Category Archives: Designer Spotlight

Skolos + Wedell: Collaging Process

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 Poster Lyceum

Skolos-Wedell Poster RISDSkolos Wedell Poster Lyceum FellowshipSkolos and Wedell Poster Social Media

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Hello twenty thirteen

I’m baaack. This past Christmas break felt more deserved than ever before. My first semester at MICA revealed a daunting reality to me: making art is hard. And, the practice of art making takes so much time and repetition to get it just right…but even then it’s always subject to change because it’s art and it’s never really done. But now that I’m over the hump of my initial exposure to art school, I want to make sure I keep up with my blog. I love writing and sharing my observations, inspirations, and opinions with others…and there’s so much to share while you’re immersed in an academic environment.

One of my “designer moments” during the fall semester was when I was able to pinpoint the particular aesthetic style of my work. I like designs that are very graphic and colorful that are rich in typographic form. This style is reflected in much of the Dutch design work of the late twentieth century through today. Thanks to my new Meggs’ History of Graphic Design book, I’ve enjoyed learning about the Dutch culture and history and the ways in which it has influenced their overall approach to design. I can particularly relate to this line from the book: “Dutch citizens prize their individuality and free expression and extend this freedom to others, creating a social climate that encourages innovation.” An example of this approach is Studio Dumbar, a rad little brand identity design company based in Rotterdam in South Holland, as well as in Shanghai, China and Seoul, Korea. Founded by Gert Dumbar who got his training from London’s Royal College of Art, Studio Dumbar prizes itself on encouraging individual expression and diverse techniques. It’s a culture that fosters intuition and humor. By the 1980s, many other designers were mimicking the studio’s design style.

Below is a taste of what they make…

This is an integrated branding campaign for C Broadcasting in which Studio Dumbar devised a system of dots and the letter ‘C’ as a brand identity. I really enjoy that the ‘C’ can appear in different variations of the CMYK color palette and dotted texture and still appear as one recognizable brand system. Truly clever, and I want a pair of those glasses!

Studio Dumbar C Broadcasting

This campaign is especially interesting because you’d never guess what it’s for. It’s a new brand for a French insurance company merger. Wild, right?! I love it because the simple application of geometric shapes creates such an interesting pattern. It feels so fresh and exciting. They did a great job applying the design to many communications platforms…visit the website to see the full campaign and learn more.



Lastly, I wanted to share some of Studio Dumbar’s work for the government because their designs for the Dutch postal service (former called the Royal Dutch PPT and now TPGPOST) influenced the beginning of a widespread shift in more expressive design in the public space. I couldn’t find the actual TPGPOST designs but below are comparable designs for the Dutch Government, which you can explore more here.

Studio Dumbar Dutch Government

And, we meet again

Oh hi. Looky here, I didn’t drop off the face of the earth…

I encountered an unplanned blogging hiatus aka I quit the Internet for a bit just as I hit the “refresh button” on my life so to speak. After 5 years doing consulting, I quit before going back to school at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) for graphic design this fall!!!!!!!! And let me tell you, free time is a blessing because I’ve finally gotten a chance to really relax and really play (and read for pleasure–what a novel concept), while also being truly immersed in the summer time happenings of DC both solo and with many loved ones. But I miss blogging, WordPressing, Googling, and spending endless hours of my idle time online. So, here we meet again.

Last Friday, my friend and mentor Shawn Moriarty invited me to his exhibition “Mass Fad Discharge” at the Transformer Gallery in DC. As a part of the Emerging Artists program, Shawn and two other artists–Christie Liberatore and Noelle Weber used humor (some potty, some not) and lots of GLITTERY GOLD to mock popular trends seen in modern day design that are, well, crap. The exhibition logo seen below on the window and toilet lids which is part of Christie’s design, is in the shape of a blob of poop. Very pretty poop might I add, which was designed by Noelle. And if you were to reach your hand into the toilet (duh, I did) you can score some chocolate wrapped in gold!

Besides the toilets, Noelle designed an entire wall of messages some done by hand and toilet paper and others using the computer and complete with shabby chic frames. Together the various elements tell a complete story about the her take on over done design fads of today.

Shawn’s work spanned the other wall from floor to ceiling. He started with a canvas of gold paint on the wall and adorned it with a series of three portraits of his cat in a collage motif. The work continued to your feet where there was glittery gold sand, a pooped scooper, The piece was intended to look monumental with the heights in which they are placed on the wall and the lights shining up on them.

