Apr, 2011

“You will read something in the near future.”

Posters of Fortune

Cracking open a fortune cookie at the end of a Chinese meal and seeing if/how the inside message personally relates to our individual lives is all part of the fun and good times. But the fact is, we all know the prophecies are mass produced, completely generic, and totally random. Even beyond the universal words, the fortunes share the same unconsidered design and ultra-ordinary typography. Thus, it all comes down to how we interpret the meaning of the message.

But what if we took a fortune cookie’s fortune, altered its context, and gave it a major redesign overhaul? How would the message be read differently? Or for that matter, would it? Now through May 12th, a new exhibit and silent auction at the Type Directors Club (TDC) in New York City, Posters of Fortune, features crave-worthy posters of re-imagined fortune cookie sayings by twenty internationally renowned designers and typographers.

Posters of Fortune curator and New York-based graphic designer Cardon Webb was curious to explore such questions as, “Will the fortunes be more or less impactful in their new medium? Is the message less intimate or more appropriate? Are people more inclined to notice the message, but not as trusting of it as a well-designed printed poster?”

In fact, for some time Webb has been fascinated with how injecting things like color, concept, composition, and type can literally breathe new life and meaning into a message. He shares, “The show idea is (loosely) based on a project of mine called Cardon Copy, which I started while studying at the School of Visual Arts. Cardon Copy involves hijacking self-distributed street fliers and tear-offs we’ve all seen in our neighborhoods (like a ‘missing cat’ sign) and redesigning them with a new visual language.”

Webb’s concept so intrigued the Type Directors Club that they not only featured his Cardon Copy posters at TDC in 2009, they invited him to curate a show based on the project in 2010 and again this year.

In conjunction with friend and designer Peter Mendelsund, the two conceived the idea for a fortune cookie poster show and carefully selected the participants. Webb confides, “Our conversations went something like, ‘have you seen so-and-so’s work? It’s sooo goooood.’ Or ‘You know who would be cool, so-and-so; their type work is some next-level stuff.’” He adds, “The show is a great excuse and opportunity to contact and meet some of my design crushes and heroes.” The creatives in the show include the killer talents of Luca BarcellonaSiggi EggerstsonJonathan GrayJonge MeestersAbby LowWill StaehleJames Victore, and Heads of State, to name just a few.

Webb and Mendelsund snail-mailed each designer/typographer an actual fortune cookie. Webb explains, “We didn’t pick the fortunes. Only physics and Chinese restaurants can do that. Once the cookie arrived it was opened and the fortune and poster contents revealed.”

They gave the designers as little direction as possible, “trusting the outcome would be beautiful, most likely unexpected, clever, and just right.” And their expectations were far exceeded. Every time Webb and Mendelsund received a new poster in the mail their reaction was, “surprise followed by oohs and aahs, low and high fives.” Besides being awesomely designed the posters were produced in an array of complimentary printing methods including silk-screen, paint, spray paint, offset, and even laser-cut.

And thanks to the donated talents of web designer Jeff Kyung, you can place a silent auction bid for one of these delicious posters online. All proceeds benefit one of the best causes ever–the TDC Scholarship Fund–which goes directly towards the education of promising, future typographic rock stars. What could be better than that?? For more info or to ogle over the myriad of wildly, witty work, get thee to the Posters of Fortune website. Visit Imprint to see full feature.

Words by Stephanie Orma

Full interview below

1. How did you come up with the fun idea for a poster show based on fortune cookie sayings? 

The idea isn’t a new one. The shows concept is (loosely) based on a project of mine called Cardon Copy. A project I started while studying at the School of Visual Arts. Cardon Copy, takes the vernacular of self-distributed street fliers and tear-offs we have all seen in our neighborhoods. It involves hijacking these unconsidered fliers and redesigning them, over powering their message with a new visual language. I would then replace the original with the redesign in its authentic environment. When the TDC approached me they asked me to curate a poster show based on or around my Cardon Copy project. Liking the idea of designers reacting to texts which are, in some senses ordinary, and to some extent random. I brought on my friend Peter Mendelsund to help out with this years poster show knowing he would add much needed advice and aid. We discussed it, and at some point it occurred to us that a fortune cookie is a good example of a text like the ones that I had used previously.

2. What is Cardon Copy and the relationship with the exhibition? 

Towards the end of my Cardon Copy project in 2009 I had the privilege of having the majority of the posters I had produced for the project on display at the Type Directors Club. It was well received and they actually extended the show for another 3 weeks. Once the show ended Matteo Bologna approached me and asked if I would be interested in curating a show for the TDC based on my Cardon Copy project. The outcome of which was a show called Beautifully Banal in 2010, and now Posters of Fortune in 2011.

3. When you contacted the designers – what exactly did you tell them you were looking for them to create? 

We were not looking for anything specifically. Fully trusting each designer with the task. Knowing that by the nature of who they were and the work they produce, the outcome would be beautiful, most likely unexpected, clever, and just right. The only parameter really was that they use the copy from the fortune cookie they would receive via their mailbox. And even then when asked if one could do a more conceptual translation rather than a literal, I was wholly fine with that too (referring to the Heads of State or Paul Sahre’s posters). Honestly I wanted to give as little direction as possible, let them just run with it. Keeping it fun and light hearted, the last thing I would want is for them to feel like they were dealing with an actual.

