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Artist Educator Graphic Designer Ed Fella was born in 1938 in Detroit, Michigan. He is an artist, educator and graphic designer whose work has had an important influence on contemporary typography. He practiced professionally as a commercial artist in Detroit for 30 years before receiving an mfa in Design from the Cranbrook Academy of Art in 1987. He has since devoted his time to teaching at the California Institute for the Arts and his own unique self-published work which has appeared in many design publications and anthologies. His work is in the National Design Museum and moma in New York. In 1997 he received the Chrysler Award, in 1999 an Honorary Doctorate from ccs in Detroit and in 2007 the aiga Medal.1

CalArts program event poster from Letters on America, Princeton Architectural Press, New York

Over the years, Fella has created a body of work that’s as compelling as it is unique. Prodigiously mashing up low-culture sources with high-culture erudition, Fella’s work—perhaps more than that of any other contemporary designer— makes visible the postmodern concept of deconstruction, which recognizes that behind every articulated meaning is a host of other, usually repressed meanings, some antithetical. By battering and mixing fonts, engaging in visual puns and generally violating the tenets of “good design,” Fella lets a thousand flowers bloom. His designs don’t cut through the clutter, they revel in it. Now over 70, Edward Fella dubs himself an exit-level designer, but is tirelessly pursuing his personal explorations as well as archiving his own output. Fella has created a body of work that’s as compelling as it is unique.2

T I e E S t I Y A s t i E e S -Ed Fella

CalArts faculty lecture poster from Letters on America, Princeton Architectural Press, New York

Even his high school level education set the stage for later development. “Cass Tech taught the Bauhaus foundation method, where the art schools at the time in Detroit were steeped in the Beaux Arts,” Fella says. “So I actually got a more advanced education in high school than I would have had I gone to college at that point.” One of those lessons was the Bauhaus credo of eliminating the line between the so-called fine and applied arts. Hand-painted

messages, stick-on letters, graffiti and neon, even initials and names cut into the bark of trees by amorous lovers, have captured Fella’s attention. He meticulously crops his subjects, selecting particular phrases or letters to render his photos ambiguous, humorous or full of hidden meaning. Words float behind the reflections of storefront glass, are faded by the sun, are cracking, flaking and falling off. or are obscured by Fella’s own shadow. The square polaroids

are reproduced at nearly exact size, arranged on a grid of nine photographs are numerous typographic doodles and snippets from gallery invitations, faculty events at CalArts and other projects. Bold images chronicle the cross-country proliferation of signage. Inspiration from signs translate into his typography illustrations. These collages mesh neatly together with the images and provide and example of how Fella’s photographic archive informs his unique style.3

Polaroid photographs from Letters on America, Princeton Architectural Press, New York


so you



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eat it Copyright © 2012 Hannah J. Sherwood, Portland, Maine, Maine College of Art

Printed from a Canon Image Runner onto 40# text Photos: Ed Fella pp. 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 10 and 11 from Two Lines Align, California Institute of the Arts4 Blackwell, Lewis and Lorraine Wild. Letters on America. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000. 1

aiga. “Ed Fella” aiga Medal, http://www. 2

Krayna, Philip. Book Reviews. Photography Annual 42: Communication Arts, 2001. 3

Disney, Roy and Edna. Two Lines Align. California: redcat, 2008. 4

Edward Fella - More Into Less  
Edward Fella - More Into Less  

Artist Book designed by Hannah Sherwood All imagery by Ed Fella, please see final spread for my sources