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Alex Hunting, design director, Kinfolk
At work with

Alex Hunting, design director, Kinfolk

We start the new week with Alex Hunting, a young London-based art director who specialises in editorial projects. As well as being art director of Rapha’s Mondial magazine and design director of Avaunt, Alex is a consultant art director for the International New York Times Opinion & Review. He has just redesigned indie mainstay Kinfolk.

How was your weekend?
I had a lovely weekend. My girlfriend and I have been working a lot recently so haven’t had many free weekends together but we managed to take some time off this weekend.

On Saturday we took the train out to Essex and met some friends for lunch. Then we went for a long walk through Epping Forest and ended up at a really nice pub on the edge of the forest for a few drinks. Then we headed back into town for two other mates birthdays. We essentially did a pub crawl from birthday to birthday all round London. Came home and drunkenly cooked some Christmas party food that was supposed to be saved for later in the week.
On Sunday I had to get up and do ‘uncle’ duties. My nephew was born last Sunday so my girlfriend and I headed down to my brother’s house in South London to see little new born Rory. Then came home and watched ‘Planet Earth’.

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Tell us about your journey to work.
I’ve just moved into a new studio. With it being basically at the end of my road I’ve managed to get the commute down to 3.5 minutes door to door. So sadly no time to read a magazine but I do normally pick up a coffee from Allpress on the way. Spotify is currently De La Soul’s new album.

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Describe the state of your desk.
I’m fairly tidy, particularly at work so its not too bad. Having said that there are normally quite a lot of magazines on it.

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Which magazine do you first remember?
It would have to be the Funday Times. I absolutely loved it, I would fight my brother for it every week, I used to doodle over the characters in the comics. Such a shame they stopped doing it. If you’re listening Mr Murdoch, chuck some of your gold at it and bring it back.

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Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
Today it’s not really a magazine but rather this Motoring Guide to Britain from 1964. It is the most beautiful object. It was produced by the car manufacturer Austin and has incredible typography, illustration and 4 spot colour pantone maps. It’s amazing that this much effort went into producing such a mass market publication.

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Redesigning Kinfolk must have been a daunting task; many people adore it, while others are very critical. Can you outline the brief and how you went about the process?
Yeah it was quite daunting. It’s a very polarising title. I think a lot of the animosity towards it is about how much its achieved in such a short time. It’s pretty insane to think it was only founded in 2011. There aren’t many 5 year old independent magazines that have 80,000 subscribers and a Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Russian edition as well as two bestselling books. It’s been a publishing phenomenon and a lot of its success is down to how well defined their aesthetic is.
When Nathan (Williams, the founder) approached me to redesign it he was clear that he wanted to move the title on. The editorial direction was evolving and the team felt that the design needed to change to reflect these changes. There was also a growing awareness of how many titles were emulating Kinfolk’s design. The challenge was developing the design direction without alienating the magazine's legions of followers.

Charlotte Heal did a beautiful redesign a couple of years ago where she really took the title to the next level. I think she did a wonderful job, and I really wanted to evolve the design rather than chuck everything out and start again.

I started with addressing the editorial changes. The team wanted to add more supplementary content; lists, recipes, etc to sit alongside the features. This meant changing the size of the magazine and also reworking the grid to allow much more flexibility in the layouts. We also wanted to create more of a magazine-y feel to move it on slightly from the ultra minimalist bookish aesthetic thats is so prevalent in Indie publishing today. I’ve added a lot more variation to the magazine, particularly in its type treatments, which I hope helps to create an engaging pace for the reader.

It was a really interesting and enjoyable challenge. The team at Kinfolk are a really talented group who operate with a great deal of editorial integrity and were a real pleasure to work with.

Your layout grids and typography structures are very controlled. Do you ever wish you could break out of the self-restraint?
Yes. But I think it all comes down to the audience and the content. I’ve always thought it’s important to really consider who you’re designing for and react appropriately for that audience. I’ve been very lucky to have worked on some magazines that have fantastic photography and great writing and I think it’s important for the design not to override the content. When you are dealing with beautiful imagery I think it’s your job to frame it as best as you can and not let your design ego get in the way of it. Having said that when the right job comes along I’ll be more than happy to be more expressive when its appropriate. I’d love to do a fashion title or a children’s magazine.

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Please pick a spread from the new issue and tell us what it says about the redesign.
This is a spread from the opening section of the magazine. It shows a spread with multiple stories and more layers of content than previously. You can see more complexity in the grid to accommodate the various story formats.

What are you finding most frustrating about your work this week?
Admin. Coordinating lots of different projects. And emails, endless emails.

What’s going to be the highlight of this week for you?
Finally getting two jobs off to print (fingers crossed) and my friends Arthur and Georgia’s wedding on Saturday!

What will you be doing after this chat?
Looking at proofs and then a Skype chat with a client.

alexhunting.co.uk

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