Pin-Up #29 die-cut cover

The latest issue of architecture magazine Pin-Up has arrived, sporting a new look and an impressively sharp right hand edge.

The serrated edge, which runs along all the pages, is one part homage to Nest (listen to our Podcast #21 for more) and one part reaction to today’s world.

As editor/creative director Felix Burrichter explained to me, ‘The issue coincided with three things: it was the first to planned and executed entirely during the pandemic, it was the first one by our new design director Ben Ganz, and it was put together during a year of unprecedented turmoil and upheaval, especially here in the U.S – a true sense of revolution is in the air.’

The new look is not an extreme makeover, but for a magazine rooted in a single typeface, the system font Arial, the introduction of a slightly flawed, hand-traced bespoke version marks a change of pace; meanwhile the pointed, die-cut edge is genuinely sharp. ‘It’s quite aggressive to the touch, a complete departure from how a magazine usually feels; it’s prickly,’ says Burrichter.

‘We wanted to express this pivotal moment not only in the theme –  Revolution – and content, but also physically. A zig zag physically represents the ups and downs of the current time, a bit like electrocardiography – the heartbeat of the moment.’

‘The zig zag also symbolizes a rip, just like there’s been a metaphorical rip cutting through the establishment, architecture included. Architecture is usually about the status quo, set in stone. So thematically, that’s where the issue is positioned: navigating the fissures of society and trying to understand where architecture and design fits in and what role does it play and have to play – from racial and social justice, technological novelties, new (and old) materials, climate change, etc.’

‘But Nest is never far from our minds either…’

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Hugo Berger, The Light Observer

French designer Hugo Berger lives in Milan, where he works on a wide range of book, exhibition and art projects. He is also Editor-in-chief of The Light Observer, the magazine that uses both art and science to examine our relationship with light. We hear from Hugo about his week and his publishing influences as the second issue of the magazine is published. 

Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
I start the day, after breakfast, by riding my bike to George Sowden’s studio. I work there every morning on various design projects, I also happen to work on projects with the artist Nathalie Du Pasquier who shares the studio, which is always exciting. I usually return home just before 2pm and have lunch with Eleonora, my fiancée and the other half of The Light Observer magazine.

So I can say that my work on the magazine starts after a cup of coffee, patiently made with my lever espresso machine that I’m quite fond of. There is a lot to do on The Light Observer as we deal with everything, from designing, finding contributors, distributing, managing our website and instagram, the list goes on… So it’s always quite busy, especially on Monday!

Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
Our desk is actually our kitchen table, which happens to be a useful thing: we can’t let it become a mess. Yet there is always a pile of books and zines on one side and next to the table stands our bookshelf, which comes handy when working, as we always rely on books.

We also founded a publishing house and are currently working on our first book, for the photographer Irene Fenara, that takes photos from video-surveillance cameras. Thus we constantly split our time between the magazine and the publishing house.

Are you feeling optimistic about 2021?
After such a complex year one feels optimistic that 2021 will bring a good outcome. I’m quite resilient and try to adapt myself to any situation.

Our first issue was launched when almost all bookstores were closed in Europe, not the best time to introduce a new magazine! Our second issue was also released in a difficult time so we hope that the situation will be better for our third. Especially because it’s hard to find advertisers and sponsors in that context, yet we definitely need them to continue!

Which magazine do you first remember?
Le Journal de Mickey that I could read at my grandparents’, which belonged to my dad and his brothers, with its worn pages and great comics.

Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
Fulgurances ICC is a magazine that I enjoy a lot for the stories they tell, that I find very inspiring, and it deals with things that I’m always keen to explore: cuisine, traditions, creativity. They haven’t published a new issue for a while but I heard they will this year, with a new design, I’m curious to see it.

Describe your magazine in three words
‘The Light Observer’ sums it up quite well actually.

What inspired you to create a magazine about light?
It comes from the will to create a magazine that would not be focused on a specific subject but could embrace a lot of disciplines and stories. Light is a theme that touches everyone: artists, scientists, architects, both in a practical and poetic manner.

