Ed Fella: Exit Level Design, 1985–2012

31 January – 25 March 2022

A new exhibition has opened in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication surveying the experimental graphic practice of the American designer, Ed Fella. Curated by Professor Rick Poynor, this is the first exhibition of Fella’s work in the UK.

Work on show includes Fella’s early experiments with typography, more than 75 original flyers, reproductions of pages from his numerous sketchbooks, font designs, and a selection of publications featuring and assessing Fella’s work and career.

The exhibition is open weekdays, 10 am to 5 pm.

About Ed Fella

For 30 years, Edward Fella (born 1938) worked as a graphic designer, commercial artist and illustrator in Detroit, Michigan. In his late 40s, hoping to teach, he gained a first degree in graphic design and studied for an MFA at Cranbrook Academy of Art, then a centre of theoretical thinking and experimental graphic practice. In the second phase of his career – the focus of this exhibition – Fella became, as he put it, an “exit level designer”, leaving clients and commissions behind to teach at California Institute of the Arts and pursue a freewheeling investigation of form unique in contemporary graphic design. After years of professional studio experience, Fella was a master of diverse graphic styles and hand-lettering. Work that might at first glance seem neglectful of design’s cardinal “rules” came from a deep well of knowledge. He created flyers for lectures by himself and other designers that are loaded with allusions. In his sketchbooks, he produced a daily stream of collages and drawings best understood as art about design. In his 50s, Fella became internationally famous for a self-motivated body of work that overflows with invention and surprise.


Curator: Rick Poynor
Exhibition design: Eric Kindel
Design assistance: Cătălina Zlotea
Production support: Claudia Rifaterra Amenós, Geoff Wyeth, Cătălina Zlotea

Works by Ed Fella from the collection of Rick Poynor
Thanks to Ed Fella and Gerry Leonidas for additional items

Installation photos

‘Ed Fella: Exit Level Design, 1985–2012’: introductory panel
Blow-up details (end wall) from the backs of three of Fella’s flyers
Flyers designed by Fella for his own talks and exhibitions
Vitrines displaying drawings and collages from Fella’s sketchbooks
Event flyers by Fella announcing other designers and artists
Fella’s work in the 1980s for art scene clients in Detroit
Designs for Detroit Focus Gallery and Detroit Artists Market
Fella’s typeface OutWest and his Fellaparts abstract character set
Blow-up detail from a flyer (wall, left) and books about Fella
Articles about Fella published in Emigre, Eye and Idea