Print

Cover and special section of Print, “The Trash Issue,” Blue Ash, OH, August 2012. Offset printing, page size 216 x 276 mm, 48 pp. Edited by Michael Silverberg.

We were invited to work on the special issue of the American graphic design magazine Print as a guest designer. The following is the introduction we wrote for the section.

Just when we think we’re done with something, that we’ve finally trashed it forever, it begins its endless afterlife. Trash returns: reprocessed, recycled, reinforced, rediscovered, reappropriated, and repurposed. It comes back into our lives and makes itself useful until it’s trashed once more — only to return home again and again.

Trash is the theme of this special issue, which is about much more than the environment. Rather than treating trash as a residue of otherwise perfectly good and sustainable activities, the contributors to this section look at diverse aspects of trash’s ­ever-returning life. In the course of its circulation, trash inspires us, haunts us, speaks to us. We often discover unexpected treasures in trash and salvage them, only to realize that they’re of no value after all and trash them anew. Then we miss them, mourn them, and try to rescue them all over again. Sometimes we find the things we treasure trashed by ­others. Other times, we feel that the only thing left to us is trash — then we somehow find a way to work with and within it.

We designed this special section, and we also made two additional contributions. First, we inserted tiny notes in the page margins — they hint at what we’d like to call “the parallel universes of trash.” From ephemeral pop-culture clichés to a very forward-looking preservation project (6,101 years into the future, to be exact), the notes are meant to expand on the themes of repetition, recycling, and renewal — in the realm of design, in the broader culture, and in paranoid, megalomaniacal historical efforts.

Our second contribution involves what might be called (to modestly extend the cosmological metaphor) “the inner spaces of trash.” We created a custom typeface for this section called Galaxie Ecosmic. It is an eco-friendly version of Galaxie Polaris — one of the standard typefaces of Print, designed by Chester Jenkins. Borrowing the idea of Ecofont (developed in 2009 by the Dutch company Spranq), we designed Galaxie Ecosmic to employ tiny, ink-saving holes in the characters — except, in this case, the holes take the form of excerpts from Carl Sagan’s classic 1980 science book, Cosmos. The embedded quotations are set in Comic Sans, the polar opposite of the neutral Galaxie Polaris and the ultimate “trashy” font, according to many designers. Hence the name Ecosmic — a somewhat ironic celebration of both the noble intention of Ecofont and the incredibly optimistic, almost kitschy words of Sagan. After all, the cosmos is much bigger than the galaxy, not to mention our own ecosystem. If these tiny holes can help save this tiny planet, then why not also let them carry infinitely big ideas?