Yesterday, on a whim I decided to participate in a terrific workshop with Nancy Skolos and Thomas Wedell. I say on a “whim” because I am really trying to cut back on the extra commitments I make in the new year but last-minute said to myself what the heck I’m doing it. Let’s be honest, I make rules so I can break them.
I’m glad I went with my gut because it turned out to be 100% worth it. The pair, who are married and run a design studio together called Skolos + Wedell (really love that she comes first in the company name), are one of those dream, power design couples. Kind of like Ellen Lupton and Abbott Miller. Or Jessica Hische and Russ Maschmeyer.
Nancy and Tom both attended Cranbrook Academy of Art, which you can see in their shared aesthetic. When the workshop started up my first reaction–OK, second because my first was that they are a talented duo–was these two are funny and playful. They have a great dynamic together, they laugh a lot, and they see the value in breaking design rules. The workshop consisted of learning their process to “break the ice” when you’re encountering a new design challenge–a method to remedy facing the dreaded BLANK CANVAS.
More specifically, it’s a collaging process that involves using 2- to 3-inch size pieces of paper cut from books and magazines (and maybe even previous design drafts). The paper must consist of only angular lines in order to effectively line them up to create new structure by making interesting relationships with the slivers of photos, drawings, and typography. After taping together several collages to 8.5 x 11 inch white paper, use a cropper to frame your design (you can get more than one layouts from a single collage). Then, grab some tracing paper and draw out the shapes you like. Next, you have to edit back so it will work for the purpose of your design. Finally, you bring the layout into the computer to guide designing your final work. This visual structural format doesn’t apply well to all design projects but does with mediums like posters and book covers.
The main concept is to “go to structure to get your mind fluid; then think about the content in a structured way” according to Tom. He and Nancy encouraged us to not think too hard, forget the formal rules we usually abide by, and just feel it. I love being intuitive and definitely gained another set of tools to add to my toolbox.
You can see the results of this process in a sampling of their posters below. Look at the dynamic relationships in their work like how image and type overlap, as well as the complexity of the overall composition. Browse through the entirety of their published work on skolos-wedell.com.