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Zak Kyes, Fact magazine
At work with

Zak Kyes, Fact magazine

Zak Kyes is a Swiss-American creative director and founder of London-based Zak Group. As well as working on a wide range of cultural and commercial projects, he recently redesigned music/art magazine Fact.

As the second redesign issue arrives in shops, Zak spoke to us about his work for the magazine, explaining how he sees the new look as an ‘exhibition in print.’


What are you up to this Monday morning?
A new routine since lockdown is my cycle to the office. Half out of necessity, half due to the discovery that it’s actually much faster. Monday mornings start with a full-team meeting so that everyone is updated on the projects in the office. We try to keep the schedule light on Monday. We make coffee and, hopefully, decisions. A positive outcome of the pandemic has been a sense of community—which was the focus of our Culture Is Not Cancelled campaign. 


Describe your desk and your work space.
We moved to De Beauvoir five years ago and asked our friends Dyvik Kahlen Architects to design our office. We’re not an agency or a studio, but an office—a place where work happens. It’s a physical space with shelves, desks, a good espresso machine—but also a networked space, where people can experiment and new ideas can emerge.



Which magazine do you first remember?
For my generation, that grew up in the early days of the internet, magazines were the gateway drug to design and culture. As a teenager I discovered the New Yorker and 032c. They were the first magazines that mattered to me.

John Seabrook’s cultural criticism was an epiphany. And Peter Schjeldahl’s recent article The Art of Dying should be required reading. Also everything by Jia Tolentino. A great magazine innovates—whether that’s in its format or design. 032c has done that over the years, from it’s early broadsheet format, to its late aughts trolling of ‘good taste’.



Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
New Currency is an exciting new title from Toronto that champions global youth culture. They just launched their first issue centered on new institution-building. 



Describe Fact magazine in three words.



Outline the redesign brief.
​​Sean Bidder, the editor, came to us with the perfect challenge: a magazine composed entirely of features. Fact focuses on the intersection of audio and visual art forms—two media that are hard to convey on the page. Our approach to this was to create an exhibition in print.



With the art direction of Fact we created an elastic visual language that responds to the diverse output of its artists through generously sized features. In the absence of hard-and-fast style guides we created typographic systems and rule-based layouts that are allowed to run their course, creating collisions of text and image. Magazines, at their very best, have always been experiential multimedia objects that give artists a playground outside of traditional exhibition formats.



What was the reaction to the first redesigned issue earlier this year?
Our favorite response was from Jefferson Hack who said he ‘just wanted to press play’. That gets at the contradiction of a magazine as exhibition. And contradictions create possibilities.



The second issue sharpens the videographic image treatment. We doubled down on oversaturated, image-heavy layouts combined with straightforward and occasionally brutal typography. 



You collaborate with a number of other art directors. Describe that process.
Collaboration has been a crucial part from the beginning and went both ways, editorially and in terms of design. For issue one for example, artists like Kahlil Joseph’s BLKNWS project (above) were given complete autonomy to create ‘page-works’ —a term coined by curator Hamza Walker to describe artworks made for reproduction and distributions in books and magazines. The key is not to think in terms of competing ideas and not be afraid to give up control.



Are you keen to design more magazines?
Absolutely. I like to think about what makes magazines exciting in the first place. At a certain point magazines became books and the throw-away ephemerality that made them exciting and experimental in the first place was lost. We wanted to return to the tension between the lightness of a magazine and the permanency of a beautifully printed object. We are currently working with the team behind Native magazine from Lagos on a new title that will launch next year.


Please share one piece of advice for somebody wanting to launch their own publication.
Share your rough drafts. Don’t overcook.


What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
I’m heading to Paris today for Fiac. I'm looking forward to Anne Imhof’s performance at Palais de Tokyo as part of her exhibition Nature Mortes and the launch of her record SEX. We worked on the design direction of both project—including everything from a ‘take over’ of Palais de Tokyo’s magazine to graphics for props.


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