by Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) Let’s delve into great media design from South Africa and around the world:
- International/print: Fortune India effectively uses typography and colour to extend an economic narrative
- Local/print: Get It (Joburg North) sets a precedent when it comes to contemporary culture in the suburbs, pushing the design sensibility of the bourgeoisie to the limits
- Online: 99% Invisible provides a weekly investigation into the mechanisms and influence of design in our lived lives
- Local/print: Where It’s At offers a well-curated and beautifully crafted survey of the SA art and design community
- International/print: Metropolitan celebrates a genius within the fashion design community through succinct illustrated vignettes
- Iconic: Colors finds that the common denominator that connects us all is difference. Best we respect it.
Get It (Joburg North) (South Africa), March 2018
Infamous Johannesburg design duo, Jana Hamman and Koos Groenewald from studio Jana + Koos, emblazon the cover of Get It (Joburg North). With a flare of orange to segregate the masthead from the prolific Braamfontein-based collaborative pair, this cover makes a statement. As opposed to the customary covers for suburban magazines like Get it, with its various sibling publications across South Africa, this Get It cover gets it, giving Joburg’s northern suburbs a serious injection of chic design pedigree and tastefully separating it from the rest of the franchise. Informed about important exponents in the South African design community, this editorial team seems to have a clear sense of culture by placing these two insanely talented creatives on the cover. Good form all round, a precedent set.
Fortune India (India), March 2018
New Delhi-based Fortune India continues to deliver magazine covers that are aesthetically pleasing and, at best on a formal foundation, reveal a keen awareness of the importance of fundamentals in design and visual communication, particularly typography, layout and colour. Designed by art director, Anirban Ghosh, his animated use of typography effectively strings together the narrative implied by the headline in the top left corner of the cover. The composition of the information hierarchy remains uncluttered despite the effective use of fragmented type in the bottom third of the cover. This narrative is further emphasised by the bold contrasts in colour and warm colour relations, using a classic mix of red, yellow and black that suggests the urgency, or rather emergency, of the implied narrative. All in all, textbook stuff.
Where It’s At (South Africa), once-off, 2014
In 2012, Design Indaba commissioned Durban-based Disturbance Design Studio, currently known as The Hardy Boys, to curate and produce an overview of South African art and design. Co-founder and senior designer at Disturbance, Richard Hart (who now lives and works in New York), took charge of the curatorship. Hart had also been a speaker at the 2011 Design Indaba conference, making him a well-considered choice for the job. The resulting publication was refreshingly experimental, taking the form of a limited-edition once-off magazine, guest-edited in order to objectively reflect upon, and engage with, SA creatives in the most-detailed and -layered manner. Titled “Where It’s At”, the magazine showcased 30 of SA’s top creatives, piecing together a snapshot of contemporary creative output from our country.
Proving that SA has a definite place within the global design community, the magazine demonstrates how SA creativity may still remain faithful to identities and forms of representation innate to Africa while being able to compete on a global stage. The cover reiterates this point, with a bespoke, foldout, die-cut dust cover that opens-up to become a colourful and expressive depiction of the continent of Africa. This interactive and tactile approach is mirrored inside as well, with each creative exponent separated by gatefold posters and other foldout elements crafted by the contributing designers, illustrators and artists themselves. Overall, an impressive collaborative editorial experience, of which we need to see much more of in South Africa.
Metropolitan (UK), March 2018
Likely one of the most-prolific illustrators working today, Malika Favre makes a succinct contribution, with no political inclinations, in her classic Favre style, to the cover to the March 2018 issue of Metropolitan magazine. The cover illustration is an ode to enigmatic fashion icon, Martin Margiela, complemented by two more illustrations within the spread. This follows from Favre’s recent contributions to The Washington Post Magazine’s 18 February issue, titled “Stepping Up”, and The New Yorker’s 12 &19 February issue, titled “The Butterfly Effect”, both setting standards in illustrated narrative for magazine publication. A very busy woman indeed.
99% Invisible (US), March 2018
99% Invisible (99PI) is a weekly investigation into the mechanisms of design in our lived lives, especially in spaces where we have simply stopped noticing. Independently produced by Roman Mars, 99PI is a podcast and website centred on the influence of design, particularly that of architecture and the built environment. As an independent publishing platform, production depends on funding from its listeners. Free from the constraints of advertising that commercial radio stations need to deal with, 99PI points out the often-overlooked obvious things in our lives that makes the world tick, from taken-for-granted architecture to omnipresent, street-level design. Riffing off of a quote by Buckminster Fuller that inspired its name, “Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable”, 99PI declares that design is everywhere; it only requires an eye with the ability to observe and a sensibility to allow it to do so. The website is textbook in execution, allowing access to near 300 podcasts. Any curious soul out there who hasn’t made the effort to listen should do so as a matter of urgency.
Colors (Italy), issue #1, July 1991
Colors magazine was conceived as a publication with a clear internationalist agenda focused on pluralism, which embraces difference as a unifying factor and sees diversity as a common denominator across the globe. True to its nomadic nature, the magazine uprooted regularly after originally being founded in New York in 1991, first to Rome and then to Paris; it eventually settled down in Treviso, Italy in 1997. The creation of photographer, Oliviero Toscani, and art director, Tibor Kalman, the publication was controversial from its inception. The cover for issue #1 depicts a newly born, vernix-covered infant so new that the umbilical cord is still attached. The image, shot by Toscani himself, symbolised the birth of the magazine, and was also used in the now-iconic 1993 advertising campaign for Benetton. In fact, the magazine’s mantra, based on the celebration of diversity, can be said to be directly influenced by Benetton’s experimental advertising, following the banner “United Colors of Benetton”.
Colors magazine approached various social issues across the globe, with interviews supporting the core strength of the magazine, which was photography. The understanding was that images told the story so much better than words alone. Classical graphic design, accessible language and being printed on non-glossy, recycled paper placed Color outside the vestiges of traditional journalistic form. Each issue had a theme, often associated with locations where the wandering publication was temporarily grounded, from Baracoa (Cuba) and Venice (Italy) to Birmingham (UK) and even the Amazon. Colors’ last few years before its demise saw it based at Fabrica, Benetton’s communication research centre in Italy. Pushing the limits of how globalisation is understood and how it affects our lives, Colors ended print after 90 issues. Practically owning the phrase “think global, act local”, Colors stressed the important point that cultural diversity is vital in an over-accelerated, homogenised global village.
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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