Media Design: Albert, Das Plakat, Field, Süddeutsche Zeitung
Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct)’s weekly analysis of media design from South Africa and around the world:
- Commercial print: Albert creates a happy medium where mind-bending design and cutting-edge science meet, opening a space for a broader audience
- Iconic: Das Plakat effectively documented a decade of commercial art production at the beginning of the 20th century, defining what we call graphic design today
- Online: Field is an online magazine that ironically encourages us to get away from our screens and explore the outside world
- Independent print: Süddeutsche Zeitung celebrates the legacy of one of the most-successful sex toys in history
Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), issue #5, February 2019
The story of the humble vibrator is the theme for the cover of the latest issue of Süddeitsche Zeitung. One of the most-successful sex toys in history is succinctly and tactfully represented here, visually implying vibrations, striations, and reverberations. The design of the cover is oddly visceral, given that it is a fairly formal and abstract representation suggestive of the Op Art antics of Bridget Riley.
Displaying the German words “kimm schoen”, meaning “you know”, the cover explodes with shelf appeal, bringing a common experience to life and celebrating the legacy of the vibrator (as the headline states: “der siegerszug eines vibrrators”). The cover illustration is by Swiss graphic designer, Erich Brechbühl, who no doubt took his inspiration from Lance Wyman’s iconic identity system for the infamous 1968 Olympics in Mexico, Not only pushing the envelope for cover design, but also pushing the proverbial button in more ways than one.
Albert (Germany), issue #4, February 2019
Based in Berlin, Albert is a journal published by the Einstein Foundation, focused on discussion and support for pioneering scientific research. Each edition has a theme based on a scientific discipline and how cutting-edge science is pursued in Germany. Albert aims to speak to a broader audience, not limited to the confines of the scientific community alone. This is where good design supports science, with each cover looking more avant-garde than scientific, with spreads that look like they came from a showcase of contemporary layout design.
The latest issue, the fourth edition, sports an iconic image of Albert Einstein obscured by mesmerising Op Art-like visuals, reminiscent of work by Victor Vasarely or Bridget Riley once again. The theme is “Ausbruch”, which can mean departure, start, breakup, or crack — all words that may be related to Einstein’s scientific work, strikingly depicted on the cover. Aside from the legacy created by Einstein and his approach to theoretical physics, mind-bending design and science meet with this journal, designed and art directed by Fons Hickmann M23, a prolific and influential design studio that focuses on the design of complex communication systems in support of the production of culture. Albert ticks all the boxes, from art and design to science and mathematics.
Field (US), February 2019
Started by writer and photographer, Graham Hiemstra, alongside web developer and designer, Chris Stillitano, Field is an online magazine for folks who love the outdoors and appreciate contemporary design. Field is all about the aesthetics of being outdoors, from landscapes and environments to architecture and fashion, coupled with the latest tech to improve the overall experience of nature. Ironically based in New York, a city that epitomises the built environment, Field publishes fresh content weekly with the hope of inspiring people to explore, and delight in various experiences away from the city.
Produced by a small team working remotely from various countries across the globe, with contributors from differing fields and disciplines, Field is an example of modern living. In today’s world, one shouldn’t have to be confined to a desk in front of a screen under cold fluorescent lights in an open-plan office for 8–10 hours per day. Technology and media allow for other ways of living and working. So, too, we can’t keep staring at screens; it simply isn’t conducive to a healthy, vibrant, and meaningful life. Field is the perfect remedy, for urbanites who live for weekends in search of adventure. From hiking to snowboarding, there’s bound to be content for anyone looking for inspiration to go outside, to get away, and find out about the latest outdoor technology and gear at the same time.
Das Plakat (Germany), 1910–1921
Published in Germany from 1910 to 1921, Das Plakat was a magazine produced by The Association of Friends of the Poster (“Der Verein Der Plakatfreunde”), cemented into the annals of history by the editorial and curatorial talents of Hans Sachs, a dentist by profession. Sachs was a passionate collector of posters, obsessed with French posters in particular, and one of the most-influential private collectors in Germany. With Das Plakat, Sachs became a guardian of sorts, responsible for promoting the German commercial arts on an international scale.
Das Plakat, meaning “The Poster”, was influential as an illustrated periodical focused on modern poster design, bringing together various formats of print media by promoting the commercial arts and advertising graphics in the form of a magazine. The periodical showcased the best posters from Germany and other parts of Europe. The quality of printing was second to none, effectively documenting a decade of commercial art production, defining what we now call graphic design which finds its roots in the early stages of commercialisation and industrialisation in Europe.
In the beginning, around 200 issues were printed to cater to the 80 members of the association at the time, but this number increased as more members joined. Nearing its final year in print, 10 000 copies were printed. The demise of Das Plakat started in 1920, when the association started to dissolve, caused by an inadequate structure that made it unable to adapt to its own rapid growth. It simply got too big too quickly and crumbled under its own weight. The final issue of Das Plakat was published in 1921, after the growth of the association caused its death due to a lack of control and inadequate infrastructure.
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. Connect with him 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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