Fabrizio Festa, Huck
Huck magazine launched in 2006, first focusing on surf- and skate-related culture. Over the 15 years since, it has grown to cover a broader range of alternative culture in print, video, and digital. The latest development sees the print magazine redesigned as a large-format biannual.
The redesign has been overseen by Design Director Fabrizio Festa, who grew up in Varese, a small city north of Milan, and studied design at Politecnico di Milano. He moved to London in 2011 and freelanced in advertising before taking the chance to return to his first love, magazines, as Design Director at TCO London, in 2019.
Fabrizio talks to us as his redesign of Huck magazine launches.
What are you up to this Monday morning?
My morning usually begins with my dog jumping on my bed and demanding cuddles and attention, then I take her to the park and listen to the radio or to a podcast. This has been literally my routine for the whole of lockdown, since, by mere chance, we got here the day that lockdown was announced. I have to say it’s been a lifesaver, having someone to take care of, and that gives structure to my days.
I live in Stamford Hill, North London, and we are very lucky to have an abundance of green spaces, so if I squint, I can pretend I’m in the woods. Then when I get home, I have a call with the design team at TCO London, where I work as a Design Director, and we catch up and plan for the week ahead. Regular virtual meetings with my team has helped me to keep in touch with reality, too.
Describe your desk and your work space
I converted my spare bedroom into a home studio. It is quite spartan, but I have a nice chair and a big window in front of me from where I see the sky and a lot of green.
My desk is quite empty, too: I have my laptop, a big screen, a few pens and pencils and books and magazines I happen to be reading or referencing. At the moment I have a copy of Tommy Caldwell’s ‘The Push’, a copy of ‘Unsmooth #1’ by Huck resident comic artist ES Glenn, and a copy of Invernomuto’s ‘Negus’.
In addition, I have a few random objects, such as hand exercise balls, pebbles and small rocks I collected during my travels (remember travelling? That was fun!) and other things I fiddle with during endless zoom calls.
Are you feeling optimistic about 2021?
I think ‘optimistic’ is a strong word. I’m worried that once the pandemic is over we’ll all be back to our old horrible, destructive, polluting habits. But, on a personal level, I’m really looking forward to being able to travel and see my family, and the Alps. Plus, we have a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline!
Which magazine do you first remember?
I grew up in Italy and and my parents had subscriptions to a few weekly magazines such as L’Espresso. The first one that I really felt was mine, though, was called AL Magazine, and was a magazine about Hip Hop music and culture (this was the late 90s, so no internet for me, yet).
For the first time I remember identifying with a magazine, wanting to read it cover to cover, over and over, and collect them. Also it was the first time I saw a magazine as a ‘space’ for stuff to happen, and realised there was a group of people behind that.
Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
In the last few months I’ve been obsessed with is The Modernist. It’s a magazine about architecture (obviously mainly modernist) that talks about things other architecture magazines don’t cover. Stuff like street junctions, bus stops, breakwaters.
I love everything about it, the format, the paper, the foldouts, and above all their choice of themes. Over the last couple of issues they have managed to treat topical issues in an extremely original and graceful way.
For example, they responded to the murder of George Floyd by making a whole issue about the building where justice ‘happens’, so courts, capitols, prisons, etc.. and how these are influenced by, and influence in turn, our worldview.
Describe Huck in three words
Easy: Paddle Against (the) Flow
Which part of art directing magazines excites you most?
I love it all! I like talking with the editors and writers about concepts, editing photography, imagining new ways of making the magazine exciting and fresh while being true to itself.
More specifically, though, probably my favourite part is designing the feature openers. I like to come up with rules and restrictions and see how far I can push them. Having limitations really frees my imagination.
Huck, before and after the redesign
How long have you been developing the redesign?
This has been a long process. We planned the redesign for issue 73.
Unfortunately, that was March 2020 and we figured that putting out a magazine in that scenario wasn’t the wisest choice. We paused the issue and came back to it at the end of summer. By then the pandemic was ravaging the country, and most of the world, and also the BLM movement was rising and we were all collectively faced with the horrors of police brutality and systemic racism.
So we decided to take a different approach for that issue and the following. Then, while planning issue 75, the 15th anniversary issue, we felt it was the right moment to finally do it.
The nature of Huck is that of constant change, and of challenging the status quo, beginning with our own. Niall (Flynn, Huck’s editor), and I had been talking about every aspect of the magazine over and over. In the end, we went back to the core of what Huck stands for, and what we’d want readers to feel while experiencing the mag.
We restructured the story list, creating chapters within it, discussed at length what kind of photography to use and how to edit it, what shoots to commission and how to make the most of them. We listed our priorities, and went back to the drawing board, and basically rebuilt the magazine from the ground up.
As a magazine with such solid foundations—and us coming to it with love and respect—the result is not a full departure from its previous incarnations. It is almost a distilled version of the previous 74 issues.
But I guarantee that there is no element from the previous issues that hasn’t been touched, questioned or discussed. From the format, the logo, the grid, the set of fonts, the placement of the folios, etc.
Despite the political nature of much of the content, the design is calm and gentle. Is that deliberate?
With this issue we are moving from quarterly to biannually so we wanted to create something that could sit on somebody’s coffee table for a long time, that can be picked up and put down every few weeks, or months, that feels like it’s rich and full of surprises, but not overwhelming or alienating.
Also, the history of Huck is fascinating. It started at the far edges of what was considered relevant, talking about topics that were then niche (outdoor sports, environmental issues, inclusivity, identity, etc) – all themes that are now at the centre of culture.
We acknowledge now this new role, of being a knowledgeable guide into a world that everybody is interested in, and we want to be as inclusive as possible. Previously we had embraced an aesthetic that was one of “rebellion” (bold layouts, handmade elements, ripped pages, etc), but we now want to have a more nuanced approach, taking more conscious decisions, and being rebellious in different ways: in the choice of topics, in the variety of points of view and voices, in the selection of photography, etc.
I like the typographic ‘manifesto’ that opens the issue – will this kind of opening be a regular feature?
I love that, too! I can’t take any credit for it. That was all Niall and our brilliant designer Tertia Nash, who worked with me on the mag. Niall and I came up with the concept, then I briefed Tertia for about two minutes, and took a few days off.
When I came back the manifesto was there. I think my only input was suggesting they use an ellipses instead of a full stop on one of the pages. That, to me, encapsulates the new Huck approach: bold, experimental, radical, and artistic, with its own distinct voice.
We haven’t got as far as planning for the next issue yet - but I’m 100% keen on having more of that.
What will be your highlight of the coming week?
Uhm… I’m getting my vaccine on Wednesday!