Newsletter Sample: Greetings from Social Distancing!
In addition to this blog, I send out a monthly-ish newsletter that mixes updates on my work, photography, half-formed thoughts, cultural recommendations, and whatever else is on my mind. It’s more casual than the blog but more thoughtful than social media. It’s the best way to keep up with what I’m working on. I decided to syndicate the most recent issue below. If you like it, would you consider signing up? You can also read the archives if you want know more.
Hello! Greetings from social distancing! Jarrett Fuller, here. In case you’ve forgotten — and you very well might have, it’s been a while — you are getting this email because you signed up for a newsletter about my work, photography, reading, food, and other interesting ideas. If it turns out this isn’t your thing, you can simply hit the unsubscribe link at the bottom of this email. But if it is your thing, cool! I’m glad you are here and would love to hear from you, feel free to introduce yourself by replying to this email.
The beginning of the year was overwhelming with a variety of projects, big and small (read: this is why there were no email updates) and March was looking equally busy. Then, overnight, everything was cancelled and my calendar is looking strikingly bare. My classes have gone online-only for the rest of the semester, a talk I was supposed to give this week was cancelled, podcast interviews need to be rescheduled, and other meetings and plans postponed indefinitely. At the end of the month I was going to be interviewing Sheila de Bretteville, the long-time director of Yale’s graduate graphic design program for a live episode of Scratching the Surface at the Type Director’s Club conference here in New York but that, too, has been postponed and hangs in limbo.
But all is not lost. As someone who’s always preferred social isolation, I can’t complain too, too much. I get to spend the next few weeks with my family. Let’s make the most of it. After a brief update on work, I want to share some books, television shows, essays, and music to help you pass the time.
Here are some work things I’ve been up to:
- Developing and writing a two-semester design history curriculum for the University of Nevada Las Vegas. This has been a fun project and a chance to think deeply about what a graphic design history class would/should look like in 2020. We’re aiming for global, decolonized, contemporary, and expansive. If/When I’m allowed to share more, I will.
- I’m finishing up an essay about — what else? — design criticism. It’s sort of a ‘state of design criticism’ but also hopefully asking some deeper questions around what design criticism is and should be, where it might be headed, and why designers keep calling for more of it. Look for that this Fall in a certain design publication that I won’t name yet.
- In addition to Pratt and Parsons, I’ve been teaching a portfolio course at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ this semester. It’s fun to be teaching at a new institution, familiarizing myself with a new set of students and faculty, working with them to think conceptually about how they present themselves and their work as they head into the design field.
- I released a slate of new Scratching the Surface episodes, beginning the year with a conversation with RISD’s president Rosanne Somerson. I also have new episodes with designer Martin Venezky, New York architecture critic Justin Davidson, journalist Leslie Roberts, and DesignInquiry co-founder Margo Halverson. I have more episodes recorded that we’ll be sharing over the next few months.
My studio, twenty-six, has availability for new projects beginning April 1st. I’ve sometimes struggled to articulate or position how we work or what kind of work I do these days but find myself returning to four words: brands, books, websites, words. That, basically, sums it up. I make books, work with brands, build websites, and write words. If you need help with any of those things, or have a project you’d like to work together on, I’d love to talk to you. I’m interested in working with new people this year and excited about working on weirder, more experimental projects alongside the usual design work so whatever you are looking for, from the traditional to the strange, we should talk.
The great Henry Cobb passed away earlier this month. Cobb, for those who don’t know, was a founding partner of I.M Pei and Associates in 1945 (now called Pei Cobb Freed and Partners) and worked alongside his more-famous partner for nearly seventy years. Last year, he published Words and Works 1948-2018, a memoir/monograph/book of architecture theory that I loved so much I wrote about it for Design Observer.
Because of that review, I had the honor of interviewing Harry at the end of last year, right before Thanksgiving for Scratching the Surface. It was a complete pleasure to spend almost two hours with him in his home on the Upper West Side, here in New York. Unfortunately and coincidentally, he died the day before the episode was supposed to go up. I quickly rerecorded the intro and and published it posthumously. I’m proud of the conversation and humbled to play a part in one of his final interviews. You can listen to it here or read my introduction/memorial here.
Ok, on to recommendations! I want to start by recommending three great books by three smart women that I’ve read over the last month.
