Maria Popova

Writer / United States / Brain Pickings

Maria Popova’s Notable Books of 2011

I've always believed creativity, in design and in everything else, is combinatorial—it’s our ability to take existing pieces of knowledge, insight, information, inspiration, and skill that we've gathered over the course of our lives, and recombine them into something new. Our creative prowess, therefore, depends on the breadth, depth, and diversity of this toolkit of mental resources. Like a set of LEGOs, the more colors, shapes, and sizes the bricks are, the more interesting the LEGO castles we build with them will be.

With this in mind, here are ten books that make wonderful gifts to enrich the design-lover's creative kit with diverse and wonderful LEGO bricks spanning different disciplines and scopes of curiosity.

3 books
Rana Abou Rjeily

Author Rana Abou Rjeily builds an ingenious cross-cultural bridge by way of a typeface family that brings the Arabic and Latin alphabets together and, in the process, fosters a new understanding of Arab culture. Both minimalist and illuminating, the book’s stunning pages map the rules of Arabic writing, grammar, and pronunciation to English, using this typographic harmony as the vehicle for better understanding this ancient culture from a Western standpoint. The book jacket unfolds into a beautiful poster of a timeless quote by Gibran Khalil Gibran, rendered in Arabic: “We shall never understand one another until we reduce the language to seven words.”

Robert Klanten
Sven Ehmann
Floyd Schulze

As information continues to proliferate, our quest to extract meaning from it is taking us more and more toward visual synthesis. This large and beautiful volume from Gestalten gathers the most compelling work by a new generation of designers, illustrators, graphic editors, and data journalists tackling the grand sense-making challenge of our time by pushing forward the evolving visual vocabulary of storytelling. It's part high-concept dictionary for a language of increasingly critical importance, part priceless time-capsule of bleeding-edge creativity from the Golden Age of information overload, the era we call home.

Blexbolex

French illustrator Blexbolex is a master of poetic visual meditation. Each of this book's charmingly matte and papery double-page spread features a full-bleed illustrated vignette that captures the human condition in its diversity, richness, and paradoxes. From mothers and fathers to dancers and warriors to hypnotists and genies, Blexbolex’s signature softly textured, pastel-colored, minimalist illustrations are paired in a way that gives you pause and, over the course of the book, reveals his subtle yet thought-provoking visual moral commentary on the relationships between the characters depicted in each pairing.

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