Last year I heard Francis Ford Coppola saying that ‘We can derive from light so much emotion, so much understanding and knowledge that the real importance of light is worthy to think about a lot’. I couldn’t agree more!

Is the magazine simply a celebration of light, or is there a bolder agenda?
The specificity of The Light Observer is to collaborate with an artist, for each issue, in order to create a series of artworks for the magazine. It’s important for us to create original content and let the magazine be a place of creation and experimentation for artists.

We were delighted to have Nathalie Du Pasquier to start with her series of drawings. Caroline Denervaud is featured in the current issue, with beautiful collages (above). Both have been creating artworks using a different approach or technique from the one they are used to. It’s very exciting to work with such artists and build the series together.

More generally our goal is to create a sort of thoughtful dialogue by bringing together photography, art, science, philosophy… We also introduced fashion in our second issue. For our third issue we plan to interview a Nobel prize winner, investigate bioluminescent sharks, along with photographic series and our traditional artist collaboration.

You’ve already had an impressive range of contributors and subjects. How do you attract big names to a start-up project?
It was our first experience as such, even if I’ve been working for a year at MoSt in Milan that publishes magazines and Eleonora worked with publishing houses such as GOST or Witty books. We simply tried to explain as clearly as possible our project and editorial line, why we wanted them to be a part of it, and we remained rather impressed that almost everyone answered and with a true interest.

As I quote Francis Ford Coppola before, he is a contributor I would love to have: beyond his body of work, he is such a curious, wise and insightful person, and we both share a passion for wine, which is always a good start for an interview.

What are you excited about for this coming week?
We’ll see the first dummy of the photography book we’ve been working on for months now. Also we’ll start discussing more precisely the future contributors and contents for the third issue. It’s the most exciting part of making a magazine: when everything is possible and you just can’t wait to contact people, share thoughts and work together.

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032c, 20th anniversary

A very happy 20th birthday to Berlin’s ‘Manual for freedom, research and creativity,’ 032c, which celebrates with a late winter 38th edition.

Like any self-respecting magazine that reaches such an age, alongside the regular mix of content – in this case its’ familiar and very particular intersection of art culture and fashion – there’s a special section offering insight into those 20 years. 032c has always been proudly print-centric, even as it expanded its digital presence.  From its original tabloid newsprint format to today’s 280+ page glossy with cloth spine, the belief in print as the central part of the project is evident.

This point comes across strongly in the 20th anniversary section of the issue. Instead of compiling it themselves, the magazine’s editors invited online platform New Models to look through the magazine’s archive and consider how the 20 years have played out.

We hear from founder Joerg Koch and others on the magazine’s team; there are quotes from the many articles written about the magazine, its gallery and clothing brand. The publication’s growth is measured out across a vast timeline (designed by Alyssia Lou), that explodes open in a gloriously mad pair of 14-page fold outs, themselves a further celebation of print.

There is plenty of information about the development of the mag, worth reading by any ambitious publisher: one side of each carries interviews and timeline, the other acts as a mood board for the history, echoing constants reference to the magazine as a mood board for the fashion world.

Koch’s opening statement about wanting to avoid Anglo-American influences as he fashioned his ‘punk fanzine meets Dieter Rams’ may seem a bold ambition, but it’s a good description of what he produced. 032c remains one of the lodestars of the independent publishing scene, as important and influential to its times as the original British trio of The Face, i-D and Blitz.

Despite its avowed German-ness, it was one of a small group of early indies – see also Self Service and Fantastic Man – that published in English, helping establish the international indie mag market we know today. It fully deserves this birthday celebration.

One of the aspects highlighted in the timeline is Mike Méire’s 2006 redesign of the magazine, highlighted at the time by multiple sources including us at magCulture, and ultimately labelled ‘The New Ugly.’ A neat additional nod to this aspect of the magazine’s history is the repeat of some key typographic styles on the issue’s credit page (below).

So, happy birthday 032c, and congratulations to all at the mag especially Joerg Koch and Mike Méire.

Download a key to the visual foldout section of the magazine here.

