There was a time when science and poetry were far more intertwined and function over form wasn’t the norm in scientific tools. Take any map or chart from the 16th or 17th Century and you’ll immediately sense an aesthetic aura that goes far beyond any practical need. You will also feel a delicate whiff of nostalgia and yearning for adventure that no modern tool can ever ignite.
Blame the Modernists. They took function and stripped it to its trivial, purely mechanical core and then convinced us that every deviation from their puritan sterility is heresy. These are the same people who coined omnipresent phrases of corrupted wisdom like “Less is more”. They took this simple aesthetic axiom and turned it to a fascist law that still poisons myriads of designers all over the globe.
In some cases, less can really be more. In others however, less is simply less. As in bread without butter, milk without honey, and a person without friends.
This week’s product design is not based on one of my artworks, instead it represents a digitally enhanced fragment from an anemographic chart made by Dutch cartographer Jan Jansson and published in 1650 as plate 1 in his Atlas Maritimus. The full title is Tabula Anemographica seu Pyxis Nautica Ventorum Nomina Sex Linguis Repraesentans. Currently, it’s the best-selling iPhone case in my World Atlas store.
The design focuses on the central element from the chart, best described as a fusion between a wind rose and a compass rose. Sailors from that period still used the classical names of the winds to refer to a geographical direction and navigate the world’s seas and oceans. Today’s sailors rely on tools that are much more precise but somewhat trivial. Whether their aesthetic will outlive their purpose is a question that can be answered after 400 years. Until then, enjoy the beauty of this forgotten scientific gem.
The chart is available on a variety of other product types as well.