Cover Stories: Airbnbmag, Art Licks, Caleo, Design Times & De Stijl
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct)’s weekly analysis of media design — both past and present, print and online — from South Africa and around the world:
- International/print: Airbnbmag showcases Cape Town in all its glory using the work of local artist, Kirsten Sims
- International/print: Art Licks supports emerging artists, working at grassroots level to create opportunities within the world of art
- Online: Caleo attempts to redefine contemporary representation of the ‘urban man’
- Local/print: Design Times continues to advocate great illustration from South Africa, featuring the work of Pretoria-born, Cape Town-based, Gerhard van Wyk
- Iconic: De Stijl contributed to our definition of modernism, and influenced the style of the Bauhaus and the international style in architecture.
Design Times (South Africa), July 2018
Since the start, Design Times has been known to support great illustration work on its covers, especially from talented local artists — many of whom fly under the radar and often go unnoticed. The current issue features one such little-known illustrator: Pretoria-born, Cape Town-based, Gerhard Van Wyk. As opposed to other commercially renowned illustrators, such as Clint Campbell (Studio Muti), Dylan Jones (Jones & Co.), Kris Hewitt (Studio Kronk), Gerhard Human, Karabo Poppy Moletsane, and Hylton and Chantelle Warburton (Studio Warburton), Van Wyk seems to steer away from the limelight. Despite seemingly being one of the overlooked illustrators out there, Van Wyk’s work stands up against the best and easily fits the bill alongside his more-popular contemporaries. This cover suggests an overlooked fact: many top local illustrators stem from either Pretoria or Durban. Why these two cities are able generate such great talents, and why these talents leave these cities for either Johannesburg or Cape Town, is an anomaly that still needs to be properly scrutinised.
Aibnbmag (US), Spring 2018
It’s not difficult to imagine why Airbnb’s ever-growing global community would demand a devoted publication of some sort. Sporting the tagline, “At Home in the World”, Airbnbmag is all about tales that its users tell from various points of departure and arrival across the planet, imbuing each story with priceless local knowledge. As a lifestyle and travel magazine, Airbnbmag tries to showcase authentic experiences from travel writers and photographers globally. Every story reveals the special character of each geography, filtering through the static of tourist hotspots and placing importance on the quirks of every location, including its heritage, cuisine, and traditions — all from the informed perspective of locals.
The cover to the latest issue embraces South African culture, capturing Cape Town’s Table Mountain from the viewpoint of the V&A Waterfront in all its glory. Illustrated by South African artist, Kirsten Sims, relative to another contributor for this issue, Australian illustrator Marc Martin, the cover teeters on the edge of commercial illustration and fine art. Sporting oodles of shelf appeal, Sims’ work can’t be separated from the work of her local contemporaries, the equally capable Mia Chaplin and Michael Taylor.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Art Licks (UK), issue 22, June 2018
Art Licks is a visual culture platform that backs emerging and little-known creatives, working at grassroots level to create opportunities within the art world. Launched in 2010, it’s about emerging art and experimental happenings based in London. Meant to be a discursive platform for artists, curators and the like, all sharing their respective ideas and projects, Art Licks has a variety of manifestations: online, cultural tours, a learning and commissioning programme, and an annual festival.
The printed magazine is arguably its most intriguing manifestation. The cover for #22 — a weird hybrid of a death-metal album cover and a runic typographic relic — is based on the theme “GORSEDD”, translated as assembly present-day of bards (contemporaries of each other). It’s Welsh in origin, formerly meaning “throne”. As its theme and art direction suggests, contributors to this issue exchange ideas about mythology, mysticism, ritual, and folklore. Inspired by the past, with a tinge of medieval tonality, GORSEDD is an attempt to understand modern society while, at the same time, foretelling potential futures, fueled by uncorrupted creativity.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Caleo (Germany), Summer, July 2018
With its credo, “Tomorrow’s Aesthetics in its Purist Form”, Caleo is a lifestyle magazine focused on contemporary men’s fashion. The latest issue is themed “Langage des Fleurs” (the language of flowers) and features Dutch model, Ton Heukels, on the printed cover and on the website landing page. With its emphasis on haute couture, Caleo’s visual language is meant to be a reaction against the superficiality of glossy, mainstream fashion magazines, and it succeeds in doing so, to a certain extent. Attempting to define a more-accurate representation of the ‘urban man’, choosing depth over surface, and placing substance before style can’t be an easy task when dealing with the perceivably artificial world of fashion. The design of the printed magazine doesn’t compare to its online sibling, with its dynamic dual-screen spread. The first screen is dedicated to art direction and photography, with a horizontal scroll to reveal for more content. The second screen is dedicated to the features, interviews, and articles, with a vertical scroll to access more content. Stylish, clean and neat, with clever design solutions to the overall experience of the site.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ De Stijl (Netherlands), 1917–1920
Dutch for “The Style”, De Stijl was an avant-garde magazine produced by the founder and leader of the De Stijl movement, Theo van Doesburg. Based in the Netherlands, De Stijl focused on the philosophies and theories connected to Dutch mathematician, MHJ Schoenmaekers, which informed the work of Van Doesburg, and other exponents of the movement, including Piet Mondrian, Bart van der Leck, Gerrit Rietveld, and JJP Oud. to name a few. Following Schoenmaekers’ ideas, which were inspired by neoplatonic ideals (Plato’s realism and notion of universal truth), De Stijl’s core mantra was neoplasticism, essentially describing a new ‘plastic art’. Core principles in geometry — solid lines, squares and rectangles only, and asymmetry — coupled with relations between positive and negative space, primary colours (red, yellow, and blue), and neutrals (black and white) were strictly adhered to.
De Stijl, vol 1, no. 1, was first published in October 1917, in Delft, Netherlands. The non-objective and formalist approach of De Stijl, influenced by the mysticism of neoplatonism and quasi-spiritualism of early modernist movements such as cubism, was at the heart of what De Stijl stood for, with the aim to propagate the philosophies of the movement through the magazine. In his introduction to the inaugural issue of De Stijl, Van Doesburg implied that the magazine was a response to another Dutch magazine called Wendingen (briefly featured in Cover Stories, 1 December 2017 in relation to Icon magazine). The covers for the first 12 issues were designed by another important group member, Hungarian painter and designer, Vilmos Huszár.
De Stijl would go on to influence the style of the Bauhaus school, and the international style in architecture. After 1920, the nature of De Stijl began to evolve. Van Doesburg’s relationship with Bauhaus grew stronger, and the Russian constructivists — Alexandre Rodchenko, Kasimir Malevich, El Lizzitsky, et al — were arguably achieving greater relevance within the rubric of abstract art, leading to a decline in interest for De Stijl. Some cross-pollination between De Stijl and Dadaism, particularly a collaboration bewtween Van Doesburg and Kurt Schwitters (featured in one of the earliest Cover Stories in relation to Dada Data), also created confusion, making people question what De Stijl represented. By 1924, Mondrian had left De Stijl, due to Van Doesburg’s desire to introduce diagonal lines into the group’s philosophy — what he referred to as “elementarism” — citing that horizontal and vertical lines were not as imperative. With Mondrian’s departure, De Stijl slowly faded away.
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.