Media Design: Eros, Swiss in CSS, Varoom, VISI
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct)’s weekly analysis of media design — both past and present, print and online — from South Africa and around the world:
- Iconic: Eros contributed to the growth of counter-culture, specifically the sexual revolution, in America during the ’60s
- Online: Swiss in CSS bring timeless pieces of Swiss graphic design to life, animated using CSS code
- Independent print: Varoom exhibits how illustration can be a powerful tool against the corrupt powers that be around the world today
- Commercial print: VISI becomes more iconic after receiving the A’Design Award for Best Design Media
VISI (South Africa), Spring issue, August/September 2018
The iconic VISI has just become even more so after receiving the A’Design Award for Best Design Media in Italy.
This is an incredible accolade for a South African magazine as recognition comes from nominations by international designers, artists, architects and the like, who are also past laureates of the A’Design Awards.
Awarded only once to each winning publication, this is a serious acknowledgement of VISI’s contribution to the global design community, and to the production and promotion of culture in South Africa.
VISI will publish its 100th edition in 2019.
Varoom (US), issue 38, September 2018
More activism is obviously required when the world seems as if it’s about to fall off the rails — a world where the leader of one of the most-powerful countries on the planet is deemed so ludicrous that he’s laughed at by other powerful leaders from the rest of the globe in the UN general assembly. Illustration magazine, Varoom, riffs off of this sentiment with its latest issue, #38, themed activism. As mainstream magazines such as The New Yorker proves, illustration can powerfully influence social and political dissent against corrupt powers. Illustrators across the world have contributed to this issue to combat the current age of distorted truths, unsustainable over-consumption, and the degradation of culture, questioning and provoking through their craft.
Editor, Olivia Ahmad, pieced together a selection of activist-inspired perspectives, including a New Wave Middle Eastern comics collective, called Samanadal, who fight against state censorship and prosecution; a dialogue with Design Museum curator, Margaret Cubbage, about illustration as an anti-misinformation mechanism; and a report from Stuart Lang on how brands may be boosted through their association with social movements. The cover for this issue is by New York-based, Portuguese illustrator, Bráulio Amad, who avoids stereotypical depictions of activism while using a literal interpretation of the theme.
Swiss in CSS (US), September 2018
The international style that is commonly associated with modernist typography and graphic design from Switzerland during the ’40s and ’50s still has a strong influence on contemporary design. Known for its formalism, objectivity, legibility, geometric sans-serif typography, juxtaposition of typography and photography, dynamic use of grids, and asymmetric layouts, important exponents of the Swiss style include Josef Müller-Brockmann, Armin Hofmann, Max Bill, and Jan Tschichold, to name a few.
The most-recognisable works from this period tend to be posters, something the website, Swiss in CSS, takes full advantage of. Using CSS (cascading style sheets) to animate iconic Swiss-style pieces, the site includes classics such as “Zürich-Tonhalle, Beethoven” (1955) and “Akari” (1958) both by Müller-Brockmann, and “Canadian Broadcasting Corp” by Burton Kramer (1974). A rad addition to the site is a link to Codepen for each timeless piece of design, allowing access to all the code used to make it all come to life. Interestingly, the site was designed by the director of digital experiences for AIGA Detroit, Jon Yablonski.
Eros (US), 1962
Eros was a short-lived but influential quarterly succeeded by Fact magazine (mentioned in last week’s column). Published in 1962, Eros was the first important editorial effort from Ralph Ginzburg, working alongside iconic art director, Herb Lubalin. As its title suggests, the magazine was named after the ancient Greek god of attraction and desire (similar to the Roman god, Cupid). The magazine’s content included writing and visuals based on love and sex that often provoked authorities in the US, despite its tastefully presented contents, which included history, politics, art and literature about sexuality.
In keeping with the subject of activism, four subversive issues of Eros were printed, all published in protest of America’s obscenity laws at the time, which had been loosened to allow for greater freedom of expression. The title stretched the limits of censorship in the US, and unapologetically expressed the freedoms of love and sex. Eros was prolific during its short life, including contributions from Ray Bradbury in #1; #2 included Mark Twain‘s short story “1601”; #3 included the infamous nudes of Marilyn Monroe shot by Bert Stern (“The Last Sitting”); and #4 published a letter by beat writer, Allen Ginsberg.
In opposition to the contents, Lubalin’s design approach was unadulterated and clean, with an unconventional large, hardcover format printed on choice paper, which made Eros look more like a book than a magazine. Due to its subversive approach, the magazine was hounded by conservatives — racists, in particular — and arguably had to end print due to a sexually charged photograph that portrayed a mixed-race couple. Although only four issues were published, Eros is noteworthy because it contributed to the growth of counter-culture, specifically the sexual revolution, in America during the ’60s. A full online archive is available here.
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.
Media Design, formerly Cover Stories and MagLove, is a regular slot deconstructing media cover design, both past and present.
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