The Elements
Introduction by Steff Geissbuhler.

Eugene and Anne Timerman invent alphabets with universal visual elements. Shape, point, line, plane, and color are their basic letter forms. Eugene then learns to speak that visual language until he is fluent within his newly created vocabulary. He speaks many different languages, philosophical and abstract, witty and amusing. Some overwhelm us with what seems like, endless variations and possibilities, and yet others are sparse and concise, working within self-imposed limitations.

Eugene Timerman is a designer and researcher, exploring and finding new visual expressions and vocabularies. He expresses himself like an architect, musician, storyteller, scientist, modernist, futurist, comedian, and cartoonist. At times we recognize his Constructivist ancestors, but also the De Stijl movement, emanating in Holland. Adrian Frutiger, one of the most influential type designers has been a major influence. At other times the starting points or end results seem rooted in American pop culture.

Anne Timerman works with similar forms in architecture and her occasional photographs remind us that this visual language exists already in nature and man-made structures, but we just have stopped to recognize them. The forms are so familiar to us as concrete things, that we simply no longer see the interplay of abstract forms within. The more basic and abstract the shapes, the more our imagination can see. Timerman imposes often a fixed grid of five-by-five elements—just one letter short of our alphabet. Are visual symbols always just short of being as versatile as our verbal language? Or is it a self-imposed limitation for each experiment to look like a logical matrix, when in fact it is a pretty random collection of configurations?

What are we to make out of the doubling or sequencing of elements from 2, 4, 8, to 16? Is there more, or is it a magical number of creative possibilities? It is very interesting to see the results of combining elements and to both be able to backtrack the process and project further possibilities. Timermans’ explorations let us in on their process and at the same time invite us to make up our own. We all have played with building blocks, Legos, erector sets, and other toys made up of elements, all of which come with instruction sheets showing possible and usually predictable results and how to achieve them.

A house, a car, a man, etc. Children, however, quickly go beyond the obvious and let their imagination and creativity be their only limitation to explore new forms, combining the elements with other toys and disregarding all rules. Timerman lets the kid in him out to play and shows us in an almost scientific way, new, creatures, and configurations which could have only sprung from his imagination. Above all, the Timermans show us that all creative forms are developed in a similar fashion, whether systematic or at random, with basic geometric shapes at their core.

This book is inspirational and exciting for the designers and artists in all of us, for tots and sots of all ages, places, and persuasions.

Select which elements are used to build the matrix: click on elements to de/select them. Click on any matrix cell to keep it. 

The matrix was created in collaboration with Misha Dynin, a long-time Google engineer and the founder of Dynin Labs. Misha’s research focuses on compartmentalizing computer complexity and the development of a new language for archival-quality software.