- Anna Weiner’s Uncanny Valley is a memoir about working as a mid-level employee at a large tech company in Silicon Valley. This resonated with my own experience working in tech and my time in San Francisco and felt like the most accurate depiction of a life/time I’ve had trouble describing to people. Weiner writes with a thoughtfulness, criticality, and open-heartedness that I admired and appreciated.
- I’ve been reading Jia Tolentino for years so I knew I’d love Trick Mirror before even beginning. This collection of essays, which actually feel like a nice pairing to Uncanny Valley explores the millennial experience and what it’s like to grow up with the internet. Thinking through issues around feminism, performativity, technology, and spirituality, Tolentino captures the unique experience of being alive today. I loved it.
- I’d been eagerly awaiting Jenny Ofill’s Weather, a followup to her masterpiece Dept. of Speculation. I admit to feeling closer to Dept of Speculatation but Weather continues her vein of the novel as fragment and was a mix of joy and dread to read through as we follow her protagonist into the depths of disaster fiction. Her prose is consistently some of my favorites.
I have a new playlist out. It’s called A Ship Out to Nowhere and is available to stream on Spotify. It’s a playlist inspired by the end of winter, walking around Brooklyn underneath the empty trees and grey skies, anticipating Spring. It’s a follow up of sorts to last year’s winter playlist, We Can Hear When We Are Hollow I’ve been playing it almost daily for the last month or so. I hope you enjoy it.
(You can find the archives of my other playlists here, btw. And if you are looking for even more music, I’ve been keeping a monthly music diary on Spotify since 2013. You can listen to them all on my Spotify profile.)
One thing that doesn’t stop during the quarantine is television and I have a few recent favorites to share.
Over the last week, I binge-watched the first season of Kidding, the Showtime show starring Jim Carrey as Mr. Pickles, a Mr. Rogers-like children’s show host who’s real life is falling apart. It’s produced (and many of the episodes directed) by Michel Gondry so it has beautiful cinematography and a charming, hand-made vibe. The show was fascinating and subversive and the final scene in the first season was a gut-punch. Season one is on Amazon Prime until the end of the month and I imagine season two will show up on streaming sometime this year.
The first episode of the second season of David Chang’s Ugly Delicious turned the camera on himself as he explores cooking for his newborn son. It’s a singular piece of food television and unlike anything he’s done before. The rest of the second season loses some of the quirkiness that I enjoyed in season one (perhaps due to the loss of Peter Meehan’s involvement?) but still is incredibly thought-provoking and very much worth watching.
I’m a few episodes into Alex Garland’s Devs, his new show for FX/Hulu and I’m loving it. I loved the whole vibe of Garland’s first two films, Ex Machina and Annihilation, and he’s continuing that vibe here. After watching Annihilation, I started thinking of Garland as a modern-day Tarkovsky and there are definitely Stalker-overtones to Devs.
Quietly, over the last year or two, the New York Times’s T Magazine has become my favorite source for great architecture and design writing. The latest issue is the design issue and has pieces on architect and furniture maker George Nakashima, Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen’s country home.
But over the last few months, I’ve enjoyed essays on Pyer Moss’s Kirby Jean-Raymond, Rem Koolhaas’s modernist/Brutalist residential structure, Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto’s conceptual architecture, and a fascinating piece on the US government’s involvement in the development of modernist architecture.
This direction, I imagine, comes from editor-in-chief (and novelist!) Hanya Yanahigara, whose apartment — filled with 12,000 books — is basically my dream. I’d keep an eye on what she’s doing at T, I’m reading basically everything they’re publishing these days.
Over the last six months or so, my wife and I have been getting into, experimenting with, and drinking a lot of natural wine. We recently ordered six bottles from Orange Glou, a new subscription service specializing in natural and orange wines and have loved all the bottle we got so far. We’re especially fans of the wines from Donkey and Goat and Scribe, one of our favorite wineries, just released a limited edition collection of natural wines. Ours should be here this week! If we’re going to be stuck in the house for a few months, I want some good wine to go with our reading, watching, and listening.
What are you watching? Reading? Listening to? Drinking? It’s time for me to get back to work and then to cooking dinner. (The photos in this issue is a random assortment from the last two months, btw.)
These are weird times but we’ll get through it. Remember to wash your hands. Make something new. Enjoy the time we have. Help each other out. We’re all in this together.