I fell in love with the work of Rudolph Modley when I randomly found a book he illustrated, The United States; A Graphic History, in a used bookstore. My enthusiasm about Modley’s graphic design work lead to my discovery of his study under the more ground breaking Austrian philosopher and sociologist Otto Neurath. Modley’s work in the US by his company Pictograph is strongly and unquestionably influenced by the work of Neurath’s firm Isotype. Some web research suggests a rift developed between the two; some argue the sociological depth of Neurath’s work in Europe gave way to more superficial application of his graphic developments under Modley in the US. Another surprise in the history of the American market place. Whatever their differences, they can both be thanked for our collective abilities to make it into the appropriately gendered restroom. (No time to link everything today– I know, poor scholarship. Do your own googling.) Here’s a side by side, Neurath in the top two images and Modley below (it’s all about the feet!):
The Germans are incredible at this shit.
Via the New York Times’ Lively Morgue blog, “In 1955, a 14-year-old with ambitions to go to the moon built a robot he named Gismo, winning the Industrial Arts Competition run by the Ford Motor Company. Gismo walked, talked and waved his arms, and he cost $15 to make. He was one of 72 examples of craftsmanship by teenagers on display at the Waldorf-Astoria.” (via silencematters)
So what’s wrong with us now? Can our kids still do this? Are they less educated? Less mechanically inclined? Are the tools of manufacture too complex and removed from them? Are the skills of manual labor devalued bu their surrounding people and culture?
I think the entire system of early childhood development and education is completely out of alignment with reasonable expectations for the life goals of the majority of American children and teaches them to devalue rudimentary materials and skills that were the grist for the mill of human innovation for millenia. I am percolating and bringing together ideas from a number of directions in which I’ working at the moment and hope to arrive at a cohesive early childhood educational philosophy in the next year or two.
The Internet Archive has a digitized “City of Brooklyn; A Half Century’s Progress” from 1887 which brings “together in such convenient and permanent form such data relating to the merchantile, manufacturing, and other business interests of the beautiful city of Brooklyn, and the men whose brains, capital, and energy have been and are the inspiration of them, as are worth being preserved.” Needless to say it’s a real page turner.
A short post on British economist John Kay’s site entitled “Fetish for making things ignores real work” from (November 2012) explores common misunderstandings of the source of value in a culture that fetishizes manufacturing above services and suggests we reexamine what we regard as “real work” and give it its due.
This is a promotional reel for a concept snow vehicle from 1929. It’s kind of mesmerizing and fascinating to watch the lateral rotation of the pontoons translate to forward propulsion via such a simple surface treatment. The reel is long, and the music is an odd choice, but it demonstrates a pretty interesting and capable means for snow and ice transport. It’s also a great hack of existing technology.