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Luke Adams, Valet

Luke Adams and Kirill Savateev work together as editor and creative director, respectively, of coffee magazine Standart. They’ve also just launched a men’s magazine, Valet, promising an approach to fashion that includes the, ‘historical, philosophical, ethical and literary.’ We hear from Luke about his week ahead as the first issue of Valet hits shops.

Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work.
Ordinarily I work from home in Oxford, or more specifically from its exemplary and manifold libraries, or more honestly from one of its exemplary and manifold pubs. The latter two destinations have seen far less of me this year, and so my Monday commute is too boring to dwell on.

But to speak of pleasanter times, I often work and arrange meetings at pubs or bars. This surprises some people. I simply see it as a carry-over from my student days, during which the libraries were always too busy in the morning.

Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
I am a horribly slow writer by disposition, and so I have about a thousand index cards with crossed-out or otherwise expunged notes spread across my tiny desk, which is situated within my tiny ‘study’ which used to be a guestroom.

On the top shelf of my little writing bureau are a few early copies of Valet which have been maimed, menaced, and thoroughly disembowelled in order to establish just how many pages we could squeeze into a volume before the cost to ship it became prohibitive.

Sum up your 2020 – highs and lows
The high was quite naturally releasing the first issue of Valet, the culmination of a year-long journey which was not without its struggles. The low, in a strong field, was probably the realisation that drinking with friends and generally socialising was not going to be possible for quite some time. Apologies for my lack of originality!

Which magazine do you first remember?
First? My goodness, probably something like Reader’s Digest. I, like my father before me, made use of their heavily abridged fiction in the composition of school reading reports.

Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
We are big fans of The Skirt Chronicles, for its obtuse editorial slant and literary inflections. If I’m permitted one more choice, MacGuffin has been a team favourite for its heroic focus on and broad expression of the inspiration to found in everyday objects.

Describe your magazine in three words
Style, detail, nostalgia.

Following coffee mag Standart with a men’s fashion mag is quite a jump. Tell us more!
Valet is actually the creation of not one but two members of the Standart team. Kirill Savateev (above) and I have been friends and colleagues for the better part of the last decade, and have similar aesthetic interests, so we decided to start a title together, with the help of our exemplary graphic designer Dasha Brazhenko.

In terms of subject matter and tone, the magazines differ considerably, but in terms of editorial approach, there are also many similarities. The differences are rather easier to spot; among the biggest ones are form-factor and layout design, which are of course important aspects of any unique publication.

Though the chief difference is probably the length and literariness of Valet as compared to the slightly shorter and more general Standart (which gives rise to an intriguing thought: Standart’s subject matter is, on the surface, perhaps more niche, yet I see Valet as being aimed at a smaller audience even given its classic genre).

That being said, Standart has long incorporated literary and perambulating texts in its contents, but in Valet these are unrelenting and make up the majority.

You refer to your readers as a new cohort of fashion-interested men. Describe these people in more detail.
I wouldn’t say our readers are concerned with fashion, or at any rate with what it has become, which is a rampant riot of seasonal trends and replaceable, low-quality offerings. For our readers, this approach to style will not do. They require more depth, more precedent—historical, philosophical, ethical, literary. This is what Valet tries to offer.

Men’s glossy magazines rarely portray men with taste. Some stylist or other is hired to create images by draping the latest pieces of gaudy fashion over the contours of models and actors (who are, remember, professional chameleons), but this is not taste; this is the painstakingly manipulated illusion of taste.

Though men’s glossies sometimes contain interesting editorial content, the overarching message they convey is that taste and style can be bought easily and quickly, and must be torn down and constructed afresh every spring/summer and autumn/winter. This is, of course, nonsense.

A sophisticated and refined sense of taste and style cannot be bought; it must be cultivated. It requires experimentation, experience of failure and success, and the accumulation of the capacity for discrimination. Taste and style are an expression of character, which is a product of individual experience—unique, intimate, and wholly personal.

It is not something that changes with the seasons, nor is it something that can be washed away by the tides of fashion. Style is a product of one’s personal history, and as such cannot simply be expunged and refreshed, but must be built upon and refined.

