Introduction to the 2009 New Visual Artists

It may not be obvious at first glance,
but these letters are portraits of the 20 young designers under age 30
who are profiled here. As soon as we realized that the name of
our annual feature—“New Visual Artists
2009”—contains exactly 20 letters, we asked each winner to
pick a typeface that represented him or her. The two founders of Budor+Čule chose Bembo after a five-hour conversation with each other;
the two-man studio Labour, on the other hand, picked a “big, fat
megabold” dollar sign set in Normande. (Two of our winners picked
Chromium One—what are the odds?) After the designers made their
decisions, we asked Precision Laser owner Bud Saggal to laser-cut each
letter out of a 3/4-inch thick piece of plywood. We then photographed
the result.

Family is an important theme this year: The photographer
Lauren Dukoff uses it as the title of her book, out this spring from
Chronicle Books. Franklin Vandiver has been exposed to design all his
life through his parents’ occupations; Timothy Goodman made a
project in honor of a childhood mentor, moving the man to tears. Apirat
Infahsaeng’s father recognized the hand of his father, who worked
on Thai temples, in his son’s typography. Jacob Silberberg’s
father ran a side business dealing rare Leicas, an introduction to
photography that would shape a career. Nicole Jacek grew up wanting to
be the boss of Mercedes-Benz, where her father works. Sveinn
Davíðsson gains inspiration from a close-knit group of
friends he grew up with in Iceland.

Whether they’ve ended up in
New York from far-flung locales—The Philippines (Josef Reyes),
Switzerland (Mato Atom)—or hail from Huntsville, Hazleton,
Orlando, Fresno, or Riga, Latvia, they’ve all been molded by their
histories: unique, outsized, sometimes imperfect, and exquisitely clear. Like a fine block of type.