Overlap/Dissolve: Skolos-Wedell’s Monograph Reveals 40-Year Creative Synergy

By: Nancy Skolos & Thomas Wedell, Co-founders, Skolos-Wedell

This autobiographical monograph presents a retrospective of our studio’s work. Its title and theme, “Overlap/Dissolve,” reflects our forty-plus-year relationship working across graphic design and photography, where we often refer to ourselves as two bodies and one brain. 

The idea for the book emerged during a recent move while sorting decades of printed samples and mock-ups. The content of the work and the traces of its making—paper sketches, mechanical artwork, binders of 4-by-5-inch and 8-by-10-inch Ektachrome transparencies, and scale models—provided a snapshot of the rapid evolution of design tools experienced by our generation, whose practices straddled the pre- and post-digital age. It felt important to examine and preserve them. 

We were also reminded of how hard we had worked—more than a hundred hours per week for the first twenty years of the studio—trying to bring imagination into high-tech marketing materials. In many ways, the making of this book was motivated by remembering the youthful, industrious Tom and Nancy. 

Collaboration sometimes raises artless questions, with people wondering: Who is really the brains behind the operation? Who really deserves the accolades for the work? What are the roles? How can they possibly be equitable? These questions, incomprehensible to us, indicate that the degree of collaboration that we have crafted is quite rare. It comes from years of experience building our sensibilities together and from a focus on the work itself, not whose idea it was.

Our aim with the book’s design was to have it embody this ethos. It includes projects that fuse type and image, two and three-dimensional space, and form and meaning to generate a multitude of combinations and transformations. Prototypes, iterations, and studio set-ups highlight the process behind the finished work, which unfolds by decade from the 1980s to the 2020s, each section beginning with a timeline of notable events. While a chronological taxonomy may seem conventional, it was critical for presenting our evolving working methods alongside emerging technologies. Because we wanted to share our experience of collaboration in a very real and personal way, a pair of conversations with each other serves as the primary text, providing a direct view into our collaborative design thinking.

The theme of overlap influenced the book’s design, and the grid subdivides the pages into two vertical and two horizontal areas with a square lower section. Enlarged poster details occupy the vertical areas to create the illusion of overlap by eclipsing images that appear in full on the neighboring spread. The design reinforces the progression of projects as one dissolves into the next and reveals the continuum of the learning process, which comprises both incremental steps forward and occasional slips backward.

It was heartwarming to receive an award from Graphis for this effort because Graphis has been a critical inspiration that has spanned the timeframe of our design practice.

Nancy Skolos and Thomas Wedell of Skolos-Wedell work to diminish the boundaries between graphic design and photography—creating collaged three-dimensional images and design. The studio’s work came into its own during the 1980s in Boston, where the developing high technology industry opened opportunities to develop a graphic language for many intangible inventions. The team’s surreal photographic concepts combined with rational typographic structures gave voice to concepts such as “software” that made room for abstraction. Through international exhibitions, publications, and awards, Skolos-Wedell is well-known both in the US and abroad. Their posters are included in the graphic design collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and many others. Nancy is an elected member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale and a Boston AIGA Fellow. Nancy and Thomas were awarded the AIGA Medal in 2017.


Nancy Skolos: Instagram, X, LinkedIn

Thomas Wedell: LinkedIn

Discover more award-winning Design 2024 entries here. And don’t forget to enter our Design 2025 competition!

Author: Graphis