Valet has been on the shelves for a few weeks now; how has it been received?
As with any new title, it is difficult to gauge precisely how well, seeing as we don’t see how customers engage with it on the shelf. Nor do we see real-time sales from newsstands or stockists.

What I can say with confidence is that stockist interest and support has been fantastic: we’ve found our way onto the shelves of the best print magazine stores in the world, who welcomed us with open arms. From those readers who have given us direct feedback, the reception has been very positive indeed, mostly on account of the sheer volume of content and the distinctive tone.

Readers have also been surprised at the range of subjects we’ve covered and how we’ve managed to tie it back to style (e.g. from historical and philosophical articles to literary criticism and poetry analysis).

Well, it’s been a strange time to launch a new title. We will no doubt be able to gauge the reception better when we can organise events and meet our readers face-to-face. Fingers crossed that comes sooner rather than later.

How will our new work contexts affect what we wear?
I hope very much that it inspires a richer appreciation for social gatherings and events, and that people no longer restrict their Sunday best to Sundays.

Once this pandemic chaos has subsided, I hope for people to dream of attending glamorous parties where everyone is beautiful and strange. Perhaps during the various lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, they happened to watch a classic film, and saw how great people used to look in hats and tailored dresses and flannel suits. I hope they think life is worth dressing up for.

What’s going to be the highlight of the coming week for you?
Aside from seeing this go out? I think probably, as it always tends to be with me, settling into and being startled by a beautifully wrought image in a good book by some obscure between-the-wars author while I wait patiently and wistfully for the pubs to open.

Photograph of Luke Adams at top of post by Joel Smedley

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It’s Freezing in LA!’s name

The back of each issue of climate change mag It’s Freezing in LA! carries the quote from Donald Trump that inspired the magazine’s name.

Trump tweeted in 2013, ‘Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee — I’m in Los Angeles and it’s freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!’ We’ve now had four years of him as US President, during which time he has done his best to apply his words to government policy.

With a new President to be inaugurated next month, we can look forward to a shift in that policy. Joe Biden has already made all the rights noises, announcing his intention for the US to rejoin the Paris climate agreement.

There’s much much more to be done beyond such symbolic changes, but the idea that we might one day back at the origin of IFLA!’s name with curiousity rather than dread is surely a reason to be cheerful.

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The Guardian × gal-dem collaboration

Today, The Guardian’s Weekend magazine and gal-dem follow up their 2018 collaboration with another special issue of the newspaper’s weekly supplement. After a year marked by the Black Lives Matter protests such overt support of diversity is a reason to be cheerful.

Every year at this time, The Guardian Weekend publishes its conversations issue; this year all the exchanges are between people of colour. Singer Mel B meets boxer Nicola Adams; actor pappa Essiedu meets actor/writer Lennie James. While experiences relating to their skin colour feature, there’s as much conversation about sexuality, work and loss.

While this special issue reminds us again how so many magazines ignore people of colour, this year has seen subtle but notable changes. Magazines have quietly got on with increasing the racial mix of their covers and content.

The latest issues of The Gentlewoman and Port are two examples. The former featuring Janelle Monáe as their 22nd cover star is one thing, but inside the issue the white/non-white ratio has significantly changed among interview subjects and models. What I like about this is that it is unheralded, these mags are just getting on with it. And over at Condé Nast Edward Enninful has been busy doing the same at British Vogue.

But representation is only the first step. How many of the editors, writers, designer and other contributors are non-white? Two steps to help change this meet in the Guardian/gal-dem magazine.

The issue includes the winning three entries to the Guardian/gal-dem young black writers competition (chosen from 100 entries), each illlustrated by Ngadi Smart, one of the artists represented by new creative agency Studio Pi.

Set up by creative director Sachini Imbuldeniya, Studio Pi specialises in illustration and photography by those generally denied access to media – people of colour, women, those with disabilities and working class (you may have heard her discuss the agency at magCulture Live this year).

Greater diversity of skin colour in our magazines is step one; we now need that diversity to spread to our offices and studios, as this latest Guardian × gal-dem collaboration reminds us.