January 2006 (p.89)
The I.D. Forty:
Jan Tschichold, the Bauhaus-inspired typographer who became the chief propagandist of functional type, once damned ornament as the product of “childish naiveté.” Catelijne van Middelkoop and Ryan Pescatore Frisk of Strange Attractors took that as an inspiration for their mission: to free ornamentation from the curse intoned by modernism. The principals quoted Tschichold in a specimen of their type font ‘Brunn’, which defies the old master with youthful panache. But beware: Van Middelkoop and Ryan Pescatore Frisk might be young, but they are certainly not naive. Having earned graduate degrees from Cranbrook, they know their trade and its history. They just happen to disagree with some of its bedrock doctrines.
Strange Attractors hopes to bring new eyes to bear on what modernism rebelled against: the traditions of craft, calligraphy, and decoration. In work for the New York based experimental jazz outfit Oratai Ensemble, for instance, the designers combined a proliferation of doodas and photo fragments with florid typography. And in their animation ‘Little Yellow Writing Hood’; a typographic adaptation of the old tale, they play a witty game of expressive lettering, using over 300 FontFont typefaces–a humorous display case for their client, FontShop. It won them a 2005 Red Dot Award.
Whether it takes the form of typography, type designs, posters, catalogs, digital animations, CD covers, or 3-D installations, their work is a polemic against the depersonalizing effects of modernist typography and design. Such projects are often described for being superficial, but that criticism misses the point. In today's visual cultures, the surface very often is the message. Strange Attractors are “decorationalists’” (I borrow the term from Denise Gonzales Crisp), who want to rediscover the potential of expressive ornamenation. They use the computer not just as an extension of the ordening brain, as Marshall McLuhan would say, but also as a true instrument of the expressive hand.
Specialty: Graphic design studio
Ages: Catelijne van Middelkoop, 30;
Ryan Pescatore Frisk, 28
Should be more famous because: Its work is chipping away at the chilly doctrine of modernism.
Isn't more famous because: The partners are still young, and old attitudes die hard.
Google mentions: 278
(I.D. Forty, 2006)