Three Degrees of Inspiration: Jenny Volvovski, Isaac Tobin & Edie Fake


Editor’s Note: This is the latest installment in Emily Potts’ inspirational series (previously called “Design Links”). Every other week she features three artists whose work offers fresh, fun, and stimulating creative inspiration. Each artist picks the next link—someone who personally inspires him/her. Check out the previous part in the series, featuring Laura Park, Wendy MacNaughton & Julia Rothman.

Julia Rothman is inspired by …

Jenny Volvovski

Jenny is always interested in learning more. It drives her to research all kinds of things—whether it’s a weird plant, another culture, or a new recipe she wants to try. She is constantly sharing fascinating science news, artists she discovered, and stories from books she’s reading. I think this interest in the world informs her design work, which focuses on a strong concept and uses a variety of techniques and mediums. Sometimes she has an idea, but doesn’t know how to execute it. While most people would change direction or give up on an idea, Jenny will set out to learn how to make it happen. I experienced it recently when she created a website for Wendy MacNaughton and me – an open directory called Women Who Draw. Her simple clean design wasn’t easy to program, but she took hours of time to figure it out and make it work the way we imagined. Aside from that she is humble and generous, which I benefited from in our many collaborative projects.

A few years ago, Jenny gave herself the challenge of redesigning the book covers for each book she read. She reads a lot, so this became a large, ongoing, self-driven project. You can find all her covers on her site, From Cover to Cover. I love how she explored all kinds of materials and media—photocopying, collaging, photographing type through surfaces. The concepts are clever and satisfying. She put some limitations on the project: a three-color palette and only a couple fonts, but then occasionally broke the rules. The result is a collection of engaging and thought-provoking covers that make me want to catch up on reading.


Jenny created the brand identity for a new Chicago restaurant called Giant. In opposition to its name, Giant is a small and contemporary. She played with scale and spacing in the logo, has the type condensed in some places and spread far in others. For the menu, the type is sometimes stacked and other times cropped. She juxtaposed this with beautiful, natural illustrations to hint at the warm, earthy dishes and natural decor. I think it was a beautiful execution that’s both sophisticated and playful.

Jenny Volvovski is inspired by …

Isaac Tobin

Isaac’s work inspires me because of his clever and minimal book cover concepts, as well as his ability to integrate a range of mediums into his work. He is very good at condensing complex ideas into simple solutions, but is also not afraid to make messy and complicated designs, if they are appropriate for the book.


In the world of publishing, really great work sometimes doesn’t make it’s way to the printer, and these covers for a series of Christian Kracht novels are a prime example. I love everything about these: The typography, the limited color palette, the geometric patterns and textures, as well as an overall cohesiveness that ties all the book covers together while maintaining individuality in each one.


Aside from being a book cover designer, Isaac is also a type designer. His typefaces typically start off as lettering for a book title, and then grow into a full alphabet. He is very conscious of the time period and historical context of the books he works on. The Ostia typeface, for example, combines Roman inscriptional proportions and the London Underground finish for a book about Imperial Maps. He then used the skeleton of the typeface and adapted it to books about Greece and Frank Lloyd Wright. I love how much research and specificity goes into creating these, as well as how many of his covers rely on beautiful custom typography.

Isaac Tobin is inspired by …

Edie Fake

I’ve been inspired by Edie Fake since we first met in college. It’s been amazing seeing his work develop over the years, and I’m particularly inspired by how he uses formal mastery and invention to create work that is both personal and political.


First off, I have to mention Gaylord Phoenix, Edie’s amazing graphic novel (released in a compiled form by Secret Acres in 2010). It’s a mythic quest of bodily transformation and occult dream-logic, featuring psychedelic bursts of transmogrifying magic, sex, and violence. And there are jokes too. Because Edie drew (and released) the book over seven years, you can see the drawing style and design evolve in step with our protagonist, the Gaylord Phoenix.

More recently, Edie has been making breathtakingly ornate gouache and ink paintings of impossible architectural spaces. These paintings absolutely blow me away. Elegiac and surreal, labored over like devotional icons, they use repeating patterns and gorgeous colors to depict impossible spaces that function as allegories for queer bodies and experiences. I’m inspired by how these paintings manage to convey so much by the way they straddle divides: they are at the same time both flat and dimensional, celebratory and foreboding, trance-like and seizure-inducing, naive and masterful.

Tune in next time to see who inspires Edie Fake.