Style sheets

Hannah Booth browses three new magazines to discover where the art of editorial design is heading

Carlos for Virgin Atlantic
Carlos for Virgin Atlantic

Anyone who believes that editorial design passes unnoticed by the reading public need only glance at the letters page of The Face’s August issue, the second edition sporting the magazine’s redesign.

‘What a joke, what an abomination. Neville Brody must be turning in his grave,’ says JM of London (‘FYI: the legendary Mr Brody, the first art director of The Face, is still very much alive,’ retorts an editorial).

Those with longer memories will recall the furore at The Guardian a few years ago when its in-house designers shifted the quick crossword to join the cryptic one in the broadsheet. It led to breakfast table squabbles, hundreds of complaints and a prompt move back to its former home in G2.

Editorial design is an evolving beast. The Face is still ‘tweaking’ its new look and aims to ‘push things further’ with future issues, says art director Becky Mason. The revamp was undertaken by former Face art directors Lee Swillingham and Stuart Spalding, now working as Suburbia.

Similarly, Paris-based M/M has just added the final polish to its redesign of French Vogue, a process that started in April last year. M/M’s revamp includes bespoke typefaces such as Carine, used in fashion spread headlines and named after the editor. ‘It takes time to change things in a magazine. It’s like a living structure,’ says M/M founder Mathias Augustyniak.

Redesigns have the past to refer back to, or ignore. New launches, on the other hand, are a blank canvas for art directors and their creatives. Music and style magazine Trash has tried to break new ground editorially and design-wise, but its future is insecure. Jaunt aims to rethink the travel magazine by harking back to a golden era of luxury travel.

The growth in literary magazines is posing real challenges for designers. Magazines Carlos and Zembla are aiming to add style to substance. Both will fight it out in the skies, too. Carlos is a Virgin Upper Class publication and Zembla will be stocked by British Airways. In future, will we be choosing our flights by the in-flight magazine?

Magazine Culture: New Magazine Design by Jeremy Leslie is published by Laurence King in September, priced £25

Carlos, for Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Publisher: John Brown Citrus Publishing Art director: Warren Jackson Creative director: Jeremy Leslie

Virgin Atlantic’s in-flight magazine Hot Air, then edited by Ekow Eshun, was grounded after the events of 11 September 2001. Virgin instead decided to launch an upmarket quarterly publication for its Upper Class cabin. In March this year, Carlos was born.

Unlike Hot Air it’s as ‘far removed from a consumer magazine’ as you can get, says John Brown creative director Jeremy Leslie, who oversaw the launch. A flick through Carlos confirms this. The uncoated brown paper stock cover features single-colour sketches, and inside, the editorial content does the talking with intelligent articles and short stories, and illustrations throughout from the likes of David Shrigley and Stanley Donwood.

‘With the cover stock, the idea was to evoke a fanzine/ exercise book feel so the readers feel they have chanced across a publication possibly belonging to someone else,’ says art director Warren Jackson, who conceived and designed Carlos with editor-in-chief Michael Jacovides.

The magazine, approximately A5-sized, is printed in two-colour. A full-colour glossy advertising section from a single ‘sponsor’ – dubbed the ‘colour section’ by Leslie – sits in the centre (the launch issue was Paul Smith).

Carlos is laid out according to Victorian page plates, which lends it the air of a club fanzine. The lack of colour and Virgin branding is deliberate, mirroring the ‘rarefied atmosphere of the cabins’ and, Virgin hopes, reinforcing its brand. The only concession is a small Upper Class motif on the back cover and a mention on the contents page.

‘We wanted to give people an intelligent read away from the commercial norm, rather than try to rival the type of magazine that passengers would bring on board,’ adds Leslie. Carlos is also available at select bookshops.

Trash Publisher: Condé Nast Publications. Trash is owned and funded by Ministry of Sound Launch art director: Steve Read, now creative director, Jack Magazine

The latest word from Trash is that the first issue is undergoing a major review to address whether it fits the Ministry of Sound brand. MoS denies rumours Trash is about to be scrapped, but all indications say watch this space.

Former art director Steve Read, now at Jack, side-steps questions about his departure from the title, which happened earlier this month. He says he joined Trash partly because he’d ‘always wanted to work for Condé Nast Publications’ and says he was its ‘launch art director’. The offer from Jack, he adds, was just too good to refuse.

Politics and rumours aside, Trash’s launch issue, published in July, mixes up the traditional format of a music and style magazine, says Read. It has no reviews, and its features are interspersed with fashion pages and columns.

This unconventional format is replicated in the design, he says. It’s heavy on full-page illustrations from well-known names such as Paul Davis and quirky touches such as hand-drawn, felt tip pen-style drawings and Post-it note devices.

‘Trash is less ghetto-ised than some magazines. I decided not to find the latest typeface and went back to the past for inspiration,’ Read says. ‘We used the font Clarendon throughout as it’s unisex and versatile. I wanted to create a “free form, un-GQ” look.’

The cover, which features Girls Aloud singer Cheryl Tweedy, is illustrative of Trash’s unisex approach, Read says. ‘It’s neither a typical women’s magazine shot or a lad’s magazine cover. Her femininity is offset by a [fake] tattoo. And the masthead runs over her face – it should be as unrestricted as possible.’

Zembla Publisher: Simon Finch Rare Books Art director: Vince Frost

Literary culture title Zembla, which launches next month, will be ‘an essential read for a visually saturated culture’, according to editor Dan Crowe. But no publication working with award-winning magazine designer Vince Frost can claim its visual approach is unimportant. ‘It’s a balance between written and visual language,’ Crowe says.

Frost, who was approached by Crowe to design Zembla, says a literary title is an opportunity to be as creative as possible with text. ‘I’m playing around with words. They must be expressive, they’re the heroes. In some places they are interactive and in others I’ve used handwriting. There’s no strict layout,’ says Frost. Even the strapline reads ‘fun with words’.

The challenge, he says, was to design a magazine ‘from scratch’ because there is nothing like Zembla on the market to compare it with. Photography and illustration, including drawings by shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, will feature alongside shots from Simon Finch’s rare books archive. A mix of different fonts will be used throughout.

Using Blahnik as an illustrator is typical of Zembla’s offbeat approach to commissioning, says Crowe. In an innovative twist, author Michel Faber will interview dead authors. He joins fellow contributors Barry Humphries and Damien Hirst, and the editorial board includes actor Tilda Swinton and artist/ musician Brian Eno.

The title refers to a fictional land in Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Pale Fire, one of Crowe’s favourite books. ‘I wanted to find a word that wasn’t in use,’ says Crowe. ‘It’s typographically neat too, starting with a Z and ending in an A.’

Zembla, which is targeting a 25- to 35-year-old audience, will be bi-monthly and available worldwide in bookshops, newsagents, museum shops and libraries. It will also be stocked on British Airways first class cabins, giving Carlos a run for its money.

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