Kickstarter Project Turns Shapes and Colors Into Philosophy

It's said that a picture is worth a thousand words. And in this case of Philographics, a Kickstarter project that attempts to explain complex philosophic theories with graphic pictures of basic geometric shapes and colors, a picture is worth 28,250 words -- the reported number of words one encyclopedia uses to explain the philosophy of relativism.

The project is both a book (a "visual philosophical dictionary") as well as a collection of postcards with 95 philosophical designs, of such concepts as dualism, existentialism, reductionism, free-will, and relativism, among many other "-isms." The images are accompanied by a sentence describing the philosophic concept.

For instance, dualism -- which concerns sets of two contrasting things from any larger element, popularly compared as good with evil in the world -- is portrayed with light orange and blue circles enmeshed together, thereby making a smaller oval shape in the middle. Or take determinism, which the project dubs, "The proposition that all events, including those of human thoughts, are casually determined by an unbroken chain of prior events," and is portrayed with a white circle knocking over a yellowish-green rectangle among several other rectangles in a line. The knocking over of the first rectangle has a ripple effect which leads to the knocking over of the second one and so forth, and each successive rectangle is a shade darker, with the last one completely green.

Then there's relativism, which the project defines as, "the assertion that no belief can be said to have absolute truth, having value only within a certain context or frame of reference." This is depicted as a series of circles all enmeshed together side by side so as to appear blurry with different shades of gray blended together and forming ovals. The symbolism of which, I presume, is that things aren't black and white, that two circles while seemingly the same aren't necessarily so.

The project, started by a British graphic designer Genis Carreras, has certainly sparked people's interest. It's received more than double its funding goal of 15,000 pounds (roughly $23,000 dollars) with 837 backers worldwide and still 23 days left to fund it, as of this writing. It will receive its funding on May 23.

The postcards are meant to be more casual use -- mailed to a colleague or hung up on your wall as a cool design, for instance; whereas the larger book is meant to serve more as a teaching method as well as a memento for book design lovers, among others. Those who pledge 25 pounds will receive an original postcard box with the prints before it comes out, and those who pledge 40 pounds or more will receive the hardcover book.

"I started using geometric shapes while I was exploring different ways to communicate ideas visually," wrote Carreras, whom I contacted via email. "Their lack of detail and mathematical perfection makes them very abstract and conceptual, easy to attach meaning to them and convert them into symbols."

He compared Philographics to his time in grade school attempting to digest whole subjects, some several hundred pages long, into only several tight pages, relying solely on key words and images to study for exams. "I think the designs are catalysers that make people think about the ideas behind the visuals, sometimes they connect with what they already know, sometimes they just follow their intuition from what the colour and shapes suggest," he wrote.

If only I had his Philographics book or postcards when I studied philosophy in college from a book that was roughly 1,000 pages long. This project is just a tad bit easier and fun to digest.