Harvard Design Magazine, #47

Since its 2014 relaunch, Harvard Design Magazine has established a satisfyingly simple, almost stark, design system for its covers. I particularly liked this latest cover, so asked creative director Jiminie Ha about it.

The covers all work to the same layout template, but respond to the theme of the issue, this one being ‘Inside Scoop’. Editor-in-chief Jennifer Sigler fleshes out her thinking in the introduction, describing her hope that architects and designers might become less obsessed with the outside and look more closely at the inside. And in this way, reassess the boundaries between the design disciplines.

Jiminie explained how this applies to modes of thinking as well, ‘the invisible footprint that informs all creative processes,’ and how this cover displays that footprint. The regular design elements appear in their usual place on the cover, but they are presented as the designer sees them on the computer during production, contained by InDesign’s grid of coloured guides. Any designer will recognise the familiar details.

Usually invisible, these grid guides, along with hidden character punctuation signs, reveal the process behind the execution of the cover (and every page in the issue). ‘The cover approach alludes to the theme through the transparency of the grid, normally invisible to the naked eye. It not only highlights its own constant evolution, but acts as a visual metaphor for the theme’.

The final touch is the use of flouroscent inks and gloss varnish for the hidden elements, referencing the computer glow of the designer’s screen.


magCulture Podcast #11, June 2019

Our latest Podcast is now available, recorded at the magCulture Shop in London and including interviews from our recent New York residency.

Jeremy Leslie and Liv Siddall open with an overview of new mags, including the Neat Review, Banana and Dazed. Plus the new book about RayGun magazine, from founder Marvin Scott Jarrett.

We then switch to New York, where we hear from ModMagNYC speakers Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff (gal-dem), Beth Wilkinson (Lindsay), Ian Birch (‘Uncovered’) and Douglas McGray (California Sunday, Pop-Up Magazine) plus guests Josef Reyes (Day Plus Night), Deidre Dyer (No Man’s Land), Alison Branch (Park) and Cath Caldwell (CSM).

Liv and Jeremy then pick their ModMagNYC highlights and Jeremy looks back at nineties culture mag Speak.

Click on the link below to listen via Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes  or use Spotify.

If you enjoy the magCulture Podcast please give it some love on iTunes, Soundcloud or wherever you’re listening. And drop us an email with suggestions: podcast@magculture.com

Huge thanks to our friends at Park Communications for their support of the magCulture Podcast.

Edited by Caroline Whiteley.

John Tebbs, Pleasure Garden

John Tebbs’s sumptuous, large-format magazine Pleasure Garden first appeared in 2017, an extension of the ‘Garden Party’ column he contributes to La Monde’s M magazine. The magazine allows him to explore the broader cultural meaning of parks and gardens, and also has pride of place on his more practically-orientated online gardening shop. We speak to him as he turns attention from the current issue five to the next one.

Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
I work from home so generally my Monday journey is pretty relaxed – we have recently got a puppy so my morning now involves a walk to the park before heading back home and getting in the office. Some days I am working up in London – so not all days are this easy!

Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
My desk tends to be quite messy and perhaps reflective of the multiple tasks I am often in the middle of. We are often working on multiple issues simultaneously and of course the magazine is not my only work — I still garden and write for other publications. The view is very green: there is a park opposite our house and the street is very leafy so I look out onto something very green and pleasant, it’s very good for the soul!

Which magazine do you first remember?
It would probably be some garden related one – there were always a lot at home – Gardener’s World, Grow Your Own, Kitchen Garden were all regulars growing up.

Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
Well Pleasure Garden matters to me the most! It consumes much of my life so it is always in my mind. The busier we have become with Pleasure Garden the less time I have to look at what else is going on around us in the magazine world – in a way I find that good because it means we have a strong focus and point of view. In the beginning I was very inspired by Holiday and Luncheon –  I wanted to create something with that kind of feeling but with gardens as a starting point.

Can you describe your magazine in three words?
Big, dreamy, evolving

How do you link the practical garden design part of your life and the more abstract concept of garden as applied in the magazine?
I don’t think the two a particularly linked; I did a degree in Art and Architectural History so the magazine in many ways is influenced by my interests in those areas. Pleasure Garden purposefully steers away form offering any practical garden advice. I felt that was an area that was already well covered. It was the fantasy and wider cultural connections and influences that I felt were often overlooked.

