Hello friends, both near and far:
It turns out I’m bad at sending newsletters. When I started this newsletter — all the way back in August 2019! — my hope was to send a new missive every month or so; a collection of links and insights, updates on my work and perhaps a photo or two. That quickly slipped to every other month and then every three and before we knew it it was February 2021 and the last time you heard from me was October! In the year and half I’ve been “publishing” this newsletter, I’ve sent only eight issues.
I’m Jarrett Fuller, by the way, a graphic designer, writer, and teacher based in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. You’re getting this message because at some point between today and August 2019 you signed up to receive updates from me. Whenever you signed up, I’m glad you are here. It may have been a few months but now seems like a good time to stick my head up, reminding you that I’m still here. (If it turns out you don’t care that I’m still here, feel free to unsubscribe with the link at the bottom. I won’t mind.)
Bare with me as I figure out how to write these again and get back into a regular cadence. The first part of this issue will collect some recent podcasts and writing I’ve published and then I’ll share some things I’ve been enjoying lately. Sound good?
Earlier this week on Eye on Design, where I’m a contributing editor, I published a big profile on the Brooklyn-based design studio Isometric Studio. I met Andy and Waqas, Isometric’s partners back in 2017 when they were visiting critics at MICA as I was finishing my MFA. I had a great conversation with them for Scratching the Surface and have kept in touch since. I’ve been interested in their approach to ‘design for social good’. They seem to transcend the stereotypes of this type of work — working with clients both large and small, ignoring the visual tropes of social design, and doing it all with a surprising humility — and wanted to better understand how they think about their work.
It was a hard piece for me to write. As a writer, I’m trained more in academic writing and criticism not journalism, but I’ve wanted to try my hand at profile writing for a while now. I’m happy with how it turned out and even happier that I can help share their story and their work. I hope you read it.
At the end of 2020, I also wrote a piece I’d been thinking about for years on retail design. I’d been interested in this shift in the design of retail spaces from selling products to creating experiences. These new stores, most of them the physical presence of direct-to-consumer online-only brands, felt to me like fully, immersive branded experiences, a physical manifestation of sponsored content. In reporting the piece, I spoke with Mythology, the design agency responsible for many of these spaces as well as my friend Alexandra Lange who is currently working on a book on shopping malls. Looking at my notes, I started thinking about this back in 2017 but never found the right angle until now. I’m really, really proud of this one. (Thanks, as always, to Meg Miller, my editor at EoD, who makes all my writing sound better.)
Then for the Design Observer Cooperative, Design Observer’s subscription newsletter, I wrote the January feature story. It’s unfortunately behind a paywall, only available to DO’s paying members, but it’s a personal essay reflecting on my time teaching during the quarantine and what I learned about care, community, and conversation. It’s one of the more personal things I’ve ever written but captures what I think is a sliver of good to come out of the last year.
Scratching the Surface, my podcast about the design of culture and the culture of design, continues to chug along. This year will mark five year of the show and to celebrate, I’m releasing new episodes every. single. week. leading up to the anniversary. Why? Who knows. I’m already regretting this decision!
But! Some of those episodes are really good! You can listen to all the latest episodes here or in the podcast player of your choice, but some recent favorites include my conversation with art critic Jarrett Earnest, the editors of Deem Alice Grandoit, Nu Goteh and Marquise Stillwell, and newly-elected Pennsylvania state senator Nikil Saval. I have some more coming up that I can’t wait to share with you!
If you like Scratching the Surface, I’d love if you became a supporting member. It’s only $5/month or $50/year. It helps keep the lights on at the show and you get a monthly newsletter just for members. This one really does go out every month!
I took a break from client design work for the last year but am slowly dipping my toe back into it. I redesigned my studio’s site, which includes some recent-ish projects and other updates. If you’re looking for a designer or editor for a project, whether that’s a website, a book, a brand, or even just a poster, we should talk. I’m especially interested in working with like-minded individuals or organizations on small-scale projects right now. Sound like you? Let me know!
Inspired by Steven Soderberg, I once again posted the complete lists of every movie I watched and book I read in 2020. I also posted my favorite albums of the year and a short essay on listening to music during the pandemic. (Spoiler Alert: Taylor Swift made my favorite album of 2020!)
I’ve been shifting my watching habits back to movies after a few years immersed in prestige tv. As a former video store employee (my favorite college job!), I’m a longtime lover of film history and have been returning to some old favorites recently. I’ve found it fun to pick a director or genre and move through their filmography, almost as if it were a series. I began the year rewatching David Fincher’s films and followed that with returning to David Lynch’s. (Apparently I only watch movies made my Davids?) It’s interesting to watch a filmography back to back, picking up on stylistic tendencies and the evolution of an approach. Fincher’s movies, for example, are all too long but I continue to marvel at how he always seems to know where to put the camera for just that interesting shot. (My favorites are Zodiac and Gone Girl; The Social Network didn’t hold up as well as I expected.) Up next is my first foray into martial arts films. Any recommendations?
(I haven’t completely given up television though. My partner and I are enjoying WandaVision, whose surrealist tendencies reminded me of another Marvel series, Legion, which we just started up again. We also finally watched the latest season of Killing Eve which is consistently one of my favorite shows.)
Seamus Heaney’s 100 Poems has been sitting beside my bed the last few months, providing a much-needed balm. Speaking of poetry, how many times have you watched and/or read Amanda Gorman’s stunning inaugural poem? I can’t seem to let go of it.
I closed out 2020 with Edmund de Waal’s family memoir, The Hare With Amber Eyes, and am excited to read his second book, The White Road. Up next on my reading list is Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights which has been recommended to me more times than I can remember and is currently available for Kindle for only $2. Bookclub, anyone?
I’ll stop now at the risk of running to long. Always more to do, more to watch, more to read, more to cook, and more to share. I hope you all are doing well — I’d love to hear from you; just hit reply to this email. As always, thank you for following along on this weird journey. Hope to talk to you all, sooner rather later this time.
Until next time,