Fresh Force: A Postmodern Classic

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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When the Duffy Design Group published the Fresh Force Guide Book for Youth For A Change, almost 30 years ago in Minneapolis, the graphic design community was introduced to the Midwestern Postmodern style. Joe Duffy and Charles Spencer Anderson interpreted graphic ideas that were bubbling up elsewhere in the U.S. and Europe, including Deborah Sussman’s carnival graphics for the ’86 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. Borrowing “vernacular” imagery from old catalogs and matchbooks, they took the idea of Retro to the next evolutionary stage – what might be termed expressionist retro.

It is also evolutionary because Push Pin Studios used similar reference decades before. But Duffy and Anderson added an ’80s/’90s vibrancy through color, paper and other effects. Fresh Force was a seminal example of vintage modernistic ornamentation. It was not purely decorative though.

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The design for a community based youth organization was focused at inner city kids—a code that they might call their own. Being a member was a matter of pride. “Congratulations! You’ve just done a very good thing,” said the introductory text. “In joining Fresh Force, you’ve chosen to put others first and make your city a better place to live.”

The design community celebrated it as an emblem of a new wave. But in rereading the spiral bound booklet, printed on card stock, it is more than a Postmodern icon; it would today fit squarely in the social innovation “space.” Thirty years later, the Fresh Force Guide Book seems it was ahead of its time.


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