4. How did you select the designers? What was the process like? 

It was through multiple conversations with  Peter. Our conversations were something like “have you seen so-and-so’s work, it’s sooo goooood.” or “you know who would be cool, so-and-so, their type work is some next-level stuff.” Some individuals like Niklaus Troxler and Mario Hugo I actually contacted last year for the Beautifully Banal silent auction poster show, but due to scheduling they couldn’t do it. So when I was asked again to curate another poster show, I knew I had to try and rope them into it this year. The show is a great excuse and opportunity to contact and meet some of my design crushes and heroes. Being able to build some rapport with individuals you once thought (and still do) an untouchable mystic, design jedi.

As for the process, we had a list we added to and subtracted from. We contacted more people than are in the final show knowing from past experience that we were not going to get everyone we reach out to. A major point in the selection of designers was that we wanted the show to be internationally base rather than locally. We didnt want the show to be a New York poster show of New York designers. Which it easily could of been with the contacts and friends within Peter and my circle of relationships. I think we only ended up with 7 New York based designers out of 20 participating.

5. How did you pick the fortune sayings? What was your criteria for picking “a good one? 

We didn’t pick the fortunes. Only physics and Chinese restaurants can do that. We packaged and sent each designer/typographer an actual fortune cookie through the post (if you look under the “about” section of the web site you will see some process shots of this). Once the cookie arrived it was opened and their fortune and posters content revealed. The beauty of a fortune cookie is that the fortune can be incredible stupid and banal, but sometimes it’s deeply profound. It’s the luck of the draw.

6. Did the designers have the option to choose which fortune they wanted to use? Or did you pick for them? 

As stated before it was left up to fate as to what fortune each designer received. In one or two instances a cookie never made it to the individual. And due to time restraints rather than resend a new cookie I opened one for them and e-mailed them the fortune contained.

7. What would you say is the main purpose of the show? 

For the TDC to raise as much revenue as possible for the scholarship fund. With the hopes of out doing the previous years show. I would also say it is an amazing opportunity to purchase a one of a kind, hand signed, piece of art from an outstanding designer. For a price that is undoubtedly a lot lower than it should be. And on top of that the money you are spending for this beautiful thing is going to a note worthy cuase. It’s a total win win. Last year came home with a signed hand painted poster by John Downer. I love it, it is hanging in my bedroom right now.

8. I love how the old fortune sayings get totally reinvented through the modern typographic interpretations. Was this part of the goal?

Most definitely. I’ve been intrigued by this idea for quite some time. The manipulation of some form of unconsidered and ordinary text. By considering, then injecting, things like color, concept, composition, and type. Overpowering the original message, breathing life into it. It is interesting how the message changes, though the content is the same word for word. I find it amazing how the influence of a little design can affect the success or failure of its communication and purpose. The type of conversations I hope to engage and find interesting are, Is the new visual language helping or harming the message? Will the fortune be more or less impactful in its new medium? Is it message less intimate, more appropriate? Are people more inclined to notice the message, but not necessarily trust it as well designed printed poster?  My thesis in school was base on and around this concept. The use if design in mending or marring of texts unconsidered.

9. Do all proceeds benefit TDC Scholarship Fund? Tell me about this and how it helps students.

Yes all proceeds go to the TDC Scholarship Fund. It started in 1994 and has continued to award selected schools $1000 scholarships.

Today, three New York City schools each receive $1000 to go to a student who excels in the field of typography. The schools are The Cooper Union, Pratt Institute and School of Visual Arts. Also, other schools nationally and internationally. The international schools have been in countries such as Haiti, Zimbabwe, Croatia, Finland, Russia, and this year New Zealand.

The schools are selected by the TDC Board. The schools are asked to select a junior going into his/her senior year who excels in the typographic arts.The monies are given to the schools to be put into the students account.Therefore used for used for educational purposes.

The students are also given a free one-year membership in the TDC.

10. Were you surprised or shocked by any of the posters received when you first saw them? 

Yes, surprise followed by Oooos and Ahhhhs, low and high fives. This was undoubtedly the case each time. I love receiving the posters/packages. If I were to name two that really stood out to me it would be Yomar’s laser cut poster and Jon Gray’s hand painted poster with gold foil.

11. What is Abby Low’s poster made of? 

Those are not ginger snap crumbs, I can tell you that much.

12. How are the posters printed? Silkscreen? Offset?

Due to the nature of the show being a charity the participants were responsible for the production of there own poster. This lent itself to a number of different printing methods being received. Silk screen, paint, spray paint, offset, Ink jet etc and the afore mentioned laser cut piece by Yomar.

13. Is the silent auction poster show an annual event that TDC has been doing for years? Or is this new?

The silent auction is relatively new this being the third. But, yes it has been set up to be an annual event.  Though the TDC scholarship fund has been in place for many years. I have been associated with the silent auction for the last two years.

14. Anything else you’d like to add about the show that I didn’t ask? 

Yes, I would like to remind folks that POSTERS OF FORTUNE is on display at the TDC from April 5th – May 12, 2011. The end event and final bids will take place on May 12th from 6:00 – 9:00pm. See them, bid on them, come hear the designers discuss them. The night of, we will have the pleasure of hearing from Carin Goldberg, Paul Sahre, Yomar Augusto, and David Heasty of Triboro.

Also, I would like to give a shout out to Jeff Kyung the web designer I worked with on the Poster of Fortune web site. He generously gave of his time and talents. And also P. Mendy, it was great having him to discuss questions and query’s with. Thanks hommies!