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Oct 17 / Jonathan

Ecstatic complexity

Isn’t that a nice turn of phrase?

Lombardi was indeed an enthusiastic student of information design, a reader of Edward Tufte and a collector of the charts of Nigel Holmes. But if the goal of information design is to make things clear, Lombardi’s drawings, in fact, do the opposite. The hypnotic miasma of names, institutions, corporations and locations that envelop each drawing demonstrates nothing if not the inherent — the intentional — unknowability of each of these networks. Like Rube Goldberg devices, their only meaning is their ecstatic complexity; like Hitchcockian McGuffins, understanding them is less important than simply knowing they exist.

That’s Michael Bierut in his essay Mark Lombardi and the Ecstasy of Conspiracy; I’ve been reading his collection of design-related essays, and it turned out this one is online at his blog (lots of other nice posts too, and great images).

I wish I could do that. My all-time favorite adjective-noun phrase is dusty death, but I’d settle for being able to come up with “ecstatic complexity”. I specifically mean the interplay of senses, rather than the sound (I’ve never see the attraction of cellar door, by the way), though Shakespeare of course manages to do both at once.

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