Overall, I dug the various approaches and materials the three artist took to communicate the same message. For more pictures of Mass Fad Discharge, visit the Transformer Facebook page, and if you’re in the neighborhood pop in to see it before it ends on August 18th.

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Typeface Tuesdays: Type Connection

Oh do I have a treat for you on this rainy Tuesday!

It’s only two words but a whole lot of type fun — Type Connection.

Basically, this site is a typographic dating game, which means you match typefaces much like you would match two people looking for love. This site is really clever, well constructed site which is clearly founded on a lot of thorough research and typographic expertise. Aura Seltzer, the MICA MFA graphic design graduate who is the brainchild behind this project, knows how to add a dose of humor to make type matching easy and fun. Case in point: Adobe Garamond Pro describes himself as “A modern-day, high renaissance man.”

Hmmm, he might be my type.

Ok, take a peak at the game below… as you can see when you scroll over a type character it changes to green and presents a description. Double click on the character and it takes you another screen where you can choose its match.

Once you’re sick of type matching, or if you just want to get the low down on the best typeface matches from the getgo (aka “you’re tired of being played”), check out the Meet the Matches tab…

Happy playing and remember to keep an open mind when it comes to matching.

And take some time to check out more of Aura’s awesome work, and follow Type Connection at @typeconnection.

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Typeface Tuesdays: Barbara Kruger

A week ago I stumbled upon the work of Barbara Kruger, the American conceptual artist, at the National Portrait Gallery as I was strolling through after work…

I immediately liked it. You see, I’ve always had a thing for artwork that is made up by multiple pieces, which tells a different story depending on the arrangement or if you deduct/add pieces. Beyond that I love how its dynamic and vibrant, and the way she incorporates type with the images is simply brilliant. It’s a little hard to see but the message here (with text on each picture) is “We will no longer be seen and no heard.” When Kruger refers to “we” she means women and anyone else who struggles to have power in society during the 1940s/50s. She is not to afraid to say what’s on her mind and raise a taboo topic, which I appreciate.

I did a little more research and was blown away by the career Kruger built focused around the use of type and beyond that her poignant and meaningful messaging. This lady had a powerful way with words.

For instance, check out this Helvetica wrap job she did on the Lever Building on New York City’s Park Ave. Go to this article to see more extraordinary images of this building’s text-y interior. (Yes, that way intended).

I like a lot of her work, including some of the following pieces…

Hilarious…this one has the tone of…clearly ahead of her time


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Typeface Tuesday: Good Work Takes Hard Work

Hey kiddos. This poster by Brent Couchman is rad!

It’s a nifty compilation of lines and shapes to make up a clever and interesting typeface. And, the message itself is on point. Just as this design took hard work I’m sure, so do all things in life that are most rewarding. So enjoy this work of art and remember to WORK HARD at those jobs, relationships, projects, adventures, and endeavors that mean the mean the most to you and the direction your life is taking.

And, but of course, PLAY HARD. Life is long but in the end too short.

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Typeface Tuesday: Creativity and Play in Savannah

This past weekend, I visited Savannah for the long weekend. I figured it was time to step away from my Northern scene for a few days, and check out the charms of a smaller city, including things like the Spanish moss and gorgeous, grassy squares, friendly folks all around, and plenty of fried tomatoes Paula Dean-style. It was a fun, relaxing, and inspiring weekend–the best of both worlds.

As such, we had to check out SCAD–how can you not, it’s everywhere in Savannah. Plus, I love art and design…so we visited the SCAD Museum of Art right by the water, the SCAD Store (definitely picked up some goodies–even a funky, retro tie painted with acrylic paint), and the campus itself. While there I spotted the work of some of the graphic design students, and one of the pieces I loved from a typography perspective was Jamie Slater’s Creativity and Play poster. The poster overall is very sophisticated, intricate, and endless amusing to the eye while also being well-organized within the grid. The type he created for it has all the same attributes. Apparently, he designed it by using lots of small dots, and during the process he let himself be comfortable with making mistakes. As some what of a perfectionist when I design, I love this concept of letting oneself let loose and seeing what happens… well, in this case, it worked out marvelously.

