Fortune cookies, reimagined

20 designers offer their takes on the strange, iconic Chinese restaurant messages

Published May 9, 2011 1:01AM (EDT)

"You will read something in the near future."

Cracking open a fortune cookie at the end of a Chinese meal and seeing if/how the inside message personally relates to our individual lives is all part of the fun and good times. But the fact is, we all know the prophecies are mass produced, completely generic and totally random. Even beyond the universal words, the fortunes share the same unconsidered design and ultra-ordinary typography. Thus, it all comes down to how we interpret the meaning of the message.

But what if we took a fortune cookie's fortune, altered its context and gave it a major redesign overhaul? How would the message be read differently? Or, for that matter, would it? Now through May 12, a new exhibit and silent auction at the Type Directors Club (TDC) in New York City, Posters of Fortune, features crave-worthy posters of re-imagined fortune cookie sayings by 20 internationally renowned designers and typographers.

"You have a remarkable power which you are not using." - designed by Siggi Eggerstson

Posters of Fortune curator and New York-based graphic designer Cardon Webb was curious to explore such questions as, "Will the fortunes be more or less impactful in their new medium? Is the message less intimate or more appropriate? Are people more inclined to notice the message, but not as trusting of it as a well-designed printed poster?"

In fact, for some time Webb has been fascinated with how injecting things like color, concept, composition and type can literally breathe new life and meaning into a message. He shares, "The show idea is (loosely) based on a project of mine called Cardon Copy, which I started while studying at the School of Visual Arts. Cardon Copy involves hijacking self-distributed street fliers and tear-offs we've all seen in our neighborhoods (like a 'missing cat' sign) and redesigning them with a new visual language."

Webb's concept so intrigued the Type Directors Club that they not only featured his Cardon Copy posters at TDC in 2009, they invited him to curate a show based on the project in 2010 and again this year.

"You are never selfish with your help or advice." - designed by Jonge Meesters

In conjunction with friend and designer Peter Mendelsund, the two conceived the idea for a fortune cookie poster show and carefully selected the participants. Webb confides, "Our conversations went something like, 'have you seen so-and-so's work? It's sooo goooood.' Or 'You know who would be cool, so-and-so; their type work is some next-level stuff.'" He adds, "The show is a great excuse and opportunity to contact and meet some of my design crushes and heroes." The creatives in the show include the killer talents of Luca Barcellona, Siggi Eggerstson, Jonathan Gray, Jonge Meesters, Abby Low, Will Staehle, James Victore, and Heads of State, to name just a few.

"The most we can do is our best." - designed by David Pearson

Webb and Mendelsund snail-mailed each designer/typographer an actual fortune cookie. Webb explains, "We didn't pick the fortunes. Only physics and Chinese restaurants can do that. Once the cookie arrived it was opened and the fortune and poster contents revealed."

They gave the designers as little direction as possible, "trusting the outcome would be beautiful, most likely unexpected, clever and just right." And their expectations were far exceeded. Every time Webb and Mendelsund received a new poster in the mail their reaction was "surprise followed by oohs and aahs, low and high fives." Besides being awesomely designed, the posters were produced in an array of complementary printing methods including silk-screen, paint, spray paint, offset, and even laser-cut.

"Behind back luck comes good luck."- designed by Will Staehle

"You have the strength to be a leader, not a follower."- designed by Luca Barcellona

"He who seeks will find."- designed by Michiel Schuurman

And thanks to the donated talents of Web designer Jeff Kyung, you can place a silent auction bid for one of these delicious posters online. All proceeds benefit one of the best causes ever -- the TDC Scholarship Fund -- which goes directly toward the education of promising, future typographic rock stars. What could be better than that? For more info or to ogle over the myriad of wildly witty work, get thee to the Posters of Fortune website.

Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.

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By Stephanie Orma

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