet

What the anatomy of your tongue has to do with ship flags and the evolution of human communication.

I’m endlessly fascinated by the intersection of sight and sound and have a well-documented alphabet book obsession. So I absolutely love Shapes for sounds (public library) by Timothy Donaldson, which explores one of the most fundamental creations of human communication, the alphabet, through a fascinating journey into “why alphabets look like they do, what has happened to them since printing was invented, why they won’t ever change, and how it might have been.”

While the tome is full of beautiful, lavish illustrations and typography — like 26 gorgeous illustrated charts that trace the evolution of spoken languages into written alphabets — it’s no mere eye candy. Donaldson, a typographer, graphic designer and teacher, digs deep into the cultural anthropology of how letters were crystallized from sounds, scripts invented, words formed, and linguistic conventions indoctrinated.

Donaldson writes:

The alphabet is one of the greatest inventions; it has enabled the preservation and clear understanding of people’s thoughts, and it is simple to learn. It still has great significance; while the advent of type — printed alphabets — has curtailed any real development of the shapes of letters, the alphabet has been more greatly utilised in the last 500 years than ever before. Typography is the engine of graphic design, and writing is the fuel. But more than that, the alphabet has been the enabler of mass communication technologies from Morse code to the internet.

Though the Latin alphabet is the focal point, Donaldson explores an incredible range of related history, from ancient calligraphic traditions to semaphore, to bar codes and binary code, exposing the magnificent cross-pollination of disciplines — design, typography, anatomy, phonetics, sociology, linguistics, psychology and more — that gave birth to one of our civilization’s oldest and most powerful technologies.

Donaldson considers the elemental delight of graphics:

I would love to have the experience of having envelopes drop through my door with no address, just a picture of me and my house on the front. I would like to buy a newspaper full of nothing but pictures and graphic devices, and to find my way home using road signs that are just arrows and drawings, but I think these events a re a long way off. To cross national borders still requires a textual document; a passport is not just a picture of your face. The obligator tax-return, a document that, if ignore, will make you a criminal, contains no images. The highway code features many image-based signs, yet must be explained with words. The interent is 95% text.

Shapes for sounds comes as yet another gem from the fine folks at Mark Batty, my favorite indie publisher, who brought us such excellence as Notations 21, Cultural Connectives, Drawing Autism and more.

BP

An Illustrated Guide to Cockroaches

What superhuman sprinting has to do with democracy, the power of design and your kitchen sink drain.

If you’ve ever lived in a city, especially a densely populated, neighbors-across-the-street-staring-down-your-dinner-plate kind of city, you’ve likely had your run-in with a neighbor of the least likable yet most inevitable kind: The cockroach. And while for most people, it’s an endless source of variations on the ewww response, for Siberian-born, New-York-based artist Ekaterina Smirnova it’s been the unlikely source of design inspiration. In An Illustrated Guide to Cockroaches, she offers an irreverent and beautifully designed blueprint to better understanding your six-legged roommate in a graphic style that’s part Shepard Fairey, part Olly Moss, Lynd Ward, part something entirely its own.

The book began as an experiment, a study in the power of graphic design, as Smirnova was assigned to come up with an idea for a book in her editorial design class at the SVA. The winning idea: To muster the most tedious, even repulsive subject possible, and use design-driven storytelling to make it something interesting to read and study. And, as far as I’m concerned, she’s aced her assignment — the book is as fascinating as it is visually stimulating.

From the remarkable talents of roaches (did you know that an American cockroach can run a distance distance of 50 times his size in a second, which in human scale would translate to running at 186 miles per hour?) to their unusual intelligence (they seem to make democratic group decisions better than most human societies) to their enduring role in science fiction and pop culture, the book offers an extraordinary black-white-and-red look a character we spend our lives actively trying not to look at, delivering an unexpectedly delightful punch of trivia treats, obscure scientific factoids and artful graphic explorations.

In pop culture, cockroaches are often depicted as filthy, disgusting pests. Their shiny, greasy shells make them look like they are creatures born of filth and slime, but in fact they are obsessively clean.”

An Illustrated Guide to Cockroaches, yet another treat from my friends at Mark Batty Publisher, is out today and the kind of book you never thought you’d love until you do — which you will.

BP

LE GUN 1,2,3: Bleeding-Edge Illustration from Around the Globe

What flying to Paris has to do with creative entrepreneurship and global provocations.

In 2004, a small group of graduates from London’s Royal College of Art founded art collective LE GUN and quietly started publishing one of the most compelling art and design magazines to come by in decades. Dedicated to celebrating the work of illustrators from around the globe, LE GUN instantly charmed audiences and critics, but its small scale and indie roots made access to it limited and coveted. Now, my friends from Mark Batty Publisher have gathered the first three issues of the magazine in LE GUN 1,2,3 — an impressive, handsome tome that captures LE GUN‘s rich spectrum of creativity and provocative, relentlessly original artwork.

In the book’s introduction, RCA professor Andrzej Klimowski, who advised the founding team, tells the project’s inspired story — a tale of imagination, transformation and creative entrepreneurship.

Many middle-aged people turn to their medicine cabinets for vitamin pills or, more drastically, turn to the knife for cosmetic surgery or the botox injection in a desperate attempt to hold onto their youth. I need only brush shoulders with the artists of LE GUN to be imbued with the elixir of life, which is so vital that it makes my hair stand on end.” ~ Andrzej Klimowski

With 400 pages and weighing in at over 6 pounds, the tome is, without any exaggeration, enormous.

Esoteric and beautiful, LE GUN 1,2,3 is an absolute treat of imagination, artistry and visual eloquence from cover to heavy cover.

BP

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