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Typeface Tuesdays: Matteo of Mucca NYC

I was overcome by events yesterday, and wasn’t able to get this post out…

I never knew design could be so funny. That was until I encountered Matteo Bologna–graphic artist, typeface designer (mostly display faces), and owner of Mucca, a branding and design firm in New York–at last Thursday’s AIGADC event with my design buddy, Annie.

With his thick Italian accent and un-ironic moustache, he took us on a journey of how he took the design field by storm as a foreign-national over a decade ago. It was really funny to hear him talk about how he had shed his male Italian mindset towards advertising (e.g. using the female body to sell). Besides being hilarious, it quickly became evident that Matteo and his team are very talented and have influenced a lot well-known brands I was already well familiar with.

“I have a morbid passion for type that no one cares about like I do.”

Balthazzar: Developed the logo and menu design before the restaurant even opened, helping making Balthazzar’s reputation what it is today

Sant Ambroeus Restaurant: Developed the new identity for this 1930s restaurant, by updating the “weird” type, creating a secondary typeface, and adding a religious look and feel

BrooklynFare: Developed the brand identity for this local Brooklyn-based grocery store, and of course humor was involved…check out this video ad…

And last but certainly not least… I will end with my favorite…

Schiller’s Liquor Bar: Developed an identity that was supposed to look “undesigned” which was applied to the bar front, menus (inspired by hole-in-the-wall Italian joints where the chef would handwrite the menu), and even the wine bottles.

According to Mr. Mucca, the trick to designing a typeface like this is to create 3 variations for each letter because then it actually appears handwritten. He used Opentype to create it.

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Typeface Tuesday: The Late Doyald Young

The first time I laid eyes on Doyald in a video last year, I was taken with him and his work. I soon realized there was something extraordinary about this individual. He was a prominent typeface designer with an unmatched passion and love for the written letter. His designs are not only beautifully crafted but all one of a kind creations. He was trained to design by hand only using paper, pencil, and a ruler and he continued in that fashion even as computer design became mainstream, but now a good portion of his work has been turned into commercial fonts. Unfortunately, Doyald passed away last February during a routine surgery, but his legacy has and surely will continue to live on forever.

Haha, I get a kick out of this one…clearly he had a sense of humor too

An image of him in the process of designing…

A collection of his logo designs…

This is interesting…an example of one of his crits of a student’s work

And I just adore his smiling face…what a gem he was

Typeface Tuesdays: Stefan Sagmeister

This week I’m making a conscious effort to not be tardy for the party. So here goes.

One of the design things I have had on my mind as of late is experimential type in the form of food. You see, I have this poster I designed for the play I Am My Own Wife, which I need to give some more dimension to. Right now I have the type as letters cut out of paper adhered to a cutting board. The idea is that the letters are being rolled out but really it’s just not believable because who rolls out paper? Ha.

So, I am going to take it to the next level but incorporating food somehow. The cutting board doesn’t need to be there necessarily, but I do want nod to the kitchen to some degree in order to convey a domestic feel. Plus, I really want to roll up my sleeves and play with food!

To give you a sense of what I’ve designed so far, below are some images from the photo shoot I’ve been playing around with…

This project reminds me of one of my favorite outlandish and super clever designers — Stefan Sagmeister — who I’ve mentioned before. This description of Sagmeister conveys, in part, why his work resonates with me: “Sagmeister is known for his stunning and original approach to the design of album art, magazine spreads, advertising and installation works. He often takes a renegade, DIY approach to type; in 1999 he made a poster by photographing words he had scratched onto his torso.” (excerpt from 2008 NYT blog post).  For the most part, his work is very conceptual and technical (labor-intensive).

Sagmeister also has this amazing approach to his life, his work, how he gets inspired, etc. You really need to watch a few Ted Talks videos to get a better sense of him and I assure you, at the very least, you’ll be fascinated. He’s also got an amusing accent. Go here, and here. This videos include some more examples of his work.

“Laziness is Bad For the Soul” — This one is a little gross but I like the thought behind it. And, oddly, I find something humorous about it.

“The Happy Film” — Here he uses negative space to create the shapes of the letters. It does evoke happiness because watermelon makes you think of summer time and summer is for playing and fun.

“Everything I Do Always Comes Back to Me” — This one is interesting but reminds me that a little can go a long way. This type is pretty hard to read in all of the images I found of it.

“Obsessions Make My Life Worse and My Work Better” — This one isn’t food-related, but brilliant. They are actually thousands of pennies.

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