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The Godfather

May 12, 2010

Ed Fella is widely acknowledged as the Godfather of vernacular type. Following a successful career as a commercial graphic artist in Detroit (at one point working with a young April Greiman), Fella enrolled on the MFA at Cranbrook in 1985. In his capacity as a student, and later a lecturer at Cranbrook and CalArts, Fella’s reputation for typographic innovation grew, and his work became a touchstone for a whole generation of designers hungry for an alternative to the Swiss Modernism that dominated the 70s. Exploring the vernacular type of commercial and amateur signage with the obsessive enthusiasm of a born again, and the knowledge of a seasoned insider (his is often quoted as saying of his own former career “I was the vernacular”) Fella united the “high” world of contemporary design criticism with “low” artefacts of middle America – restaurant and gas station signs, shop window displays, barber shop tariffs – a sample of which are featured in his book Letters On America.

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