Infographic: The Meaning Of Life Explained In 95 Simple Shapes

This book on philographics presents simple, elegant visual representations of mind-bogglingly complex philosophical theories.

If you’ve been looking for a quick visual cheat sheet for a Philosophy 101 exam, you’re in luck. Philographics–distillations of mind-boggling philosophical theories into basic shapes and colors–are coming out in book and postcard form. Philographics: Big Ideas In Simple Shapes, by Spanish graphic designer Genis Carreras, was funded in May through a Kickstarter campaign that raised over 65,000 GBP–four times his goal. After Carreras’s self-published first edition sold out, Bis Publishers picked up the project and is publishing a sleek second edition, which will be released in April 2014.


Carreras first unleashed Philographics on the Internet in 2011 to viral acclaim. In this book, 95–isms that have confounded philosophers for centuries are turned into bright, geometric logos, accompanied by bite-sized explanations of each theory. (We present 17 of these in the slide show above.)

“The project merges the world of philosophy and graphic design, two areas that seem completely opposite: one is heavy and complex, the other eye-catchy and fast-consumed,” Carreras writes in the book’s introduction. The book categorizes its icons into six branches of philosophy: Metaphysics, Ethics, Epistemology, Politics, Religion, and Other. Carreras uses a system of gray arrows to indicate when theories are directly related to one another.

The idea for Philographics came to Carreras during his last year in college, when he was looking for a simple way to explain philosophy to a generation of visual learners–“people with a short attention span who struggle to finish the books they buy,” as he says in the book.

Absurdism, or “the contention that the attempts of man to find meaning in the universe will ultimately fail because no such meaning exists,” is represented here by a turquoise question mark encompassing a circle on a blue background. Egalitarianism, “a political ideology that holds that all people should be treated as equals,” is signified by a peach-colored equals sign, not unlike the viral gay marriage equality symbol. And Skepticism is elegantly visualized as a red slash on a green background. Maybe if Socrates had drawn simple pictures like these instead of confusing everyone with his Method, they wouldn’t have fed him that hemlock.

If you find philosophy to be a bunch of grumpy old dudes engaged in a fancy-word competition, Philographics will offer some refreshing clarity. If you still suspect bullshit, though, be vindicated by Sartre’s own self-incriminating words: “If I became a philosopher, if I have so keenly sought this fame for which I’m still waiting, it’s all been to seduce women basically.” So if your professor ever asks: No Exit is just one extremely long and complicated pick-up line, and Existentialism can be summed up by two bisected, intersecting heart shapes in pink and gray.

You can pre-order the book for $18.24 here.


About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.