Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct)’s weekly analysis of media design — both past and present, print and online — from South Africa and around the world:
- Local/print: Chimurenga Chronic showcases a work by South African-based Zimbabwean-born artist, Kudzanai Chiurai; a testament to the complexities of the post-post-colony
- Online: Cup of Couple showcases fashion and lifestyle trends using textbook typography, photography, art direction and layout
- International/print: Bloomberg Businessweek uses irony and satire to sell North Korea as the ultimate frontier market
- International/print: Mundial celebrates the 2018 FIFA World Cup with its largest issue ever, a combination of soccer mania and nostalgia over 21 covers
- Iconic: The Enemy combated the moratorium on free thought during the 1920s with an unapologetic brand of critical thinking
Chimurenga Chronic (South Africa/Zimbabwe), April 2018
The latest issue of Chimurenga’s The Chronic alludes towards recent events in Zimbabwe — the perceived coup d’état that lead to the ousting of former president. Robert Mugabe, and the history that his name drags along with it — all the while attempting to move past ‘white anxiety’ and the ‘Africa-South’ problem. It has become custom for The Chronic to be published in two parts, a large-format broadsheet and a smaller, supplementary magazine. Both publications feed off the music and literature responsible for documenting and revolting against oppression and conflict in Africa. For this edition, the cover to the broadsheet showcases an engaging conceptual piece provided by South African-based Zimbabwean-born artist, Kudzanai Chiurai, that stands as a testament to this post-postcolonial drive, and all the complexities that it carries with it, via an appropriation of a seemingly official governmental contract.
The accompanying supplement, titled XIBAARU TEERE YI (“Chronic Books” in Wolof, a widespread language in Senegal) is an investigation into the lessons that African writers can learn from the work of Senegalese historian, anthropologist, physicist, and politician, Cheikh Anta Diop, famous for his examination of the origins of humankind in context of African culture before the influence of colonialism. The cover of this supplement is a parody, a tribute to TAXAW (“standing” in Wolof), which was Diop’s retitled publication, succeeding the radical magazine, SIGGI (“raising one’s head and picking oneself up” in Wolof).
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Bloomberg Businessweek (US), 18 June 2018
At a recent conference, US president Donald Trump stated the following about North Korea: “You see that whenever they’re exploding their cannons into the ocean. I said, ‘Boy, look at that view. Wouldn’t that make a great condo?’” North Korea is an attractive frontier market for many, especially since Trump’s historic summit with Kim Jong Un on 12 June 2018, where he plugged the country’s beaches. Since 2006, North Korea has been out of bounds to international business, when the UN launched economic sanctions to stunt the growth of the nation’s nuclear armament.
With an air of quasi-imperial politically conservative kitsch, the latest cover of Bloomberg Businessweek (reminiscent of touristy postcards, wedding invites, travel guides, and handout flyers), sells the investment potential of North Korea wholesale, extra-large, and super-sized. Printed bold, and stroked, “Your North Korean Investment Guide”, supported by a quote from Trump, “think of it from a real-estate perspective”, this cover certainly milks the Word art aesthetic. When used in the correct context. there is a place for ‘bad design’ of this kind, particularly within the context of irony, satire, and parody, and when fighting fire with fire is required. Brett Murray’s satirical use of the Cooper typeface in After Party at Nkandla stands as a testament to this. The usual typographic suspects are guiltier than others in this regard — Cooper, Courier, Helvetica, Arial, Comic Sans, Chalkduster, and the like — but there’s no substitute for well-placed humor within trying circumstances.
¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Mundial (UK), issue #14, June 2018
In celebration of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and its fourth birthday, Mundial magazine’s 14th issue has been themed The World Cup special. No layered story or theme here, just 21 different covers, with important exponents of the game each with their own cover, selected by the magazine’s staff, all remembering meaningful moments within the history of the sport. A combination of soccer mania and nostalgia, there’s a cover for most fan favorites, including Ronaldo, Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane, and Paul Gascoigne, to name a few. Aside from having several covers, this issue happens to be Mundial’s largest issue since its launch in 2014, with 148 pages in total.
Cup of Couple (Spain), June 2018
Founded in 2011 by Mike Madrid and Gabriel García, both photography and art direction mavens, Cup of Couple seems to have many parts, notably being an online magazine/design studio/ brand consultancy. Described by GQ magazine as inventing a new online visual language, in 2016 the site was bestowed Best Men’s Fashion Blog from the US-based Bloglovin’ Awards. Aside from aesthetic awareness and design instinct, fashion and lifestyle trends are Cup of Couple’s key focus, which has become a segue for the creative duo to travel the world and work with many design-savvy likeminded brands such as Prada and Autograph Hotels. The site displays a keen awareness of typography, layout, and photography, showcasing the finest in street style globally.
The Enemy (UK), 1927–1929
Recently, the advertising sage, Sir John Hegarty, alluded to creativity receding in the marketing world in favor of data. This is a simple issue, where marketers have basic observation skills to interpret data but don’t have the complex comprehension and critical thinking skills to creatively use data in a process that can allow for the crafting of meaningful stories. Critical thinking and creativity are vital in this respect, and, once again, it’s a concern that we’re consuming culture faster than we can produce it. This is the opposite of design. It is, as Massimo Vignelli suggested, vulgarity, in poor taste, kitsch at best — not to mention destructive.
A few years after printing Blast, an iconic vorticist publication with anti-futurist sentiments, the notorious author and editor, Wyndham Lewis, renewed his editorial, design, and publishing interests with The Enemy, a tabloid-style magazine focused on cultural dissent. As the publication’s name suggests, Lewis’ peers and antagonists, many of them allies and close friends such as James Joyce and Ezra Pound, had become his perceived ‘enemies’. In a rebellious editorial act, Lewis took Sun Tzu’s oft-quoted pronouncement, “Know thy self, know thy enemy”, to the next level.
In 1926, to publish The Enemy, Lewis founded The Arthur Press, with the intention to create a platform for independent cultural critique concentrated on society-at-large. The point was to combat a moratorium on free thought with unapologetic critical thinking. With an introductory essay written by Lewis, titled “The Revolutionary Simpleton”, The Enemy lambasted the work of Pound, Joyce, even Charlie Chaplin and many other culturally significant exponents of the time. The message that this publication broadcast was that creativity should have an anarchic element that can result in an explosive force, which drives culture.
Lewis printed three issues of The Enemy between 1927 and 1929. The first volume, edited and illustrated by Lewis himself, slated Pound for being “a revolutionary simpleton”, and tore into Joyce and Gertrude Stein for their “time-obsessed” overtly idealistic inclinations. The point, following dadaist Tristan Tsara, was there are far too many idealists out there, and society is too sensitive due to its ignorance towards more-abstract, -creative perspectives about the world. The second volume debatably had the most interesting, and most publicised, cover with its experimentation in illustration and typography that could be seen as trendy, even by contemporary standards.
With his defiant writings, Lewis’ critical approach in The Enemy arguably evolved into one of his most significant text, Time and Western Man. The third volume suggested that there were intentions for a fourth issue but this never became a reality.
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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