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Fresh Dialogue in Print

Editors and art directors of design annuals should take note of the AIGA’s Fresh Dialogue series. Not only does it include some great designers, but it also delivers their work and voice. In contrast to design annuals like those published by Communication Arts or I.D. magazine, that usually position the work alongside juror’s comments.

If you’re not familiar with Fresh Dialogue: New Voices in Graphic Design, it began in 1984 as an event to showcase new talent as recognized by the AIGA/NY. David Sterling, Keith Godard, and Paula Scher were the first notables. From then on, it laid eyes on other designers including Chip Kidd, Stefan Sagmeister, Art Chantry, and Tibor Kalman. Scher had the idea of documenting it all in 1999. Subsequently, Fresh Dialogue the event gave birth to Fresh Dialogue the book. Having read Fresh Dialogue 3 (2001-02) and Four (2003), I’m envious of the event (Why does NY have all the fun stuff?), but happy to have seen it in print. Both books present a body of work where the designers are self-critical yet ambitious.

Fresh Dialogue 3 delivers the respectable and playful designs of Base, Honest, HunterGatherer, and Stilletto. Not only are they designers, but they’re also publishers, writers, entrepreneurs, video artists, product developers, or merchandisers. If a theme were present in FD3, diversity would sum it up best. The studios aren’t content with sticking to one media or a single type of client. T-shirts, posters, communication systems, corporate identity, and music videos are just some of the areas they master. Editor Veronique Vienne opens the book up with an interview and asks poignant questions that focus on authorship, client selection, generation gaps, and keeping work fresh. Most studios agree that having a smaller agency allows for greater project control, where they can outsource for any additional talent they may need. In the four remaining chapters that focus on each studio, their designs include the added benefit of background data. The captions range from 100-200 words and pave a context from the designer’s perspective; it’s like watching a DVD with the director’s commentary turned on.

Fresh Dialogue Four (forthcoming June 2004) gives away a hint of the thematic context in the opening photo sequence with rows of used and weathered books. The foreword by Emily Oberman (President, AIGA/NY 2002-04) and Nicholas Blechman (Chair, Fresh Dialogue 2003) reinforces this by stating that “self-authorship and a passion for the printed page” define the fourth event/book in the series. Under the title of Spine, speakers Peter Buchanan-Smith, Jason Fulford, and Leanne Shapton share work driven largely by illustration or image. This fourth book in the series provides a different structure, one that feels looser than FD3. Chapter 1 focuses on one designer at a time, and the following chapters carry themes like “Money, or, How You Get Paid to Continue the Things That You Love” and “Books and Publishing.” A footnote scheme relates interview comments back to the designs—in contrast to FD3’s one to one caption style. We still get the backstory, and here the interview drives the commentary with the added bonus of other designers chiming in, but sometimes only one or two sentences from the interviewee give us insight about the design.

For those looking to add something new to their shelves of design annuals and award catalogs, I suggest you consider looking at the Fresh Dialogues series. At $24.95, they compare favorably to the $20+ price tag from the likes of Communication Arts or I.D., only with more of the designer’s voice and less advertisements getting in the way.

Book Information

Fresh Dialogue 3: New Voices in Graphic Design Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press; 1st edition (December 2003)
ISBN: 1568984170

Fresh Dialogue Four: New Voices in Graphic Design Paperback: 144 pages
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press; (Forthcoming, May 2004)
ISBN: 1568984634
Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
PUBLISHED ON Mar.18.2004 BY Jason A. Tselentis
emily Oberman’s comment is:

thanks for such a great review. I love knowing that people really do get something out of these books. we are proud of this series and will try to keep up the good work.

On Apr.07.2004 at 08:52 PM