The Pavilions of Honour
Source collection Ed Fella
“Ed’s work marks a sea change in graphic design,” says Lorraine Wild, a 2006 AIGA medalist. “He introduced ambivalence and ambiguity, the multiple meanings of design as text and subtext, and that graphic designers are really artists.”
This is only one of hundreds of “after the fact” flyers that Ed Fella has created as souvenirs for attendees of events. This one contains a fake Dutch stamp with a windmill and reflects upon a Font Shop lecture by Fella in Rotterdam 1998.
Flyer for Fabrica, Catene di Villora, Italy, 1997. On the verso, Fella made a clown-like gondala figure, wearing a gondolier’s hat, out of lettering and the words “Art” ( making up the face); “Craftiness” making up the bow tie; with the torso made up of the words “Artful Craftiness etc.” Thus, the figure makes fun of “artful craftiness”.
Poster announcement, CalArts program in graphic design: Rudy Vanderlans, 1992. Vanderlans is a type and graphic designer from Dutch origin and the co-founder of Emigre, an independent type foundry and magazine.
Ed Fella worked for ciommercial design firms firms — “They were all along Congress Avenue, which was kind of Detroit’s Madison Avenue at the time,” he says — creating fairly tame collateral for the auto and healthcare industries. But on his own time, he was a member of artist collectives like the Detroit Focus gallery, the Detroit Artist Market, and others, where could really let loose and experiment.
Ed Fella’s book LETTERS oN AMERicA documents the ‘vernacular’ aspect of US signage. It shows 1100 Polaroids, one-third of a collection taken over the past twelve years, of every kind of non-corporate, hand-made, weathered, imperfect piece of lettering you can imagine. These are interspersed with examples of Ed’s own drawn letterforms.
Flyer announcing a lecture by Fella at Fabrica, Catene di Villora, Italy, 1997. Fabrica (est. 1994) is a communications research centre in Treviso, Italy financed by the Benetton Group. It produces Colors magazine amongst other projects, and was then directed by Oliviero Toscani.
Fella’s sketchbooks now number over 100 volumes. The left side of the open sketchbook usually includes a faintly penciled thought, word, poem, or sentence. This is complemented on the facing right page by the integration of the actual lettering within an illustrated composition that is created with graphite pencil, ballpoint pen, and colored pencils, which add saturated shades and tones from throughout the spectrum.