Viewpoint calls itself ‘The Design Futures Book’, and issue 42 asks how design and innovation in business can forefront sustainability. Its picture-window cover is bordered by a nod to 2019’s colour of the year, living coral, which is a good omen for a magazine about trend forecasting.
The hefty, large-format maagzine is produced biannually by FranklinTill, a design futures agency, and although it’s aimed at the design industry, takes its visual cues (if not its industry-orientated pricepoint) from independent magazines; with stylish font choices, elegant layouts and vivid colourways that might make it appeal to other audiences. If the trick to writing a good story is ‘show not tell’ then this is what Viewpoint is doing in magazine form: by creating an on-point visual treat, I already trust that they know what they’re talking about.
The question posed by the theme of this issue – Guilt Free? – imagines a future in which ethics are at the root of every business and design decision. Viewpoint utilises a range of features to highlight the responsibility that everyone who designs things has to think about the longevity, impact and afterlife of the products they put into the world.
The different sections of this magazine align well with telling the story of the theme: you’ve got ‘the edit’, nearly 20 pages of ethical yet trendy lifestyle products; ‘Guilt-free’ provides ‘the context’ and glossary; and is followed up by ‘the evidence’, in which Hester Lacey provides stats and compelling reasons for brands and consumers alike to choose sustainability or ‘guilt-free’ materials, be it from recycling or renewable sources.
The cover image comes from the most colourful feature, on new vegan ways of eating, and the choices that are readily available to those who know where to look. How do you indulge in a ‘treat’ without compromising your morals? Is it simply to eradicate meat and dairy from your diet or is it more complex? The saturated photographs are a central focal point, reminiscent of The Gourmand or even Martin Parr’s collaboration with Toiletpaper; however Viewpoint focuses more on these saturated images than finding the answers to the questions it poses, and the writing alongside this piece leaves me feeling that there is more to be said.
One neat element I noticed at the end of some of the longer features was ‘to sum up’, a box insert on a full-bleed image, containing the key points. This emphasises Viewpoint’s role as a work of reference; I’ve never seen this in a magazine but it certainly serves as a functional short-cut without compromising the aesthetic of the mag. Might more magazines pick this device up?
Overall the magazine uses photography in unusual ways to illustrate different points. Take, for example, this spread in which a peeled grapefruit wedge represents ‘disassembly’ in a piece by Kate Goldsworthy about the afterlife of objects. Using photos as metaphor means that the philosophy of the idea makes itself applicable to every industry by not using industrial imagery at all, but comparing it to nature. More close-up photographs of mushrooms, leaves and ice by William Bunce, compliment the piece further.
‘Guilt-free’ could be (and is) so easily co-opted by anyone looking for a lazy way to tap into the current wave of ethical narrative around products, without actually doing the work. Viewpoint does the work to drill down into the different ways it is possible – and necessary – not just to alleviate guilt but genuinely design with sustainability in mind.
Editors: Kate Franklin & Caroline Till
Art director: Laura Gordon