Introduction to the 2009 New Visual Artists

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It may not be obvious at first glance,but these letters are portraits of the 20 young designers under age 30who are profiled here. As soon as we realized that the name ofour annual feature—“New Visual Artists2009”—contains exactly 20 letters, we asked each winner topick 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, fatmegabold” dollar sign set in Normande. (Two of our winners pickedChromium One—what are the odds?) After the designers made theirdecisions, we asked Precision Laser owner Bud Saggal to laser-cut eachletter out of a 3/4-inch thick piece of plywood. We then photographedthe result.

Family is an important theme this year: The photographerLauren Dukoff uses it as the title of her book, out this spring fromChronicle Books. Franklin Vandiver has been exposed to design all hislife through his parents’ occupations; Timothy Goodman made aproject in honor of a childhood mentor, moving the man to tears. ApiratInfahsaeng’s father recognized the hand of his father, who workedon Thai temples, in his son’s typography. Jacob Silberberg’sfather ran a side business dealing rare Leicas, an introduction tophotography that would shape a career. Nicole Jacek grew up wanting tobe the boss of Mercedes-Benz, where her father works. SveinnDavíðsson gains inspiration from a close-knit group offriends he grew up with in Iceland.

Whether they’ve ended up inNew 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 theirhistories: unique, outsized, sometimes imperfect, and exquisitely clear. Like a fine block of type.