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Birthe Steinbeck, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin
At work with

Birthe Steinbeck, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin

German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung publishes its weekly magazine every Friday. Art director Birthe Steinbeck oversees its photography and design, managing a team of designers and collaborating with creative contributors from across the world.

Birthe’s work on Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin has won her multiple awards, and she lectures regularly at universities across Europe and US. She tells us about her week as a special fashion issue of the magazine, based around the Italian city of Naples, is published.


What are you doing this morning?
Monday morning is all about connecting with everyone on my team which is based in Munich and Berlin. We go through the upcoming issues and all the other projects going along with that.


Office scene, desk, compter, chair and large windows showing blue sky.

Where are you today?
Just got back to office after summer holidays. It used to be a bustling place packed with people, music, discussions, meetings. A lot takes place online now and many people are working remote still. Myself as well. Office life has become a lot more calmer and concentrated. Being able to change my work place is perfect and gives me just the right amount of flexibility.


View from window showing sky, horizon and the Alps in the distance


What can you see from your desk/ through the window?
The Alps and the change of weather.


Cover of Index magazine, April 2000


Which magazine do you first remember?
As a kid a magazine subscription was always on my wish list. Also magazines from far away places. One issue that really got me very early on was the oversize german magazine Max with a beautiful black and white photo of Naomi on the cover and no lettering that I found on one of my regular strolls at the kiosk. After that I fell in love with Colors and Indexamong others.


Cover of The New Yorker magazine, 11 September 2023

Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
I always try to get my hands on the latest issues of The New Yorker, New York Times Magazine and Der Spiegel.


Describe Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin in three words.
Full of surprises.


What role does the magazine play in relation to the newspaper?
The Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin is a classic newspaper supplement that will fall out of the newspaper every Friday. SZ is weekly. The newspaper is a daily. There is a constant exchange between the two medias. We share a website. Every piece of material that’s published online can reach so many multiples

The great thing about being Art Director of the supplement is it gets seen by a lot of people. It’s exciting that the SZ Magazin has this kind of reach and that it‘s so varied and ambitious every week. The feeling that you are playing a role in getting important information out there, telling stories that people talk about and being part of what is happening right now. And the cover is what sums it all up.

You’re just back at work after maternity leave. Have you missed the weekly routine of producing the magazine?
Yes—so good to be back. 

I’m surrounded by people who are extremely good at what they do and I have the best talented team. I discuss ideas with the editor and artist involved creating the magazine and everything that goes along with it online. I love that we get to collaborate with the best creatives out there. It opens so many doors.

Approaching something with a bit of naivety and stepping out of the comfort zone – that’s really terrific and gets harder the more experience you have and knowing all the rules. Try weird things and then perfect them. And put all your heart, gut and energy into it.


Tell us about this week’s cover
It’s the Naples issue, a fashion issue. There are four different covers and I adore them all. I reached out to photographer Sam Youkilis who has been exploring the extraordinary and mundane of Italy for several years. You see his view on Naples and the people he adores and knows and they love him back. The whole issue is packed with life, color and Italy and it just makes you want to head there at once.


The photo shoot was the best and Sam the most generous person. We also did a lot of video material which went online. 


For several issues I have been collaborating with multi-talented Andrea Trabucco-Campos on custom typography and lettering (above). For this issue we were looking at many old italian type specimen books and signage in italian cities—both just the best inspiration. You can see more inside the magazine (below). Last week Andrea was made a partner at the New York office of Pentagram, and I am so excited for him.


 What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
There are a lot of fine art related stories and issues coming up which I am really looking forward to. Marcel Dzama is definately my new favorite artist to collaborate with. Also heading to Versailles to shoot a very surreal fashion essay with Estelle Hanania and Samira Fricke. My team is working on a special christmas tree edition with sculptors and I cant wait to see the first objects. Always love connecting with cartoonist Liana Finck on her weekly column. And editing the photos from Ukraine column with my amazing photo team always has a huge impact.


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