Backstage Talks #6
Slovakian magazine Backstage Stories successfully bridges design and business using language that avoids the often abstract theorising of contemporary buzz phrase ‘design thinking’.
Its no-nonsense approach is summed up by its A4, perfect-bound format, direct name and unselfconscious statement of intent on the cover. Indeed, the cover perfectly sums up the magazine.
That name ‘Backstage Talks’ both reflects the magazines origins—it developed alongside a Bratislava design conference organised by its publishers and is the result of bringing designers from across the world together for that event—and suggests the reader will discover insider secrets in its pages. The tag line ‘Dialogues on Design and Business’ further emphasises that impression, as does the design of the whole cover.
A colourful, loose illustration by Martin Groch dominates the cover and expresses the creative/design aspect of the magazine; alongside this, the brisk, efficient black title and text adds a functional, business-like layer of intent: the issue theme (Curiousity) is succinctly introduced in sentence form, or dialogue (above).
This direct form of writing runs through the entire magazine. We meet a variety of designers, all of whom shares answers in first-person dialogue. Some longer interviews—with ZEITmagazin’s Mirko Borsche, for instance—are accompanied by examples of the subject’s designs (above), but these are the exepctions.
Most of the texts stand on their own; Muji’s art director Kenya Hara answers five questions in depth (and in Japanese and English, above) without any of his work being shown. The focus is very much on the word, and the design works hard to make text alone engaging.
Another example is a piece about the legacy of the late US graphic designer Tibor Kalman. Five designers who worked with Kalman are asked what they learned from him. All now successful in their own right, the five remember very different aspects of their ex-boss, their words adding up to a unique portrait of a famed designer.
What’s clever about this is that you don’t need to know Kalman’s work to learn from his legacy (the subtext being, if you don’t know him and his work, Google awaits!) but the reader can learn plenty from the five different opinions about the man and his methods.
Elsewhere, some questions are more abstract, such as ‘What makes things exciting for you?’ Again, the answers add up to more than the sum of their parts.
Other designers featured in the issue include Pentagram’s data specialist Georgia Lupi, superstar Stefan Sagmeister and creative play specialist Cas Holman. All deliver ideas and advice that extend beyond the usual design platitudes.
The highlight for me is editor Martin Jenca’s opening letter, where he encourages us to ‘Dare to be curious’, directing us to mix high art and pop culture, and alternative with commercial (yes that is Spongebob Squarepants on the page, above.)
If the designers listed above suggest a single track for curiosity, Jenca launches into an alternative direction with three pieces of inspiration selected from Myley Cirus’s interviews. It’s this healthy mix of high and low culture in a casual, unpretentious format that makes Backstage Talks our Magazine of the Month for August 2022.
Editor-in-chief and art director Martin Jenca
Executive editor Zuzanna Kvetkova
Level two members of the magCulture Club have already recieved their copy of this magazine, one of the benefits of their membership. Find out more.