Is there one garden that best sums up the idea of the Pleasure Garden?
The starting point for me was Vauxhall Pleasure Garden – a wonderful outdoor venue for entertainment that was around from the mid 18thC. It was the setting for music, art, dancing, sexual liaisons and fashion. It was a garden for pleasure and that was what I wanted to transport to our magazine.

The theme for this issue is ‘Au Naturel’, which might seem like an tautologous theme for a magazine that is nature-focused. How does this theme differ from ones you’ve had before?
I think the theme focussed our exploration of what we consider natural. This was something we looked into on various levels – not only the evolution of perceptions of what makes a ‘natural’ garden but looking at how this notion of natural is projected on to wider society with things such as sexuality, gender, body and beauty. It is more about our perceptions of what is ‘natural’.

What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
We have an editorial dinner later in the week and I am looking forward to crystalising some of the content for the next issue then. It is always exciting at this stage of an issue – things start to take form from the initial ideas.

Creative direction: John Tebbs, Jo Metson Scott and Eric Pillault


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magCulture Meets Racquet

Quiet please! We’re serving up a slice of sport for July’s instalment of magCulture Meets thanks to New York based tennis magazine, Racquet.

The team is in town for Wimbledon and have carved out time in their busy court side schedule to join us in celebration of the brand new issue. Caitlin Thompson, Racquet’s publisher will be talking us through the Wimbledon issue of the quarterly which covers art, fashion and culture centred around the game. As an impressive advocate of the indie publishing scene, Caitlin will also be touching on the business of making a magazine and how to make it viable.

We were first joined by the Racquet team back in July 2017 for their annual championship pilgrimage, but with more issues under their belt, multiple accolades and exciting collaborations since then, there’s lots to talk about.

The brand new tenth issue will be available to purchase on the night.

Thursday 4 July
Doors opens at 6.30pm and the talk will kick off at 7pm followed by an audience Q&A.

Book your ticket via Eventbrite

magCulture Shop
270 St John Street

We’re grateful to Park Communications and the Five Points Brewing Company for their support of magCulture Meets.

magCulture Meets is a monthly series of talks intended to give insight into the process of magazine making. The evenings offer the opportunity to share a beer with fellow magCulturalists and hear a magazine-maker discuss their project in an informal, relaxed atmosphere.

We are unable to provide refunds or transfer tickets.

Unseen #6

Unseen magazine is the biannual publishing extension of Unseen Platform based in Amsterdam. Its philosophy is to enrich a two-way conversation between contemporary photographic art and its audiences, and is full of in-depth stories that strike a balance between image and words, focusing on the ‘unseen’ journey from idea to artwork.

I would be remiss if I didn’t start with the feature ‘Artists Obsessions’, in which photographs of five collections offer a window into the mind of five artists. Eva Stenram’s collection of vintage men’s magazines (above), mostly from around the 1960s, feature classic ‘pin-up’ cover stars and all have suggestive titles like Frolic, Caper, and Cavalcade.

What’s interesting is the way she describes the fact that many of them had sports sections at the back with photos of competitive men, which led to collecting boxing magazines from the same era, like Boxing Illustrated or The Ring, which have altogether more homoerotic undertones. It’s this crossover between sports and sex that, for Stenram, represents ‘a hedonistic rupture of societal norms, which at the same time masks a reiteration of conventional gender roles’.

In ‘How Books Begin’ (above), Daria Tuminas breaks down the process of creating a photo book, ‘perhaps the ultimate container for a complete project’ and takes us through the process of creating a dummy – an experimental test copy that serves as the prototype for a prospective publication.

It’s not only an interesting part of the process – in-between design and publication when more tactile questions are taken into consideration – but also serves as a bit of a guide for anyone thinking about making their own photobook for the first time.

A sci-fi essay from Zoë Corbyn, ‘Quarrying the Heavens’ blends futurism and space travel with images from Ezio D’Agostino’s NEOs project (above). I’m none the wiser about the photo project having read it, but certainly have a new perspective on asteroid mining, which was not what I expected when opening up this magazine.

