Feb, 2011

Home-made street posters are the raw material of Cardon Webb’s project, Cardon Copy, an exercise in transformation.

Lost and Found

Cardon Webb was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and raised in Boise, Idaho. He now lives in New York City, where as a graphic designer and artist he tries to capture the ‘ever-evolving environments, patterns, colours and people’ of the metropolis in his work. He has collaborated with the likes of David Salle, Maya Hayuk and Andrew Schoultz, and recently his work featured in a solo exhibition in the city’s Type Directors Club (TDC). For his Cardon Copy project, as he tells Frame, he hijacks home-made street fliers and tear-offs, subjects them to professional design and so transforms them.

Why did you start redesigning posters?
Cardon Webb: It began as an experiment. I wanted to demonstrate the power of visual communication, It also gives me a medium for creation and self-expression, allowing me to combine my art, design and typographic ideas. By considering, then altering, such things as colour, composition, image and type, I can transform a common street flier with a message as simple as ‘I lost my cat’ into something more interesting. The message changes, although the text is the same, work for word. Is the new visual language helping or harming the message? Will products sell better? Will ads get a  bigger response? Are people more inclined to notice the message, yet not necessarily trust it? What demographic will answer an ad for a rental apartment when the poster is handwritten in marker rather than printed and well designed? The medium and the design of a message can affect the success or failure of its communication and purpose. I’m hoping to start this type of conversation.

Do you think something in your background explains why you’ve gravitated to this kind of street design?
I grew up skateboarding, playing in bands and writing on walls. I like to think these influences are subtly apparent in my work, given that they are a large part of who I am today. I developed a style naturally, early on, without realizing it–not until people started pointing it out. I draw a lot of influence from contemporary and low-brow art and design, as well as from nostalgic and throwback design from the mid-20th century.

Is there a certain geographical area in which you harvest posters?
I live in Queens, New York, so by default the majority of the fliers I redesign originate in Queens–about 75 percent, I’d say. The rest are from either Manhattan or Brooklyn.

Many of them have a sense of pathos – lost pets, for example. Is this part of the appeal?
I think so. Theses fliers are naturally very human and even intimate, from one person to another, communicating a specific need. It’s important to note that I am not dismissing these simple posters by redesigning them. In fact, I appreciate the originals, aesthetically and conceptually. Because of this, I only redesign fliers that appear in multiples, This way, both the original and the redesign–or Cardon Copy–coexist in the community to be compared and contrasted. I like to think that what I’m doing helps people discover what is often overlooked or neglected.

Your work has generated a lot of interest?
I see a number of reasons for that. The posters are familiar, something all of us have seen, ignored, related to or commented on in the past. They evoke feelings of pity or compassion. I think a successful piece of art should elicit a polar reaction from its audience. That’s where the interesting conversation takes place. I have been called a ‘genius’ and an ‘egotist’ on the same day. Some people say I shouldn’t do what I do. Some pick apart the design. Others can laugh at it. Cardon Copy is meant to be slightly facetious. There is something comical about seeing familiar street fliers presented in such an elaborate way.

How long have you been doing this?
I started Cardon Copy two years ago. In the beginning, the project wasn’t as well defined as it is now. Originally, I was working with any handwritten type and signage – things like price tags from fruit stands, bodega lotto posters – even a homeless man’s cardboard sign. Something about the street fliers made them the most satisfying. Tampering with the messages by injecting a little design sense gives such a surprising result. I enjoy each one in a different way. I’ve done around 31. I went a couple of months without doing one and found myself really missing it: the creative process, seeing the final outcome, and going out to re- post the finished design.

How does Cardon Copy relate to your day job?
I’m a book designer, and I’m loving it. Similar to the Cardon Copies, my book covers consist of a limited amount of copy and imagery. I spend my days looking for new and interesting ways to marry these two elements.

The Great Indoors: Issue 78: Jan/Feb 2011, pg 218-219

Words by Jane Szita