As the year ends, thoughts inevitably turn to highlights of the last 12 months. In 2022 we’ve seen plenty of new magazines launch, as well as some excellent issues of longstanding favourites.
One magazine that stands out as being continually exciting is Interview, our latest Magazine of the Month, and very possibly Magazine of the Year. Interview is exciting because the team making the magazine are excited—that’s the emotion that jumps from its pages every issue.
The editors are excited about the interviews they’re running; the photographers are enjoying the space they’re given; and the design team are pushing against their self-defined parameters. Between them they conjure up a vivid celebrity soup that is surely the strongest cultural index of our times.
The first thing to acknowledge is the unique long, tall page size that gives the photographers so much space to play. A quick count of this issue gives a total of 78 full-page portraits—that’s almost half the issue given to images at 230x300mm (8x16”). Previous versions of the magazine may have featured higher-end big name photographers to shoot the star interviewees, but now the photography often has a loose, spontaneous feel that mixes styles from story to story. Some of the photography isn’t the best, to be honest, but it is always urgent and uncomplicated.
The front cover shoots, though, are always strong and I love this one. Nicki Minaj is shot by Torso, posing in front of a flaming Mercedes. She looks amazing in the picture but the important thing is that it works as a cover: as well as the glamour of celebrity, there’s fashion and flames. Minaj fits the page size perfectly, and the yellow logo contrasts with the smokey blue background and her red wig. The image says everything the magazine needs to announce without using words. It’s bright, colourful and confident.
Flicking through the magazine is like walking through an imaginary downtown launch party. Pages switch between monochrome pages of Q&A and bold full-bleed portraits; here’s an iconic drag performer, here a NY painter; turn over for sudden superstar Jenny Ortega, timed perfectly for her starring role in Netflix’s biggest ever new launch, ‘Wednesday’. If a subject is less famous, they’re pumped up by being interviewed by a celebrity A-lister.
Interview is of course all about interviews—where else would astrology superstar Susan Miller talk star signs with YouTuber Emma Chamberlain?—and the cover story is powered not only by the stunning series of images of Minaj superimposed in different contexts, but by her interviewer being Jada Pinkett Smith.
The texts are all designed to an uncomplicated grid structure, reflecting the simple Q&A format of the interviews (I was talking to someone the other day who was dismissive of Q&A’s as an editorial device, but that is to miss their point here: Interview is all about celebrity x celebrity).
Where the design comes into its own is with the headlines. All texts and details use one font, Caslon Iconic, but the headlines have been through a journey of typographic possibilities. Following a series of changing guest fonts, art director Kurt Woerpel started 2022 using a messy, painted stencil effect that added typographic drama to the page.
‘Some of the developments are meant to represent changes of staffing at the magazine, to suit new aesthetic needs to match our shifting content/culture, to swerve knock-offs,’ Kurt told me, ‘or simply to keep things fresh for ourselves.’ The key point there is that the magazine’s designs are being copied elsewhere. If ever a magazine was made to feature on agency moodboards, this current iteration of Interview is it.
So Kurt has to keep swerving: recent issues have seen those stencil characters dropped in favour of what he calls a ‘blunt’ application of the Caslon Iconic. And now in the new issue that font is itself given it’s own stencil treatment.
I invited Kurt to share five headline highlights from the issue; here’s his response:
1. Thuso / Blinds
This is one of my favorites in the issue—the horizontal fills give it a sort of window-blinds feel which I’ve then broken apart to give air where needed, allowing the reader to peek through. With the slats and expansion it creates an odd ‘stretch’ almost like leg-bone extension surgery. It also has a bit of an ‘IBM’ logo quality. Looking now, the horizontal strokes work particularly well with her seated pose.
2. Luca / Bubble
This was an attempt to make something more straightforward, but the scale of type vs. the weight of the paint marker made it difficult to actually render the font in its true weight. Instead, the marker filled in too much and produced an overweight ‘illegal’ version which eventually deflated from bottom to top. To me it looks a bit like a sweater taking on water, or a bubble surfacing, which felt appropriate for obvious reasons.
3. Ariel / Hairpin Fill
In opposition to trying to represent the exterior line of the font (a problem for Luca, above), here we’ve attempted to simply represent the fill through a continuous hairpin line. The marker began to run out of ink at the end, which adds an extra flavor and reveals a bit more of the actual render structure.
4. Kids / Cat’s Cradle
This direction began to feel a bit like an evidence board. Making and connecting clues and details, somehow weaving and gesturing at some sort of inter/hyper connection between the type. Implying meaning. We began to lean on this direction more heavily as we went on, and have brought this heavily into our Winter Issue (which will be debuting shortly!)
5. Nicki / Empty
Keeping it simple. This is mostly about keeping the photo (by Torso Solutions) legible and the reader focused on Nicki. It’s also an important moment to show the most basic end of this system in action.
This brief insight into the typography of Interview is a reminder how complicated it can be to create something that appears simple. And this is the secret to the magazine’s success: a simple concept fullfilled by a strong team passionate about refining their contributions into a large-format celebrity zine.
Let’s call it Magazine of the Year.
Editor-in-chief Mel Ottenberg
Editorial and creative director Richard Turley