by Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) My final Top 5 list showcasing publications from 2017 focuses on online publications that have a healthy relationship with print, specifically in terms of historic tradition’s and contemporary conventions in design.
- Cover Stories: Top 5 international mag covers for 2017 — niche
- Cover Stories: Top 5 South African mag covers for 2017 — niche
- Cover Stories: Top 5 international mag covers for 2017 — commercial
- Cover Stories: Top 5 South African mag covers for 2017 — commercial
No longer is it abnormal to utter the words “print is dead”; it’s an outdated statement. The point is that print will live on, with self-aware people the world over continuing to appreciate the real, authentic experience of physical and analogue processes. This sentiment is supported by the revival of vinyl records and the renaissance in independent print in Europe and America. It’s rather a matter of finding a healthy mix of various kinds of media, in this context print and online, respecting the special qualities that each has to offer. This balance is important, especially where traditional and contemporary media intersect.
#5. Flat File (US), Issue 10, June 2016
Flat File is an online publication that showcases historic graphic design contributions from the Herb Lubalin Study Center’s collection at The Cooper Union in New York; one piece from the collection is showcased per issue. The point is to cultivate an appreciation for, and connoisseurship of, the commercial and graphic arts — from packaging and editorial design to illustration and typography, among other classic pieces. Didactic in its approach, Flat File aims to unravel the timeless narrative underlying each work and share invaluable information about important design contributions that all designers should know about, and that society at large would benefit from knowing about.
The work of Swiss graphic designer, Fred Troller, was celebrated in issue #10, emphasising the golden age of pharmaceutical design. The work that Troller did for Geigy Chemical Corporation, presently Novartis, is of particular interest here, because it informed the prolific Swiss style of the post-World War II period, and the international typographic style that resulted from it, which remains influential today.
#4. Mayday (US), Issue 1, September 2017
Mayday magazine was first released on 1 September 2017, both in print and online. Independently published, it’s a biannual cultural magazine about the often-extreme and uncertain realities that societies the world over have to deal with today. A celebration of all that is obscure and unorthodox, Mayday is the progeny of Trouble, an experimental studio based in Copenhagen, Denmark, that prides itself on its search for the next ‘new’ new, and anything that still remains unexplored within the world of creativity.
Mayday is for non-conformists who critically engage with difficult ideas surrounding the unpredictable and erratic future, encompassing a broad cultural spectrum from art to technology. The magazine’s online presence is of particular interest, with its stark use of colour, animated contrast between typography and drawing, and its inventive use of parallax scrolling. Disruptive to a tee, Mayday suggests that the future certainly belongs to creativity.
#3. Design Matters (US), November 2017
Design Matters is not technically a magazine but not exactly a podcast website either. It’s one of the world’s first online publications to focus on the subject of design via a web-based media channel across a variety of creative fields. Started in 2005 by Debbie Millman (who is also a co-founder and chair of the world’s first Masters in Branding Program at the School of Visual Arts in New York, where the show is produced), Design Matters is a favorite among many designers and other creative types.
The site is incredibly well-designed, with textbook graphic design, UI and UX elements, and includes convenient features such as the ability to filter by discipline, from poets and typographers to directors and designers. It grants one access to an archive of nearly 300 podcasts, including talks with cultural icons such as Massimo Vignelli, Alain de Botton, Milton Glaser, Steven Heller, Louise Fili, and Tobias Frere-Jones; the list simply goes on and on.
Design Matters is published by Design Observer, which is edited by its own list of legendary figures, including Rick Poynor (founder and first editor of Eye magazine), Michael Bierut (partner at Pentagram), Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel (of Winterhouse Studios). Any self-respecting creative or curious person out there who hasn’t listened to this show should remedy their situation immediately.
#2. Magenta (global), October 2017
Magenta is an online magazine created by digital experience agency, Huge. Curated by an editorial team comprising professionals from a variety of creative fields, Magenta places emphasis on stories about technology and design. In partnership with Medium, Magenta deals with the role that this seemingly simple relationship between technology and design has to play in society. This relationship is like the air we breathe; we cannot exist without technology and the design that has gone into creating it. Many people are surprisingly ignorant of this, when it should be treated, as Magenta believes, “like it’s their job”. The result of this ignorance towards the importance of design and technology in society? We consume culture quicker than we can produce it, and it’s extremely destructive.
Many brands simply don’t get design, or understand the importance of design in the present, ever-expanding technological age. Instead, brands latch onto important concepts turned trendy buzzwords, such as “design thinking”, “disruption”, and “convergence”, among a plethora of other catchy phrases. Often used superficially, these terms — once subversive notions, now common corporate jargon — become empty husks that gain momentum in the opposite direction to what design truly stands for. Design is not ‘human-centered’; it is innately human. Magenta is a critical juncture, announcing that we shouldn’t talk shallowly about such terms simply because they are in vogue. We should rather think about design in every aspect of our lived lives, and turn the often-meaningless effect of superficial strategies, models and formulas into lasting effects based upon considered integrations of technology, always keeping design in mind. Thoughtfulness in design, rather than design thinking.
#1. Topic (US), issue 4, October 2017
As an unconventional storytelling platform, Topic creates a space for culture creators and critical thinkers to actively make things on the edge, from filmmakers and musicians to designers and artists. Various artists are showcased, accompanied by a variety of fiction and nonfiction, for discovering fresh creativity and independent voices supported by older, more-established names.
Issue #4 focused on the manner in which we present ourselves publicly and privately, online and in real life. Introduced by a digital series titled “aka Wyatt Cenac”, a 21st-century superhero story, this issue honed in on the subject of costumes. Be it as a metaphor for the various social masks that we wear in order to prevent from being exposed, or a literal costume, this theme investigates the notion of an ‘authentic’ self in society.
The landing page cover was the creation of London-based design collective, La Boca, known for its colorful work for humdrum, forgettable clients such as Studio Ghibli, Wired magazine, and Warner Bros, to name a few.
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.