Cover Stories: The Carnation, MAD, Bon Appétit, Newsweek & Raygun
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct)’s weekly analysis of media design — both past and present, print and online — from South Africa and around the world:
- Online: Bon Appétit embraces a new wave of culinary curious people, inviting the fearful into the kitchen and attempting to dispel any hesitations about home cooking
- International/print: MAD has had a redesign and relaunch, hopefully in favour of a successful revival for a cultural institution that has seen itself in limbo in recent times
- International/print: Newsweek draws attention to the social inequalities in Britain through the lens of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s royal wedding
- Iconic: Raygun by its very nature defied institutionalisation, in turn deconstructing the nature of graphic design itself
- Local/print: The Carnation provides a serious injection of taste, heritage, culture and style, inspired by the Japanese art of flower arrangement known as ikebana.
The Carnation (South Africa), issue 1, February 2018
The first edition of The Carnation, themed the Japanese issue, was released in February this year by floral designer, Cynthia Fan, and ceramic designer, Jade Paton. Inspired by the Japanese art of flower arrangement known as ikebana, or Kadō, the debut edition of this intriguing quarterly places emphasis on collaboration; it mixes Paton’s photography, shot in Tokyo and Kyoto, with Fan’s floral compositions. The zine is Cape Town-based, spurred on by the design skills of Taariq Latiff from Chocolate Sauce Design Studio (Chclt). #1 comes in four different covers, and each edition to follow will be dictated by the work of the artists featured inside. It’s difficult to find, but there are likely to be a few copies left at Akjp Collective, Maison Mara, Margot Molyneux, and Lim Furniture.
The next volume, the Senegal issue, promises to be just as aesthetically layered and conceptually engaging, supported by the work of photographer/stylist, Ane Strydom.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ MAD (US), Issue 1, May 2018
After many years in limbo, the demise of MAD magazine was all but a certainty for many. However, this past month saw a major reboot of the magazine, no doubt a cultural establishment within the comic publication community. Sporting a redesigned logo and a completely new look, and following plans for the publication to move its offices to California, MAD has published a new volume starting at #1 — a clean slate. MAD’s publisher, DC Entertainment, revealed the relaunch because it has been ages since MAD roused and debate, with sales numbers gradually declining over the past few years. Issue #550 saw the last issue of the original volume, which was first launched in 1952. Although the masthead has undergone a complete overhaul, one constant is MAD’s mascot, fondly known as Alfred E Neuman, who has featured on various covers for decades.
An ode of sorts to the April 1974 issue of the original MAD, the new one portrays Neuman with his middle finger subtly shoved into his left, snotty nostril. Printed in full color and to be published bimonthly, the reincarnation of MAD is filled with comics and the usual parodies, notably in this issue: “Star Bores: Half-Assed Jedi” and “Riverdull”. All-in-all, a tad underwhelming; I can’t help but think that the original look and feel remains better, speaking more accurately and authentically to the publication’s readership.
Newsweek (US), 11 May 2018
There are many social divisions in Britain at present, in part due to the political flux related to Brexit. Where does the royal family, with its outdated political models arguably founded upon centuries of racism and classism, situate itself today? And what difference does the royal wedding make within the prevailing hubris of post-colonial and post-capitalist discourse? In short, why should we care about the holy matrimony of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry outside the context of white privilege and first-world problems, and all the overtly cute and romantic connotations that may be derived as a result? Simply put: why is this relevant?
If anything, this royal wedding exposes important facts about race and class, social access and upward mobility, not only in Britain but on a global scale. The sheer extravagance and blind optimism surrounding the big event only serves to prove the presence of privilege. The ‘white’ part of this equation may be found among the otherworldly levels of hype surrounding the fact that Markle is a 36-year-old, mixed-race, divorced, American woman — which shouldn’t be an issue today. It all seems to be based on a process of exclusion and a shortsighted do-gooder attitude. To prove this point, all the important guests in attendance have been asked to donate to charities (one might as well walk straight to a confessional). The cherry on the proverbial cake? 1200 ‘common folk’ guests have been carefully selected to join the celebrations on the grounds, gently separated from the important guests, all to show how ‘inclusive’ the wedding will be. (For those interested, the wedding will take place on 19 May 2018 in S. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.)
On a positive note, Newsweek certainly knows how to frame a striking portrait on a magazine cover. The photograph of Markle was taken by Samir Hussein.
Bon Appetit (US), May, 2018
Not many online magazines can claim to be listed on Advertising Age’s A-List six years in a row, or boast that it has been on Adweek’s Hot List since 2012, notably awarded Hottest Food Magazine for the second time in 2017. Notwithstanding such honors among a plethora of other important accolades, Bon Appétit is a beautifully designed site where food meets culture. Declaring that food is not only lifestyle — it’s a state of being — food is presented through a considered application of basic design principles. Using subject matter related to travel and technology, Bon Appétit fosters a growing awareness among the culinary curious about healthy food and the complementary lifestyle it advocates.
Embracing a new wave, inviting the fearful into the kitchen and attempting to dispel any hesitations about home-cooking, Bon Appétit declares that healthy is tasty and wellness is sexy. Equally mouthwatering is the design of the website itself, particularly with its sporadic dual-direction vertical scrolls, video-first approach, art-directed photography, choice typography (Futura PT for those interested), colour swatches that speak in just the right tone of voice, and layout that is second to none.
Ray Gun (US), 1992–2000
Modernism is redundant; that is what Ray Gun announced when it was first released in 1992. The magazine was founded and edited by Marvin Scott Jarret, currently the editor-in-chief for New York-based fashion magazine, Nylon, who was driven by his inspired passion for graphic design. In the beginning, Jarret had the support of legendary graphic designer, David Carson, who filled the position of art director, and the publication soon became notorious for its use of scrambled layouts and garbled information hierarchies, fragmented typography and deconstructed imagery. Interference and erasure were the name of the game, in typical postmodern fashion, pushing the limits of legibility and readability in publication design.
Despite its rebellious attitude towards design orthodoxies, Ray Gun’s experimentation with typography, layout and non-linear narrative made important contributions towards the overall rubric of visual communication. Carson’s deconstructed art direction constructed a new design history as it developed though the ’90s, loosely defining what we now refer to as grunge. Ray Gun remained in print for seven years, from 1992 until 2000, despite Carson only serving for the first three years of its publication. His aesthetic defined the magazine throughout its existence, which was indirectly influenced by postmodern ideas connected to post-structuralism, particularly a school of thought known as deconstruction. In simple design terms, all traditional rules of design were demolished and then reassembled to create an attractive, textured, visual milieu (albeit chaotic) that must have been almost anarchic to people on the ground at the time. It was a breakthrough in design history, after a period during the ’80s of limbo and a fair amount of kitsch.
Aside from the design and art direction of the magazine, Ray Gun’s content was relevant and radical, with a mixed brand of music and pop culture infused with street and surfer culture that proved to be a good forecaster for new trends. The proof lies in that Ray Gun found and featured a variety of then-emerging artists who happen to be extremely influential today, including bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, and Pearl Jam. After 74 issues, the magazine stopped publishing at the beginning of 2000 after being rocked by a multitude of financial issues.
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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