Recently, GaryFogelson’s building super stopped by. “Hey, you’re adesigner, right?” he asked. “Can you do an ad for my tilebusiness?”
Other designers might have declined a request to puttogether a classified ad, but Fogelson has been seriously consideringthe assignment. “I think there are two connected problems in [NewYork],” Fogelson says. “The first is the decliningaesthetics in the city. The second is this tendency for everyone tothink they’re a designer. So I think it was good that my superasked me to help him. He realized that design could offer himsomething.”
Fogelson is tightly focused on concept rather thandecoration, so a phone-book ad might be, in fact, his ideal project. Butwhile his work is direct, it often tweaks the viewer’spreconceptions with dark humor. Weaving together familiar tropes withina tightly structured layout, he uses establishment symbols for pointedcommentary. In a drawing for the letters page of The New YorkTimes illustrating the headline “Was Bush Persuasive AboutIraq?” Fogelson created an image of a shield, emblazoned with thephrase “Reassuring Slogan.” The notion of empty icons showsup again in an illustration for Good magazine, where insigniasfrom flags are combined in a wallpaper-like pattern, their power asformal emblems reduced by their transformation into blank devices. EvenFogelson’s URL, welcometomywebpage.com, is gently mocking.“I try to include some irony,” he says of all his work.“I like ideas you can talk about without seeing them and theywould still be cool projects.”
Fogelson names John Baldessariand Sol LeWitt as influences and says that he likes “guidelines, asystem.” He adds, “Graphic design is a set of rules, andwhen you follow the rules, something beautiful happens.” His coverfor Going Postal, a book about workplace massacres, uses theiconography of cubicle life—Post-its and office referencemanuals—to hint at pent-up rage, while the jacket forHomewrecker, a book about infidelity, crops romance novel coversinto a grid of lusty gropes.
For a young designer—Fogelson, 25,graduated from Pratt Institute in 2004—he is unusually loyal towords and images on paper. “I think printed matter is reallynecessary. It’s a relic of a particular point in time, whereasthings on the internet seem like they could all go away.” Sincequitting his job at Open, where he worked from 2004 to 2007, Fogelsonhas been concentrating on his own projects, including his work withstudio mate and fellow New Visual Artist Phil Lubliner and friend EricElms (together, the three founded the firm Trouble). Lubliner andFogelson have also created a number of very personal zines. “Themessage is private,” Fogelson says. “They’re a way ofvalidating my ideas.”
Since striking out on his own, Fogelsonhas been intent on developing a client list that matches hissensibility: “I want to spend my time working with clients whohave something to say, who are providing worthwhile information.”Whether Fogelson is explaining the American justice system to NewYork Times readers or revamping his sister’srésumé, he is always thinking about the ideas behind thework. “Design,” he says, “is a way of presentingthings so that people can focus on the concept.”