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Donating a Legacy of Innovative Design

Posted January 20, 2015 in Classes & Presentations

For more than 38 years, the husband and wife design duo of Nancy Skolos and Tom Wedell have been producing groundbreaking and genre-defying collaborative work that has enthralled audiences around the globe.

Skolos and Wedell are best known for creating collaged three-dimensional images that draw on elements of cubism, technology, and architecture in ways that explore the intersection of graphic design and photography. Wedell recently stopped in to KCAD as the first featured presenter in the college’s recently launched Pop-Up Talks series, and he left more than a dynamic professional interaction behind.

Thanks to the couple’s generosity, a sizeable collection of their collage posters now belong to KCAD. The posters were first hung in the Collaborative Design space of KCAD’s Woodbridge N. Ferris building – a fitting location given the intensely collaborative process that powered the creation of the pieces – and have since been permanently relocated to the permanent archives of the KCAD library.

poster from Nancy Skolos and Tom WedellImage courtesy of Nancy Skolos and Tom Wedell

Early on in their relationship, Wedell and Skolos would get together on weekends to work on posters that Skolos had been commissioned to design for the Yale Symphony. This was, of course, in the pre-digital era, so to get the juices flowing they started collaging with images cut from architectural magazines they had lying about.

“For an artist, one of the most terrifying things in the world is a blank sheet of paper,” said Wedell. “You ‘ve just got to get something down. Nancy and I would cut paper and try to make things. We were assembling these very formal and restricted comps, but then we discovered that the scrap pile next to the project was more interesting.”

http://www.kcad.edu/uploads/05_Lyceum.jpgImage courtesy of Nancy Skolos and Tom Wedell

The pair turned their attention to the scraps and began experimenting with them, focusing not so much on the content of the imagery, but on the relationships of the scraps’ structure.

“We found out that we could get some very interesting things we hadn’t thought about before, so we’d cut up type and pile up scraps, and one font would overlap another and create a really interesting relationship. It’s a very Zen process, and a starting point that launches you into problem solving.”

poster from Nancy Skolos and Tom WedellImage courtesy of Nancy Skolos and Tom Wedell

What started out as a creative exercise eventually turned into a design style that earned Skolos and Wedell critical acclaim, as well as a healthy client list and substantial portfolio. Over the years, the couple has designed posters for NeoCon, EMI Music Publishing, The Walker Art Center, the United States Postal Service, Steelcase, New York City’s Reinhold-Brown Gallery, and the Creation Gallery in Tokyo, among many other clients.

poster from Nancy Skolos and Tom WedellImage courtesy of Nancy Skolos and Tom Wedell

Their posters are included in the graphic design collections of the Museum of Modern Art; The Israel Museum, Jerusalem; the Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich, Switzerland; and now at KCAD, where they await to inspire students to find new ways of working collaboratively and pushing the envelope of creative possibility.


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