Cover Stories: Thoughtfulness in design (16 Mar 2018)
by Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) Let’s delve into great media design from South Africa and around the world:
- Local/print: ELLE South Africa counteracts buzzwords-turned-stereotypes and clichés by setting the stage for authentic voices within the South African creativity community
- Iconic: International Times (IT) provided some the earliest counterculture and underground commentary in the UK during the ’60s
- International/print: Same Old Magazine calls upon a pioneering bastion of design to provide a succinct lesson in timeless visual communication
- International/print: The New York Times Magazine pushes shoegaze and glam vibes to the max with a series of covers that pay tribute to 25 songs that could define the sound of the future
- Online: Working Not Working Magazine effortlessly connects companies and creatives on a curated platform that could place the middleman advertising agency in danger of extinction
ELLE (South Africa), March 2018
Buzzwords and trendy catchphrases are omnipresent today, often the product of an uncreative sensibility. They may be used by those who struggle to find their own voice, freely using terms such as design thinking, disruption, innovation and human-centred, among many others, in the most-ignorant and -irresponsible fashion. Ultimately, the blatant disregard for such terms strips them of all meaning and authenticity.
Top-of-mind when it comes to the cover for the latest issue of ELLE South Africa are increasingly popular phrases such as Afrofuturism, Afrocentric, Afropop, and Afropunk. But this magazine cover is an exception to the rule, running counter to the ubiquitous, near-meaningless milieu of strategic jargon and corporatised pollution out there. Artfully photographed and with well-considered art direction, the cover depicts three of South Africa’s freshest, most-relevant and creative female voices from the realms of art, music, and technology: Nonku Phiri, Rochelle “Rharha” Nembhard, and Manthe Ribane. These ladies represent the antithesis of vacuous catchphrases turned empty clichés — forget the stuff that buzzwords are made of — we need the stuff that this cover is made of.
The New York Times Magazine (US), March 2018
This four-part cover series for the latest issue of The New York Times Magazine sets a dreamy tone, reminiscent of classic The Cure album covers from the ’80s. The covers succinctly introduce the lead article, an impressive piece of non-fiction written by various contributors, titled “25 Songs That Will Tell Us Where Music Is Going”. As always, design director Gail Bichler needs to be singled out; she is simply an unstoppable creative force.
The frequency that these covers ride on? Shoegaze and Glam rock to the max with a breadcrumb trail of David Carson and Sofia Coppola, thanks to the curious sensibilities of Kathy Ryan (DoP) and art director Matt Willey. A special mention must be given to the webpage for the lead article in this issue, which is an interactive delight: a fully-fledged musical experience and a journey into sonic history (and future). Anything else said here would not do this amazing journalistic effort any justice. A highly recommended read.
Same Old (UK), issue 24, March 2018
Same Old is an indie publication that focuses on skateboarding culture throughout the history of the sport. As its name suggests, time may go by and change is a constant, yet some things are timeless. The sport of skateboarding has maintained this timeless quality, with generations of young people crafting their lives through the sport and defining their adult years in the same old fashion.
Same Old drives this point through on the cover to issue #24 with another timeless exponent of the global creative community contributing his canonical design expertise to this cover. The iconic David Carson, of Raygun fame and known for democratising the face of graphic design in the public realm, and turning typography into an expressive medium, created this cover. Aside from skateboarding, his legendary Nine Inch Nails covers bring back fond memories for many.
Known for embracing interference, fragmentation, disturbance, and other expressive forms of noise and static into his designs, Carson appropriates an all-too familiar scene: a heavily populated desktop, glitch and messy, screen burn and pixilation to boot. Conceptually sturdy, the cover visuals carry narrative nostalgically, in a manner that we all can relate to. As is the norm with Carson’s work, despite being the visual communication equivalent of a beehive, it is surprisingly easy on the eye.
Working Not Working Magazine (US), 12 March 2018
An innovative online platform, Working Not Working (WNW) helps companies connect with creatives through the use of a list of top talent sourced from a curated global community. Curating this list is the responsibility of WNW’s international membership board, consisting of world-class creative professionals at the forefront of their game. The result? All new WNW members must be the most-respected and hardest-working creatives out there, with hard-hitting portfolios to back them up. Emphasis is naturally on community, not commissions, declaring that design should be a priority, not a service. So, companies themselves have to be legitimate, with a high level of creative acumen to support their business acumen. Membership requires one to be producing at an incredibly high standard, supported by the fact that only three South African creatives are currently listed as members: Artist/designer Richard Hart; graphic designer Justin Poulter; and designer/typographer, Jordan Metcalf.
Essentially, WNW reframes the world of work, and the way in which creative output is measured, valued, and remunerated. WNW is an advocate of remote-working methodologies, adapting to the increasing nomadic lifestyles of many creative professionals around the world. The magazine is an online showcase of notable international members, a web-based editorial space where the work of the highest performing members is featured. In short, it is a happy marriage between curating and editing based on WNW’s global membership. It’s the work that counts, followed by the muscle to back it up, where surface is balanced with depth, and substance meets image.
The International Times (UK), 1968
Covering counterculture during the ’60s in London, author Barry Miles and photographer John Hopkins created one of UK’s most-influential, and original, underground newspapers, ironically named “The International Times” (IT). With an emphasis on alternative press and unorthodox journalism, the paper focused on avant-garde tendencies, radical politics, the sexual revolution, and the like, all related to youth culture and the zeitgeist during the ’60s. First launched at a ‘Rave’, featuring early performances from Soft Machine and Pink Floyd, on 15 October 1966 in London at The Roundhouse (a popular performance arts venue), IT became the go-to name for underground newspapers, and its launch marked a cultural sea change in support of the growing cultural revolution that was spreading across the globe during the ’60s.
Covers were edgy, eccentric and outside of anything else that had come before. Many of the paper’s original contributors would become highly influential, including feminist critic Germaine Greer, prominent BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel, and Beat writers William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, to name a few.
IT’s branding, intended to imbue a sense of anti-establishment, was a randomly selected, stark contrast black-and-white image of Theda Bara, a notorious star of the original silver screen. Innately resistant towards any form of authority, the paper had regular clashes with the law but, despite harassment from police, IT attracted an impressive and sizable audience. With the patronage of singer-songwriter, Paul McCartney, popularly known as the bass guitarist and singer for the Beatles, IT was published on a bi-weekly basis with a circulation that rapidly reached 40 000 copies by the late ’60s. Increased police interference, accompanied by competition from other underground publications, eventually resulted in sharp sales declines that led to the demise of the paper in October 1973. A few attempts to revive the IT brand occurred during the mid-’70s, but quickly faded away by the late ’70s.
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.
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