Anne Jordan & Mitch Goldstein, graphic designers based in Rochester, New York, USA.

Hello Anne and Mitch, how are you?

Great! We are currently enjoying the last few days of a beautiful summer here in Upstate New York.

Can you introduce yourselves?

We met about 11 years ago in a Typography class at Rhode Island School of Design, fell in love, and have been working together ever since. Our studio focuses on book cover and publication design, and we work on all sorts of other projects that we find interesting and exciting. Mitch is also an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York.

Where does your interest in graphic design come from?

Anne — I fell in love with graphic design through typography. I went to school thinking I would major in ceramics, but as soon as I took that first introductory graphic design class, I was hooked. I love the structure inherent in typography, and find it really exciting to push against the limitations that letterforms provide.

Mitch — I originally went to school to become an architect, but eventually transitioned into graphic design. It was a natural progression, and looking back I realize that graphic design offered all of the things I loved about architecture (process, form, materials) but was better suited to my personality and interests.

How do you work together?

We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses so well by now that our collaboration is a fluid mix of working together and separately. Even though we don’t always sit next to each other for every step of a project, our process is still highly collaborative. Together, we enjoy investigating materials, exploring different ways of making images, and manipulating typography. We do a lot of photo shoots which require two sets of hands. We each have our own studio spaces, as well as collaborative space, so we don’t drive each other crazy. We trust each other and we each have veto power on all aspects of a project – we make decisions based on what’s best for the work, not our own egos.

What are the key features of your design?

Our process is what makes our work unique. We are particularly interested in unpredictable design processes that rely on the intersection of chance and limitation, and encourage serendipity and happenstance. Often this takes the form of using unconventional materials that are difficult to control, or mixing materials and methods in unexpected ways. We often use materials that we have not worked with before, in order to learn something new and treat each project as an opportunity for experimentation. We love to find ways to integrate type and image that rely on both analog and digital techniques, frequently building three-dimensional setups which we turn into digital images with a camera or scanner.

The process behind our work makes a strong statement about what we value. We are critical of the contemporary process of graphic design, where most work starts and ends in the computer, exists as pixels and vector paths, and often looks similar. Our process demands the opposite. We get our hands dirty, try things that might not work, embrace accidents, and expand our process well beyond traditional workflows.

Would you like to talk about one of your projects specifically?

Crowds and Party by Jodi Dean
Client: Verso Books

This book is about how political groups move from the inert mass to organized activists. Crowds and Party extends the energies of the riotous crowds of the last five years (such as the Occupy movement) into an argument for the political party.

Andy Pressman, the art director, asked us to come up with a way to communicate “crowds” and “teeming masses” without being literal. So we knew that we didn’t want to use any human-like symbols such as heads or hands to show a crowd – we needed something more abstract. We searched through our studio for materials that evoked the feeling of crowds. We looked for materials that were messy, showed movement, felt like they were teeming, were made up of lots of little pieces that could come together, stuff that was solid but diffuse. Then we started experimenting.

We became very interested in hot glue because of the snake-like, chaotic lines it created when we drew with it straight out of the glue gun. It reminded us of a colony of insects, squirming and full of energy. At the same time, hot glue has the ability to melt and gel into a distinct mass – all of these squiggly lines can come together to form a unit, similar to a crowd. We made lots of tests with hot glue to figure out how the energetic lines could be married with type.

Through this experimentation we developed a process of injecting hot glue into silicone molds to create letters, and then using the squiggly lines to draw over the letters and melt the pieces together. We created a series of sculptures – each one was a different design of the cover in which all of the letterforms and lines are one piece, glued in place by itself. We photographed our favorite sculpture and added a bit of color to pull out the type, and that was it. There are no digital effects in this piece – everything is inherent in the sculpture itself.

What is the role of the designer?

Designers give visual shape to ideas. We believe that design can be a personal endeavor, beyond only serving the needs of a client or satisfying a brief. Our favorite pieces of design are those where the designer inserts their opinion, personality, and interests into the work. We are attracted to design as form of personal expression, as well as a tool that serves communication.

Who are the designers that you admire?

Anne — Skolos + Wedell, Martin Venezky, and Hella Jongerius. All three demonstrate an intense curiosity and experimental attitude toward materials.

Mitch — In addition to Anne’s picks, I also admire László Moholy-Nagy, John Cage, and Daniel Libeskind. While I’m attracted to the aesthetics of their work, I am particularly intrigued by their processes and how they work with systems, chance, and limitation.

What stimulates you outside graphic design?

Anne — I draw a lot of inspiration from reading, especially non-fiction, and I follow contemporary ceramics pretty closely.

Mitch — I love painting and analog photography. I am also a big fan of cinema in all forms, especially music video.

Which books are on your bedside table?

Anne — I don’t often read right before bed because if I do, I will stay up all night! Instead, I listen to podcasts while I fall asleep. Right now I’m obsessed with Anna Sale’s Death, Sex, & Money and another favorite is This American Life.

Mitch — At night before bed I like to read fiction books that are not about design. I recently read The Martian by Andy Weir and The Circle by Dave Eggers. Right now I’m in the middle of Worst. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland.

The last word…





Interview: Dennis Moya & Tiffany Bähler — 09.15

Images ©Anne Jordan & Mitch Goldstein.

Graphic Design