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Open Manifesto

Crossing the identity line.

A conversation between Rudy VanderLans and K.F.

{13th of December 2008}


When you moved to America you decided to set up Émigré in California. In terms of graphic design, am I correct in believing this was partly in opposition to a commonly held perception that New York was the heart of American graphic design? If so, do you feel the hub of American design is still seen to be in New York, or have you—and others—succeeded in challenging this perception?


I moved to California in the early 80s because in my mind it was the most exciting place on earth—geographically, politically, artistically, technologically, you name it. I came out to study photography at the University of California at Berkeley. Graphic design was not much on my mind at the time, although there was plenty of exciting work being made. April Greiman was in Los Angeles, and the Michaels (Manwarring, Vanderbyl, Mabry) were in San Francisco, and it was all very loosey-goosey. It was a great antidote to the staid ‘Swiss International Style’ type of work that was being produced everywhere else.


The part about creating an opposition to New York didn’t start to occur until a few years later when we shifted the purpose of Émigré from being an arts magazine to a graphic design magazine. And then the Macintosh was introduced, and all of a sudden it seemed all the progressive design work was being created on the West Coast. Or at least it wasn’t coming out of New York anymore.


Not only that, but some of the big name designers in New York were often criticizing what was going on in design on the West Coast, and in particular with regards to design created on the Macintosh. To them it represented everything that was bad in design.


(The rest of this article is available, in print, in Open Manifesto #5)


Rudy VanderLans is a Dutch type and graphic designer and the co-founder of Emigre, an independent type foundry.


VanderLans studied at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague. Later, he moved to California and studied photography at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1984, VanderLans, with his wife Zuzana Licko, founded Emigre and began to publish Emigre magazine, a journal for experimental graphic design.