The last piece is an insightful essay by Liz Sales about the way that artists mostly get it wrong when writing about their own work, even if they’re good writers (above). It’s well worth a read, even if just to make you think a little more about that accompanying text next time you’re at an exhibition. She does name a few photographers that do write well about their work, some even in book form, which are now being hastily added to my reading list.

It’s interesting that I’ve picked out only features in the latter half of the magazine to write about, where the content shifts away from pure photography and a literal interpretation of the magazine’s theme, and gets a little more tangential. I find myself questioning whether or not the ‘journey from idea to artwork’ is quite as unseen as the editors would have us believe, considering that most of the artists I follow on Instagram (the most visual of all the social media platforms) share their process regularly, and ‘seeing the artists’ studio’ doesn’t feel very uncommon.

Nevertheless, translating this idea into a magazine, which a focus on diverse global content and varying formats is not an easy task and it’s been done well here. Many of the features are surprising and overall there is a focus on well researched and written stories that back up the concept, and a design dynamic that strikes a good balance between words and photography.

Editor-in-chief: Emilia van Lynden
Editor: George H.King
Art direction & design: Vandejong Creative Agency

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a Dance Mag, #2

It’s been almost a year since the first a Dance Mag caught our attention, and the second impresses again with its new theme Furor – a sudden expression of excitement or anger.

The decision to explore this ‘fire within’ reflects the outward-looking dance magazine’s philosophy of unity – that they are trying to use dance to counteract polarisation in our turbulent world. The word itself expresses a moment of feeling that collectively bursts forth, like a dam breaking, and the editorial further expresses the translation of that into dance. ‘Duende’ – used in Flamenco terminology – refers to a state of being that reaches beyond talent and technique.

A state that embodies ‘a force that belongs not to him or her but to nature’. This, then, is where this issue begins – an embodied expression of the narratives that are too forceful to even put into words. And yet, put them into words they must, because this is a magazine and not a show.

Colour plays a huge part in the expression of the theme, though. Where the last magazine used a vivid yellow to express movement across and through the text, this issue uses combinations of red and forest green to reproduce a less abstract run of images. Depending on how the colours are either overlaid or combined, there is a range of emotions on the anger-violence-fear spectrum that are expressed, for example the cover page for ‘Bless Me Mother with Your Rage’ by Stella Penzo is all the more evocative for the way that, in overprinting a flat red with the negative image of four dancers in green, the jarring colour combination exacerbates their bared teeth and wide-open eyes (above).

Nearer the end of the magazine, for the piece ‘Waro, the Bastard Hero’, penned by the editor Jana Al-Obeidyine, the volcanic nature of the master musician at the heart of the story is demonstrated with a red highlight filing in the gaps on the otherwise tonal ‘greenscale’ of the photographs (above). It’s exactly the same ink as everywhere else in the magazine but has a completely different effect.

Elsewhere, I enjoyed the playful way that red text swoops down in a semicircle around Zena Takieddine’s ‘Samt’ (above), and the layered writing-drawing accompanying Zéna M.Meskaoui’s ‘Re-Pairing’, which does that job of equating physical learning with language through the struggle to write and dance again after a stroke (below).

We wrote about the physical format and graphic layout of the first issue and this one follows the same format, except in a couple of places where the text and image are a little more free-flowing and switch places, like in ‘Negative Spaces’ by Mays Al-Beik, which works well with the more poetic submission, and allows the text to dance on the page itself (above). The new art directors have made their mark.

Poetry plays a big part in this issue, which works well to express the inexpressible nature of the theme, alongside more narrative pieces, such as ‘The Unarmed Witness’ in which the human experience of the Syrian War is explored through theatre.

Overall, the Beirut-based magazine looks mostly to the East for its writers and references, which is a welcome interruption to our often Western-centric way of thinking about ourselves in our bodies in the world. The way it brings together dance, movement, politics, spirituality and Furor, is fascinating, and a triumphant second issue.

Editor-in-chief: Jana Al-Obeidyine
Art directors: Timo Durst & Max Weinland

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