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Industrial Designer of the Year 2010: Rollout

The Vancouver design team behind Rollout brings the vintage art of handmade design beautifully into the 21st century.

Children of their times, Anita Modha and Jonathan Nodrick edged into their current firm, Rollout, through the kind of social networking, online chance-taking and immersion in pop culture that defines our iPhone Age. But their product—custom and curated designer wallpapers—speaks to the labour-intensive guildwork of another era.

Back in 2005, their first client was a friend. The brief—to paper a narrow, 100-square-foot hair salon in Vancouver—brought the pair to illustrator Julie Morstad, whose pen-and-ink fairy-tale images spoke directly to the client’s whimsical and otherworldly aesthetic. The paper itself was digitally printed on a large-format machine they sourced on Craigslist.

Around the same time, just as non-traditional wallcoverings were beginning to pop, Modha and Nodrick hosted a group art show. Thirty people collaborated on 23 designs, the results of which, Modha says, suggested they were on to a paying thing. “We said, ‘Push the idea, do whatever you want, I want to know what you think wallpaper could be.’” The pair winnowed out the noncommercial, then approached designers and architects with a collection. “It made people realize what a great medium this is to work in, so different from the past,” she explains.

This ability to brand any space, commercial or residential, taps into a larger cultural force, says judge Omer Arbel. “We consume hundreds, if not thousands, of images per day,” he notes. “It therefore makes great sense that we should have the option of applying any image at all onto our wall surfaces with versatility and ease.”

Collaboratively minded, digitally on demand, Rollout is sharpening the decorative nature of wallcoverings with its Wayfinder series: repeating instances of traditional directional icons writ large. The sheets help the viewer navigate through space, but they also point to another world, one so rich in information that the walls themselves help us find our way.

Rollout in Vancouver
Jonathan Nodrick and Anita Modha of Vancouver’s Rollout—known for its edgy wallpaper designs.

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