Written for SYP Scotland blog | The Joy of Design Panel – Magfest 2015
Off the back of Francesco Franchi’s thrilling look at editorial design, he joined Andrew Diplose (Wired) and Eric Campbell (Hot Rum Cow) on the panel of Magfest’s design discussion. So the first question: why editorial design?
“I’m a pure magazine lover,” begins Andrew. “I loved graphic design and magazines. It’s not rocket science. Put two things together that I love.” Francesco adds he’s “more or less the same.” As a child, he started a magazine about bikes. “I mind designing my first magazine at primary school,” notes Eric. “Gravitated towards it when I worked at the Scotsman. Found my calling in designing in the Saturday supplement.”
With design, is it key for the content to mean something? “Content is the starting point and most important thing,” explains Francesco. “It’s good to really understand content and what the editor-in-chief wants to tell. Without content we cannot have design.”
“It really helps, obviously,” adds Andrew. He’s been from Smash Hits through fashion, men’s and women’s magazines, now Wired. “In an ideal world we’d take a passion for the subject through. Successful independent publishers are set up through passion and enthusiasm, not as a job to pay rent.”
Eric explains that it’s often down to subject matter on the decision to go for illustration. For them, “there’s only so many visuals of booze. If you want to transcend the possible, illustration gives you that possibility.”
How do deadlines impact creativity? “I’ve come to terms with deadlines,” says Andrew. “They’re helpful. Designers will keep fiddling until someone says to send a page.” For Hot Rum Cow, their main work is client-based, so often their magazine will keep getting pushed back anyway.
“[The concept is] the most important idea,” says Francesco. “Have a clear idea of what you want.” Andrew agrees, saying that focusing too much once you have the concept on its particulars eats away at someone’s time – often the illustrator – down the line. “Time can be really precious,” concludes Eric, saying they often just place the faith in the artist.
An audience member asks what they think journalists could do better from their perspective, as they work with illustrators, and so on. Andrew says that for a while he didn’t respect good writing enough; there should be an ongoing dialogue on shapes of columns and contents of captions, where “an arts person can talk to a words person with mutual respect.”
One final question: do they have any advice for new designers? Entry level often requires working with templates, but that’s not necessarily giving them much to show off their potential. “Do your own magazine too,” says Andrew. He sees people’s portfolios that are strict and regimented daily work, with that extra passion and enthusiasm that they work on in their own time. “It’s inspiring to see. Show all the stuff you can’t express in 9-5 jobs.”