Cover Stories: Thoughtfulness in design (2 Mar 2018)
by Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) Let’s delve into great media design from South Africa and around the world:
- International/print: Die Zeit set a president for political parties and why they need to get with the times
- Local/print: Golf Digest presents its 2018 Top 100 courses in textbook fashion
- Iconic: Negro Digest pioneered magazine publishing for black consumers during the ’40s
- Local/print: Ons Klyntji reinvents perceptions of Afrikaans, defining a unique literary perspective
- International/print: Rolling Stone brings on the Black Panther revolution
- Online: Volume redefines publishing with its online curatorial platform
Golf Digest (South Africa), March 2018
Simple, bold and with a single-minded message, the latest issue of Golf Digest marks two decades of existence for the magazine’s course rankings. The 2018 Top 100 courses are clearly communicated on the cover, sporting massive shelf appeal, with its flat use of green to signify the lush green grass that one would be accustomed to on any given golf course. Typography is the driver here; it is thankfully unadulterated, broken up by considered horizontal lines that segment the bottom two-thirds of the cover layout. All of this is accented by a clever compositional mechanism using two diagonal lines, starting with the arrow in the bottom left corner and ending with the golf ball in the top third where the masthead containing the publication’s logo is housed, neatly countered against the natural zigzag flow of the information hierarchy. Overall, it makes the cut in design terms; nothing much more to say than par for the course.
Rolling Stone (US), issue #1308, 8 March 2018
Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman oozes prowess on the latest cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Decades of trial and error have finally resulted in the portrayal of a radical, modern black superhero, in turn constructing a new mythology. That a bona fide, true-to-form, black superhero now exists is revolutionary, indicating a fresh epoch for popular discourse and mainstream narratives, especially for the often-tired genre of superhero movies.
The film establishes an archetype: the black superhero. Negotiating his way through the hubris of previous attempts to portray black superheroes, living in the wake of ’70s Blaxploitation films, Boseman owns the silver screen with the confidence of Shaft, the gallantry of Barack Obama and the arrogance of Kanye West. Braving the question “What does it truly mean to be African?”, Boseman presents his Black Panther character, T’Challa, as beyond belief or creed and, importantly, as human (albeit chiseled to almost superhuman perfection). Boseman’s role in the film makes its message evermore legitimate, visionary and impactful. The Afro-punk and Afro-futurist art direction from the film is subtly mirrored by Boseman’s attire on the cover, leaving very little to the imagination with his defiant swagger.
Ons Klyntji (South Africa), 2017–2018 issue
First published in 1896, Ons Klyntji is the oldest-known Afrikaans magazine. After the demise of the first incarnation of the publication, the Ons Klyntji brand was revived by popular Afrikaans folk singer, Koos Kombuis, during the ’90s, who later passed the publication on to the lead singer for the band Buckfever Underground, Toast Coetzer. True to its recent musical and literary roots, the publication is sponsored by Oppikoppi festival and Woordfees respectively.
Mostly literary, with a strong connection to the musical and peppered with contributions from other creative spheres, the latest iteration of the magazine is themed “Internasionaal”, meaning international. It features writing, photography, art and the like from a vast array of different creative types, selected from nearly 200 submissions. Contrary to stereotypes about Afrikaans culture, the cover depicts the globe upside-down (or is it?), suggesting quasi-postcolonial sentiments with a twist. This vision of the globe supports a consciousness in support of alternative threads of history that defy traditional western thought, and begin to define an idiosyncratic, eclectic South African vernacular. Copies are available at either Oppikoppi or Woordfees, and a few selected niche bookstores.
Die Zeit (Germany), 15 February 2018
Youthful, colourful, gestured and flowing, the cover for the February 2018 issue of Die Zeit showcases updated and contemporised logos for five of Germany’s political parties, including CDU, SPD, FDP, Greens and Left Party. Designed by Swiss-based graphic designer, Erich Brechbuhl, the cover is suggestive of the views of five young members from each political party. Stemming from differing political backgrounds and political convictions, these five young politicians find unity under the shared desire for a political vision that considers a future which embraces new and diverse ideas. Calling for political participation in society and leaving the old trenches behind, they agree on the need for a change in established political alliances. Advocating a state of mind that goes beyond the dated categories of either right or left wing, they argue from greater imagination and creativity in the application of democratic perspectives, because the future depends on pluralism and harmony in a globalised world. Perhaps a perspective that more South African political parties should begin to consider?
Volume (UK), February 2018
London-based Volume is an online platform with the goal of redefining the traditional role of the publisher. It champions the production of well-crafted books that substantiate the importance of considered, curated and artfully executed visual communication. Volume places emphasis on the relationship between maker and the audience by producing high-quality, limited-edition printed books for niche audiences encompassing many different disciplines and genres, from art and design to photography and architecture and the like. Under the patronage of established publishing house, Thames & Hudson, Volume is a prototype of the future for publishing backed by decades of editorial pedigree.
With its accessible and aesthetically pleasing website as an effective shopfront, Volume hosts campaigns in order to fund and produce printed editions made by emerging talents and established names alike. Anyone may pledge to get a publication produced on Volume simply by perusing the available funding projects on the site — rewiring the publishing industry one pledge at a time.
Negro Digest (US), May 1968
Black World (US), May 1970
The covers to the magazine were an eclectic blend of mid-century modernist graphic design, typical of what was happening in America at that time, and an awareness of an emerging black identity. The Negro Digest was a reflection of the times, particularly for African-Americans in Chicago during the ’40s, which had supported a large community of black entrepreneurs since the turn of the 20th century. Chicago was an influential centre for modernism in the US, which was an attractive quality that lured many black students to study commercial art in the city’s art and design institutions. And, so, the cultural environment was perfect for a publication such as The Negro Digest.
A defining column in the magazine was “If I Were a Negro”, which focused on unsolicited advice that blacks commonly received from whites on stereotypically black problems. The publication of Ebony and Jet, both also published by Johnson Publishing Company, had a huge impact on the circulation of The Negro Digest, eventually leading to its collapse in 1951. Despite this failure, Johnson attempted to revive the magazine by rebranding and relaunching it in 1970 under a new name, Black World. This incarnation was aimed at a wider audience to include Africa and the African diaspora. In 1976, despite protest from the black arts community, Black World was dropped by Johnson Publishing Company.
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) is a designer, writer, and educator currently based in Cape Town, South Africa, working in the fields of communication design and digital media. He works from Gilgamesh, a small design studio, and is a senior lecturer in graphic design at Vega School in Cape Town. Connect on Pinterest and Instagram.
Cover Stories, formerly MagLove, is a regular slot deconstructing media cover design, both past and present.