Launched when its six editors were studying graphics at Falmouth University, ICBQ publishes unseen and unused work from designers and other creative people. Now graduated and working full time in various studios, the team (Alex Bassett, Connor Edwards, Dylan Young, Reuben Morley, Tom Heath and Paul Merritt) have continued to publish the magazine, with issue five released at the end of last year.
So much coverage of graphic design celebrates the end result; ICBQ provides refreshing insight into the design process.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work.
As I am sure many people can relate to, none of us have a very long commute to work at the moment. We are all scattered in bedrooms and living rooms up and down the country, working from home. To stay in close contact with each other we use Slack, and on a Monday morning – but also constantly throughout the week – we’ll be discussing the magazine, the week ahead, work, design, and so on.
Being able to stay in such close contact is a real blessing and something we definitely try not to take for granted. We all work full time as graphic designers so ICBQ is very much a project we focus on in the evenings, but that doesn’t stop us getting wrapped up in long conversations about the magazine several times a day.
Describe the state of your desk.
Aside from the obvious laptop and computer monitors, our desks are always full with magazines, books and other pieces of graphic ephemera. We are constantly sharing new magazines and books with each other, discussing and finding inspiration.
Another fixture is wall space; the ability to pin up new spreads and leave them to sit for a few days so you can think about them was a process that took place throughout the whole development of issue five. Right now there are a few mock posters pinned up that we have been discussing printing, or not printing.
Are you feeling optimistic about 2021?
It is undoubtably hard to get past the uncertainty of the year ahead, but without a sense of optimism everything becomes too overwhelming. We are excited to regroup in London, and get back to a time where we were more free to meet up. In regards to 2020, it was of course challenging but in the end we all made progress in our careers as graphic designers, and alongside that managed to publish the new issue of the magazine. Things could have been much more difficult for us.
In a broader sense, 2020 has actually helped us develop a lot of skills to work apart from each other. We started ICBQ at university where we were with each other in a studio every day, and issue five began a few months after we had left in late 2019. This was a tricky adjustment but I think we’d all agree it’s actually helped us find solutions to working apart that we’ll carry in the future, even when are able to be together.
Which magazine do you first remember?
We all have so many different memories of magazines from our childhoods. A lot of us first came into contact with enthusiast/hobby magazines for stuff like mountain biking and guitars. Or the magazines that accompanied trading cards for football or Doctor Who. Later on, in terms of art and culture, Tom remembers Huck being the first magazine he bought with his own money:
‘I remember spending most Saturday mornings going into my local WHSmiths to brows the magazine section. Huck was usually tucked away at the back amongst all the magazines stacked up on the clear plastic shelves,it was the only magazine that intrigued me as a young kid. It was different to all the others, it seemed more considered and exciting than whatever it was sat next to. The choice of photography for the front cover always stood out to me, as well as the occasional collaboration with artists such as Ed Templeton.’
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
We have all developed a love for Revue Faire, a fortnightly design magazine that ticks a lot of boxes for us. The short but insightful editions are a perfect read over a lunchtime or two, and the design always feels fresh. They cover a myriad of topics under the umbrella of graphic design.
One we particularly enjoyed was their issue about El Lissitzky and how CMYK printing affected the reproduction of two colour printing of the 1920’s. It jumped out to us as a magazine that gets the most from very little in terms of its format. As an independent magazine ourselves, this has been quite inspiring to see how they experiment with paper stocks, print processes and variations within a fixed format (215 x 295mm). It has been one of the key references we have spoken about when thinking of the next iteration of ICBQ.
Revue Faire say that ‘critical publications dedicated to the analysis of graphic design are sadly few and far between today’ and we agree, and this is why the publication feels like such a breath of fresh air.
Describe your magazine in three words.
Never before published
Why focus on the process behind finished graphic design?
You could say we were bored of seeing the finished product. We wanted to peer underneath all the work, take a look at what was made in order to get over the finish line. As students who were always asked to generate three routes per project; we couldn’t help but think about all the work that was potentially going to waste.
Individually, we all had folders on our computer full of work which might have been exciting to us but would never leave the computer because it wasn’t chosen for a project. The first issue of ICBQ was done quite simply to give that work a place to be seen.
In our more recent issues, we feature anything that didn’t make it to the final outcome of a project. What we found is that discussing this work with people can often give you a much deeper insight into the project itself, but also the designer’s process.
You can learn a lot by seeing the work that goes unused. You can see how experimental they are behind the scenes, and if they have an especially experimental process there is often a great deal of unused work. This work is normally lost or forgotten the moment a project is finished, and the polished final images are rolled out.
As students and now as working designers, it can be quite reassuring to see that sort of thing amongst all the refined work — to be reminded that anyone can simply misinterpret a brief and work up a route for an identity which wasn’t quite right.
ICBQ changes appearance every issue – is this a deliberate part of the project?
This is definitely a deliberate choice we have made since the very start of ICBQ. When printing our earlier issues we had a tight budget and printed through online services that offered little chance for experimentation in terms of print processes, and the only way we could experiment was through the format/size of the magazine itself.
This was something that we enjoyed doing and has stuck with us, even as we’ve moved on to working with better printers. Additionally, with ICBQ being a personal project of ours it is a chance to experiment more openly outside of our day jobs, and we can keep adapting each issue to what we’re seeing around us.
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What can we learn from the rejected and forgotten work you publish?
You can expect to learn about more about the hard work that goes into a project, that no one ever sees. We speak to designers about their design process, frustrations and challenges they faced on a particular project. We always focus on the story behind why the work is unused, for example we spoke to one designer Lily Hayes about how her process naturally creates a huge abundance of unused work that she normally would only keep to herself.
We hope that the conversations we have with our contributors lead people to look at their unused and rejected work in a healthier light, because often the work you rejected holds more information about the project and how you can develop than the final outcome does.
For our previous issues we have always done an open call for submissions, as well as approaching designers who’s work we have been following. People do say no, either because they are too busy or because the work they have is tied up in a project they can’t talk about.
But we have been surprised by how many designers we have been able to engage with over the five issues. A big thing for us has always been mixing the work of student and more established designers, to us the stories behind the work are always as valuable no matter which section of the creative industry they come from.
What are you excited about for this coming week?
We’re excited to continue shipping out our latest issue to everyone who has been supporting us over the last few weeks. It’s extremely rewarding to see people engaging with something we have worked so hard on, for so long.
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