Lewis Blackwell and Lorraine Wild - Edward Fella: Letters on America

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1000 design ideas in handy book form

Dec 9, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:excellent photography and typography

Cons:light on text, which is not nec. bad

I recently drove across country from Minneapolis to San Francisco with most of my life & possessions surrounding me in my car. Along the way, each time I stopped, I took a photo of something. Unfortunately, since I was in a hurry, I only stopped 12 times and took (you guessed it) 12 photographs. None of my photos were very interesting because of how rushed I was, but nonetheless, it's nice to have those photos to look back on to remember the trip.

Ed Fella, thankfully, has a lot more time on his hands to spend on such efforts. Every year for more than a decade, Fella, a professor at California Institute of Arts, spent his summer break driving around the country snapping photos of signs of all shapes and sizes: billboards, gravestones, for sale signs, signs hung in shop windows, signs painted on shop windows, letters on wrought iron gates. Pretty much anything that has letters on it, Fella took a picture of it.

The result of this effort (beyond the many obvious benefits of travel) is Letters on America, a visual record of his many trips across the United States. The 170+ pages of the book are filled with his lettered photography (over 1000 photographs), along with Fella's own exploratory type sketches.

The best part about the book, especially for design dorks like myself, is that the book is more than just a review of Fella's work; it functions as a source of typographic ideas and inspiration. You don't need to read it straight through in a sitting. Instead, you can snack on it in small amounts; it's almost a coffee table book in that respect. My favorite signs in the book are the homemade ones with sans serif type. I really like the juxtaposition of the precise letter style with the strange messages and the haphazard placement of them on the sign (most likely the reason Fella photographed them in the first place).


Recommend this product? Yes


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