Brain Pickings

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Pictorial Webster’s: A Visual Dictionary of Victorian Curiosities

Cards, stamps, and what zebras have to do with Victorian craftsmen.

We love visual thinking. And we’re all about curiosity. Naturally, we’re head over heels with painter, artist and bookbinder Johnny Carrera’s Pictorial Webster’s: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities — a charming, chunky volume of over 1,500 engravings from Webster’s 19th-century dictionaries.

Cleaned, restored and curated in a captivating and unusual reference guide for modernity, these engravings are both novel and iconic, radiating the enigmatic luster of vintage Victorian aesthetic. From to Aardvark to Zebra, the alphabetically arranged gem is both archival record and aesthetic feat, a treat for history geeks and design aficionados alike.

Also from the series, 26 delightfully nostalgic wall cards, one for each letter of the alphabet, reproducing the engravings from the book on sumptuously heavy card stock with superb typography.

And for a lovely final touch on this visual exploration of vintage curiosity, check out the Pictorial Webster’s Stamp Set, an extraordinarily authentic collection of actual historic engravings, embellished with all the details of line execution, shading, and perspective you’d expect from meticulous Victorian craftsmanship — not your average rubber stamp clip-art.

BP

In-Formed: Physical Objects as Data Visualization

The other side of our silver platter, or what dinnerware and Africa have in common.

Data visualization is of special stature around here and makes frequent cameos — usually in the form of beautifully designed infographics or high-tech jaw-droppers. But designer Nadeem Haidary is creating a form of data viz so unorthodox and unexpected it constitutes its own genre — physical objects modified to visualize statistics about the activities they’re involved in.

The project, titled In-Formed, is part data visualization, part industrial design, part social awareness, exposing little-known facts designed to effect actual behavioral change by inspiring us to be a bit less wasteful.

It consists of three case studies, each embedding contextually relevant information into everyday objects related to the data.

Each prong represents the per-capita countries caloric intake of a different country. Each fork depicts the United States and three other countries ordered alphabetically.

[Statistics] may be striking when you first read them, but without context or placement in the physical world, they are rarely remembered and rarely change people’s behavior. What if this kind of information crawled off the page and seeped into the products that surround us?

The surface area of each of plate is proportionate to the food consumption in the region depicted on the plate.

There’s something incredibly powerful about infusing data with the physical reality it inhabits — an idea arguably pioneered by the incredible Chris Jordan, whom we’ve featured multiple times. It breeds a kind of visceral mindfulness missing from more traditional forms of data visualization — and, hopefully, that’s what makes the leap from awareness to action.

BP

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Word-of-Mouths

Salt mines, German sanatoriums, and how a social media rescue mission saved one lovable photographic underdog.

JPG logoPrint is dying. You hear it everywhere. And over the past couple of years, a number of excellent publications have indeed folded. (Business 2.0 and JANE, we’re looking at you.) But the latest title to be kicked into a publishing coma, JPG Magazine, ended up as a weird ray of light for the relationship between traditional and new media.

Here’s the story in a nutshell.

JPG MagazineIn 2005, husband and wife duo Heather Champ and Derek Powazek set out to found a magazine where the content was completely user-created and voted on by other users, so that the best of the best ends up in the print publication. (Published photos receive $100 to stash with their pride and glory.) A truly democratic magazine, if you will.

A magazine that brought us the alphabet in the sky…

type in the sky

…and the aerial wonder (yep, we’re going at it again) of Utah’s salt mines…

Moab salt mine

…and the beautiful decay of an early 20th century German sanatorium.

blue.

Unsurprisingly, JPG amassed a significant base of dedicated loyalists over the years — people passionate about both photography and the idea of an inclusive arena for photographic excellence open to more than just the handful of professional photographers circulating all the other photo pubs. A place for up-and-coming talent to truly showcase their work.

But in late 2008, something left JPG supporters utterly distraught: Editor Laura Brunow Miler announced the magazine was folding under the pressure of funding.

Issue 19: FaithThat’s when the social media rescue mission started. Supporters quickly launched SaveJPG.com and unleashed a flurry of Twitter and Flickr buzz that eventually landed JPG several big-time acquisition offers. As a result, the magazine was resurrected and just launched into a new future with the latest issue, appropriately titled Faith.

And while we love a good underdog story as much as the next guy, we must admit there was one wonderful upside to the temporary downside of JPG’s existence: One motivated fan, Derek Steen, put together a comprehensive PDF archive of every JPG issue ever published — 223.4MB of free goodness — so grab yours and start catching up, or head over to the Faith issue and see what all the fuss was about.

via Photojojo

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