Summer 2022

Enter by the exit level

Ed Fella: A Life in Images

Edited by David Cabianca, with introduction by Katherine McCoy, visual essay by Ed Fella with Andrea Fella, and essays by Lorraine Wild, Rick Poynor, David Cabianca. Unit Editions, £60.
Ed Fella: A Life in Images

The latest instalment in Unit Editions’ ongoing series of designer monographs, Ed Fella: A Life in Images (Unit Editions, £60), celebrates the life and work of a great designer, artist and educator.

An inspiring octogenarian, Fella is renowned for his idiosyncratic approach and the book collects his diverse body of work, presenting an overview of his remarkable career.

Following in the financial footsteps of Unit Editions’ previous Kickstarter campaigns, more than six hundred backers came together to bring A Life in Images to life (see ‘Crowd control’ in Eye 101). The result is a book that charts Fella’s journey from 1957 to the present day.

The book’s beating heart is a 316-page visual essay that contains uncaptioned selections from 60 years of work – flyers, posters, original sketches, drawings, photographs and collages. It divides almost equally between what Fella calls his ‘two careers’: first, his 30 years as a commercial artist in Detroit; second, his life as an ‘exit-level’ designer, teaching at CalArts in Santa Clarita, California, where he still has a studio. The visual essay was sequenced and art directed by Ed Fella with his daughter Andrea Fella, who contributes an afterword about their work in his big archive.

Uncaptioned spread from Ed Fella: A Life in Images. Top. Colourful 2013 image taken from the central visual essay.

Ed Fella: A Life in Images

A narrative emerges from the accompanying texts, which include an introduction by Katherine McCoy, a biographical essay by Lorraine Wild and a critical appraisal by Rick Poynor, who wrote the influential cover feature ‘Fellapages’ in Eye 23. Editor David Cabianca contributes an essay about Fella’s flyers.

Life in Images is a delight to read, contextualising Fella’s work and opening it up to a wider audience (one hopes). In a digital age, Fella remains fully committed to the power of the hand-drawn and at 84 he is still pushing boundaries, living a life outside the lines, freed from the tyranny of the grid.

Uncaptioned spread from Ed Fella: A Life in Images

Ed Fella: A Life in Images

Cover of Ed Fella: A Life in Images published by Unit Editions.

Ed Fella: A Life in Images

Chris Murphy designer, writer, teacher, Donegal, Ireland

First published in Eye no. 103 vol. 26, 2022

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.