VCFA co-chair

We just finished up our latest MFA in Graphic Design residency at VCFA – loads of amazing work from returning students, insanely talented new students, and a motivated and hungry class that graduated. The residency included a bit of a surprise, as well – in July, I will be starting as Co-Chair of the program with my good friend N. Silas Munro. Stay posted for more exciting news from VCFA!!


Poster Collection 26: Japan – Nippon, a book I spent a significant amount of time working on as a co-editor just came out.

Published by Lars Müller, it’s a 112-page book with tons of images of Japanese posters from the early Modern period through today.

We also recently redesigned the identity for Kokusai Soushoku, one of Tokyo’s most successful interior design and production companies. It was a giant honor to be asked, given that the original mark was designed by the grandfather of the owner Junichiro Kawanishi in 1931. From Isetan to Mitsukoshi to Louis Vuitton to Tod’s, Kokusai’s handiwork is everywhere, virtually holding up the luxury sector in Tokyo.


I’ve been re-posting a number of older essays that are and aren’t going to be in my upcoming book over at DMIJ as of late. Check them out here, here, and here. Next up: a new essay in the new issue of Slanted, a workshop in Korea, and a bunch more for-now-clandestine projects…


CalArts 2014 T-Shirt Show

Last night after a grueling day and night of making user interface designs, I snuck this tee shirt design in for CalArts’ Graphic Design Department’s 2014 T-Shirt Show.

CalArts 2014 T-Shirt Show

The annual show, in the words of alumna Thea Lorentzen from a recent issue of IDEA:

As far as traditions go, the CalArts T-shirt show is a relatively new phenomenon. The first event was held just ten years ago. Today, current students and faculty as well as alumni contribute designs that are then screen printed onto t-shirts and sold to the rest of the school, as well as visitors. The frenzy begins during t-shirt printing. For one long day, the lab fills up with design students, all with inked hands and dirty rags, ready to fold and print over 60 patterns and as many as 400 shirts. The t-shirt show and sale take place on a Thursday night during the CalArts gallery openings. Hordes of students that would normally be wandering freely through the halls actually line up to buy t-shirts and tote bags. The line can extend out from the cafeteria and back into the galleries. The t-shirt designs themselves might be simple or intricate, disgusting or humorous. Sometimes they make fun of how little sleep students get. Sometimes they announce how much we love Walt Disney. Ed Fella’s designs always sell out first. But all designs proudly bear the name of the school, and in doing so, remind us of why everyone is excited enough to wait in line.


CalArts 2014 T-Shirt Show

Over 30 years ago, before he was a teacher at CalArts, Ed Fella lived in Detroit. The local arts organization made some bumper stickers that said “Ya gotta have art.” Ever the contrarian, Ed made his own bumper stickers which read, “Art is an ethnocentric cultural construct that you don’t gotta have.”

This shirt design is a Japanese localization with as much nuance applied to the meaning as possible which reads, “美術は自文化中心主義的な社会構造であり、なくてもいいものである”. The linguistic and orthographic disconnect seemed somehow appropriate, but that’s also what happens when you design something at 5am.


I have started re-releasing a handful of older essays on Ben Thomas’ new website Design Made in Japan. The first one is up now – an essay on Japanese Modernism.



Spectra, a book featuring the work of the CalArts GD classes of 2013, is out now. What follows is text culled from the official press release:

Released in January 2014, Spectra, a slim, fluorescent volume, is the first comprehensive collection of student work from California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) Graphic Design Program in over a decade. Spectra showcases the work of CalArts’ Graphic Design class of 2013. Representing a range of values along more than one continuum—from print to electronic media, personal work to collaborative efforts—the work displays a fluidity between concept-driven and formal solutions.

Spectra’s co-editor Benjamin Woodlock comments on the concept behind the publication. “Whereas a single spectrum describes a smooth path with infinite values in between, the geometry of many is flecked with intersections that are distinct points of reference. Spectra examines these nodes, suggesting threads that run through individual bodies of work as well as well as the work of the Graphic Design Program as a whole.” Adds co-editor Sarah Faith Gottesdiener, “We wanted to give the world a look into our program as a whole, as well as document work produced under the tutelage of noted faculty member, Ed Fella, who retired from teaching this year.”

The publication features a one part honest, one part depressing, one part inspirational introduction essay from noted Graphic Design Program alumnus Ian Lynam, who currently lives and works in Tokyo. Current faculty Lorraine Wild and Gail Swanlund also contributed essays.

Spectra uses typefaces by CalArts alumnae Jens Gehlhaar and Andrea Tinnes. The book was designed and edited by recent MFA grads Sarah Faith Gottesdiener and Benjamin Woodlock.

The book will be for sale at the LA Book Fair, January 31st to February 2nd at the Leisure Labor Table (run by CalArts Graphic Design alums Laura Bernstein, Scott Massey, and Masato Nakada).

Limited edition copies can be purchased for $15 + shipping starting in February by contacting Sarah.gottesdiener@gmail.com.



DC/LA hardcore enthusiast and graphic designer Alex Pines will be lecturing in my Graphic Design 2 class at Temple University Japan on February 6th at noon. You are invited!


A couple of interlinked Graphic Design II and III projects from the upcoming semester at Temple University Japan:


Reading: In Defense of the Poor Image by Hito Steyerl
Reading: DDDDoomed by R. Gerald Nelson
Reading/research: trendlist.org

The proliferation of Pinterest has shown that the aggregation of others’ imagery is a striking component of contemporary culture. Simultaneously, contemporary Graphic Design has taken on aggressively reductive, repetitive tendencies.

Collect 20 images from the internet, treat in Photoshop using halftones and linescreens, give your collection a title, then design an image-driven A5 booklet using solely the stylistic tropes from trendlist.org.

Print your booklet with a 4-color cover and 1-color interiors.


Reading: The Global Style by Mr. Keedy

Write 500 critical words on the reading in prose form expressing your opinions, then using the raw material from your Karma Chameleon booklet, design an expressive image-driven A5 booklet in your own style. Print your booklet with a 4-color cover and 1-color interiors.


We wrote up our best of 2013 bits over at Néojaponisme a few days ago. See them here.

Also, Typodarium 2014 was just released – Slanted’s font-a-day tear-off calendar. Ed Benguiat, Luc(as) de Groot, Veronika Burian and I served as this year’s panel of judges, selecting our favorite fonts of the year for inclusion.

You can pick it up here.


I wrote up a “Best of” Japanese typography for 2013 for PingMag a few weeks ago – you can see it here.