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Cover Stories: Thoughtfulness in design (1 September 2017)

by Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) Let’s delve into great media design from South Africa and around the world:

  • Chips — South African/print
  • Interview — international/print
  • Makeshift (Boundaries issue) — online
  • MyKitchen (Local is Lekker issue) — South African/print
  • Noble Rot (Wine on the Edge issue) — international/print
  • Print (Special Typography issue) — iconic

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MyKitchen (South Africa), Issue 35: Local is Lekker, August/September, , 2017

Click to view slideshow.

The current issue of MyKitchen Magazine is animated and oozing with shelf-appeal, thanks to its illustrated hand-lettering, layout and art direction. Themed “local is lekker”, this issue captures a South African vernacular in a fun yet sophisticated way, without declining into a stereotypical cultural space. Two influences come to mind here.

The first is the work of prolific Cape Town-based studio, Muti, which is known for its hand-lettering and well art-directed illustration work. The typographic chopping board that Muti created for Joseph & Joseph, a UK kitchenware brand, exhibits vernacular elements inspired by Americana — sign-painting and diner graphics in particular. And so, Americana meets Africana. Stefan Sagmeister’s classic Fresh Dialogue poster also comes to mind here, depicting two phallic tongues seemingly conversing with each other, illustrating through photography and hand-lettering a narrative for a lecture on design.

MyKitchen’s current cover shows how the mainstream feeds off of pioneering experimental design tendencies that often occur long before they become accepted norms, and how underground and avant-garde sensibilities eventually contribute to commercial and commonplace trends.

Interview (US), September 2017

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Imagine Jay-Z as the president of America, with Beyoncé as first lady. Now take that idea one step further and put Kanye West in Trump’s current seat of power. Perhaps meant as a prediction for the future of American politics, the September 2017 issue of Interview magazine reminds one of the episode of The Simpsons, which predicted Donald Trump as US president over a decade ago.

The cover portrays Kim Kardashian West as a future Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, accompanied by her young daughter, North West. Photographed by cult-photographer Steven Klein, this cover is vintage in its appeal, recalling the tonality of Stephen Shore’s photographs from the ’70s, which implied elements of consumerism, materialism and vanity in American society, and the banality of it all. Suggestive of a potential future still-to-come, this cover uses Interview’s masthead as a clipping mask for the American flag, creating a kind of simulated, pseudo-patriotism. Simultaneously referring to the past and the future, the portrait is an intertextual image of history in the making, how it tends to repeat itself in the process, and the manner in which society currently consumes culture faster than it can produce it.

Chips (South Africa), Issue 2, 2017

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Getting food to do the talking, Chips is an online magazine that connects art and eating. The magazine is published by Studio H, a multidisciplinary South African design studio based in Cape Town, known for its creative work for culinary events and services. Chips is also produced on a quarterly basis as a printed zine, extending storytelling about food and culture into an attractive and collectable package. The second issue is all about ‘dough’, read as money and food, suggested by the bread basket on the cover and advocating value (stokvel-style) focused towards community, rather than consumerism.

From meditating upon abandoned groceries that could not be afforded in the aisle and delving into the eclecticism of Johannesburg’s food culture to international topics such as how global politics plays a role Havana’s food culture and investigating the democracy of street food in Hong Kong, this issue is sure to add spice to your life.

Noble Rot (UK), Issue 14: Wine on the Edge, 2017

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Launched in 2013, London-based Noble Rot magazine provides lively banter about wine and food culture, eradicating borders that would usually separate the gastronomical arts from various other creative industries. The magazine has an innovative approach, getting culinary gurus to mingle with established creatives and placing chefs such as Pierre Koffmann and Fergus Henderson in the same arena as Brian Eno and Francis Ford Coppola.

In the spirit of Noble Rot’s catchy tagline, “Sex, Drugs & Pinot Noir”, the cover illustrations for each issue are particularly eye-catching. The latest cover for #14 is by Lithuanian illustrator, Egle Zvirblyte; it depicts animated characters and lively figures. Quoting her work as “bright, sweet and a juicy world of offbeats”, Zvirblyte’s work arguably references the visual language of the Fauves, particularly the work of Henri Matisse, which provides insight into her acute awareness of historical practices and contemporary trends.


Makeshift, Issue 15: Boundaries, 2017

Click to view slideshow.

Here is a publication with no headquarters and no full-time employees, drawing from an international pool of creatives and edited and designed remotely from various cities around the world, including New York, Mexico City, Athens and Madrid. Makeshift is an online publication, also available as a quarterly print magazine (note the seamless design synergy between online and print media), focusing on creativity within informal economies and revealing undiscovered forms of creative improvisation, innovation and resourcefulness.

True to its name, driven by its descriptor, “A Field Guide to Hidden Creativity”, Makeshift tells stories about trailblazers who use their powers of intuition and ingenuity to creatively overcome pitfalls and uplift communities; it declares that great design can be unearthed anywhere. The current issue, themed Boundariesm touches on the concept of lines we draw, where lines are either crossed, confronted, or created. This issue includes articles about migrants in Greece, anti-ISIS barricades in Kurdistan, a spacecraft built in a shed in Australia, and arbitrage in Brazil and Paraguay.


Print Magazine (US), Volume 1 Issue 1: Special Typography, 1940

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Originally a limited-edition periodical focused on the graphic arts, Print has had at least six different iterations in the seven decades following its first publication in 1940. The first started as a journal-sized publication and remained so until 1953, often including original prints, tipped-in pages, and other bespoke elements. The first issue of volume 1 was published using the name “Print: A Quarterly Journal of the Graphic Arts” but, by 1953, the publication had changed its name to simply “Print”.

Print’s latest, its annual typography issue, shows how the magazine has evolved with the times while maintaining its traditional integrity and setting high standards throughout. Perhaps as a teaser for yet another change in its creative direction, with this issue the magazine looks a little different. Investigating the changing face(s) of typography and celebrating important women within the industry, the cover showcases a portrait of influential illustrator and type designer, Jessica Hische, shot by John Keatley as part of his Faces of Design photographic series.

The latest issue also calls upon the iconic legacy of Louise Fili, who designed the typography for the cover, which is succinctly wrapped around the silhouette of Hische. She worked for Fili between 2006 and 2009, when she was an emerging young talent in New York.

Iconic across the board, Print proves that print is not dead.

Shane de Lange (@shanenilfunct) is a designer, writer, and educator currently based in Cape Town, South Africa, working in the fields of communication design and digital media. He works from Gilgamesh, a small design studio, and is a senior lecturer in graphic design at Vega School in Cape Town. Connect on Pinterest and Instagram.

Cover Stories, formerly MagLove, is a regular slot deconstructing media cover design, both past and present.

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Cover Stories: Thoughtfulness in design (1 September 2017)


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