In the Netherlands, state funding has supported design for decades, offering a lifeline to students and giving young practitioners the financial independence to create groundbreaking work. But after a right-wing government took office in 2010 and started slashing those funds, a whole era of Dutch art and design came to an end.
One such project was the identity for the 2011 exhibition “To All Tomorrows Parties,” at Tent, a Rotterdam art gallery, which was a reaction to the financial crisis and the cultural-spending cuts. With pasted-up posters and signs that evoked a political rally, Team Thursday created both a sense of motion (the show was mostly performances) and a physical immediacy. Much of their other work—like a print-on-demand stand for the Facing Pages festival and a poster with a 3-D look for a lecture series on online video—shares the same low-cost aesthetics and a tactical, make-do, festive attitude.
Trum and van Esch—who introduce themselves to potential clients and editors alike with friendly FaceTime video messages—admit that “clients are becoming more cautious.” Still, the two are able to be both realistic and optimistic about what’s to come. In this new era, “not everyone will start their own company,” they say, but the “people who really want it will do it.”
Walter Green practically grew up at McSweeney’s, the sprawling indie-publishing empire founded by Dave Eggers. As a high school student, Green was a tutor at McSweeney’s 826 after-school writing program in San Francisco’s Mission District. In 2008, he chose an internship at the quarterly in lieu of going to college. Even though he didn’t do any design work at first, he was immersed in one of the most innovative design environments in American publishing. Eventually, he started to design some small projects for McSweeney’s and others: postcards, back covers of books.
In 2010, Brian McMullen, the McSweeney’s art director, called Green back to San Francisco to work on books, magazines, and a variety of other projects. Green ultimately became the co–art director, with McMullen, of the McSweeney’s food magazine, Lucky Peach. By 2012, he was the sole art director of the title, but he slid away from regular duties in San Francisco and moved back to New York. He still art directs Lucky Peach, but he has taken on more freelance work for, among others, The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Vintage, and Farrar, Straus & Giroux. He’s only 23.
Hogue remembers Green’s final exit: “Walter’s desk was covered in potted plants. He created a small jungle of his space. Of course, he never watered them, so by the time he left, most were dead or dying. When he cleaned out his desk over the weekend, he placed a dead plant on everyone’s desk before he left. Most are still there.”
In 2010, for her graduation project, Márcia Novais organized the first degree show at the University of Porto’s Faculty of Fine Arts in five years. She calls such shows “the epilogue of a student’s cycle of life,” but in her case that wasn’t really so: a year later, on a whim, she applied for a position as the college’s resident graphic designer—and got the job.
When the posters started spreading beyond the college’s walls to screens (and to pages, should you be reading this on paper) around the world, their audience changed dramatically, and so did hers. But Novais doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a poster designer. Instead, she’s interested in making work that deals with the experience of being on the threshold of school and “outside, in the real world.” Her identity for the 2012 degree show, “Futuro Não Futuro” (Future No Future), addresses this in a typically oblique style. Pink is the dominant color, but the roving punctuation suggests something darker. With Portugal crippled by austerity-led recession and her friends struggling to find work (most have already left the country), Novais’s designs hint at a less than rosy epilogue for the current generation of designers.
Here’s how Critton spends his time: “So, let’s say there are ten units of time in a waking day. In my day, maybe three of those are spent making form”—books, typefaces, a fi lm series, a “value-appreciating” book bank. Three of the remaining seven units “are devoted to the brass tacks of studio operation,” while another is spent on “pedagogy and instruction and the planning thereof.” (He currently teaches at Rutgers University and the School of Visual Arts’ new Products of Design M.F.A. program.) His final three non–form-making time-units are “put toward general idea-fostering and the search for other notions and prospects and nodes of connection among disciplines.” This means no less than “looking and writing and reading and copying and talking and listening and playing and performing and courting and watching and showing and moving and eating and drinking.” So, like, Everything.