The annual Design of the Year show at London’s Design Museum is back, with another selection of objects, buildings, fashions, graphics and digital work on display.
I’ve had a soft spot for the exhibition since an early iteration of the magCulture Journal was nominated at the 2008 debut. Since then I’ve been nominating entries and, along with other others such as Simon Esterson, we’ve always managed to get a few magazines included in the show. ILast year the winner of the Graphics category was the special ‘Fractured Lands’ edition of the New York Times Magazine which Simon put forward.
This year two magazines I nominated have made the show, and together they make an interesting pair. Both are great examples of editorial design, yet each is quite different.
Migrant Journal is the newer project being four issues through its six-issue run. It concerns our attitudes toward migration and immigration and as such is intellectually rigorous with a near-academic tone to its writing. This reflects the desire of its editor Justinien Tribillon to establish the journal as something to be archived for future reference.
The bookish design, from Zurich-based Offshore Studio is both starkly legible and very particular in character, with a bespoke typeface (Migrant Grotesk) throughout and a remarkable level of print and finish quality that means the monochrome typography, special inks, photography and infographics all gel together tightly. It is an exercise in controlled design, tightly structured and stunningly produced. Visual fireworks are left to the images and diagrams.
All four issues of Migrant Journal to date (the fifth one was launched last week) feature in the show, and look great as a set (above), their common design and coloured covers emphasising the serial nature of the project. It’s reassuring to find them well-flicked — visitors are paying attention.
While the judging is split into six discipline-orientated categories, Migrant Journal is displayed in a section titled ‘The nation state is dead. Long live the nation state’, alongside a typically diverse range of other designed things including Avravit, a typeface that combines elements of Arabic and Hebrew.
Meanwhile three copies of the tenth issue of Mushpit sit in a magazine rack (above) in the ‘Gender is ever more fluid’ section of the show. This occasional women’s magazine could hardly be more different in tone to Migrant.
The magazine channels the personal and working lives of its founders Bertie Brands and Charlotte Roberts to present a heady mix of politics and humour — cutting parodies of advertising, social media and milennial angst. The issue was designed by Richard Turley, and is typical of his visual output.
Mushpit shares with Migrant a reliance on crisp monochrome typography and bold ambition, but there the similarity ends. Turley resists any idea of control and is given free rein with the content. The designs loom large to match the words he is working with. This is design as content.
The cover (above, one of three different designs) is representative. Parodying a sterotypical women’s magazine cover, it uses many familiar design tropes but all are turned on their head: the pouting model demands attention with full eye contact and the coverlines deliver bold promises.
The copies of Mushpit in the show have been well-flicked by visitors too, but whether it or Migrant will go forward to win the Graphics category is impossible to tell. Maybe Migrant’s double nomination (Matylda Krzykowski also nominated it) will help it forward. Even within the Graphics section, let alone across the six categories, the work is so mixed in scope and ambition that the task of judging is impossible to second-guess. As always.
Whether either goes on to win the category or not, I’m excited to see them on display as part of the exhibition – it’s great to have strong examples of editorial design on display at the Design Museum. And more than design alone, they also demonstrate how magazines continue to both reflect and lead the social concerns of their time.