The Provocative Mr Meiré
German art director Mike Meiré (above) is renowned in magazine circles for designing two of the most innovative magazines of recent times – brand eins and Econy. Both were celebrated for their clean, cool aesthetic appeal. His latest project, however, deliberately sets out to subvert all the notions of "good" design that his previous work nurtured so carefully. His redesign of cultural magazine 032c was described by Magculture.com as "willfully awkward". Set against the standards of mainstream graphic design, it is, well, ugly. Here, Meiré explains why...
CR: Did you deliberately set out to break rules with the redesign of 032c? Is it a provocation?
Mike Meiré: Why? Just because it looks different? Or because we stopped following the aesthetical path of the former issues, so people feel disappointed because we haven’t fulfilled their expectations? Making a magazine is about taking a decision, either you do it because you believe in your vision or you follow a market.
032c is a very strong independent magazine with highly sophisticated content, but it became visually predictable. Generally, that’s not a big concern, but for a contemporary culture magazine which appears only two times a year it is.
When I met Jörg Koch, the editor-in-chief, it was quite clear from the beginning that he wanted to change the whole thing. He was talking about energy and experimentation, a radical step towards brutality. The meeting took place in my factory in Cologne where I moved my company two years ago – to be independent again, to free myself, to step aside from these everyday commercial expectations. So our profiles were matching immediately!
There are so many magazines out there which pretend to be cool, sophisticated or even culturally relevant. They all look the same, more or less. (...oouh! I know! There are a few good magazines out there! But I am talking about the rest, the 99.9%!) They all play this stylish “classy” Feuilleton-inspired design game. In 1999 I designed the first issue of German economy magazine brand eins (Which is based on the rebirth of beauty. Classic typography combined with white pages and remarkable photography.) which became quietly iconic and got copied a lot. So I know what I am talking about. Since then I am looking for an alternative graphic design wave in Germany … but it hasn’t happened so far. So I used my chance with 032c to come up with something different. But this was only possible because of the incredible quality 032c stands for.
In fact the new issue is exactly worked around the essence of 032c. Remember their first issue; bold, rough, intellectual, black and white, on the cover a huge square in pantone 032c? For the redesign I just went back to their roots, put the square back on the cover with Cecilia (the curvy girl in a black rubber cat suit) inside and the PANTONE 032c Red around it. Very simple, very strong. Feels like a subversive version of Germany’s number one politics magazine Der Spiegel.
Of course the stretched typography makes you look twice. Like an accident in our eye candy lifestyle magazine world. ERROR. I am always interested in the concept of evolution = harmony/break/harmony …
Making a magazine is finding out the right look for its content, its attitude. And 032c has its own ways to combine different stories ranges from war-photography, fashion, art, architecture, politics, etc. To me it’s the only way to create a unique identity, if you don’t want to be "me too". Maybe you don’t please the common sense anymore - but you become who you are, authentic in your own way.
So coming back to your question. YES, I did deliberately set out to break rules with this and YES, it is a provocation – but in the first place to myself! I remember a quote from the German artist Martin Kippenberger I have published in my own magazine AD2G 1990 "Es gibt nur den Dreck und die Schönheit im Dreck" (There is only dirt and the beauty within) … if every magazine or every building or every brand or everybody tries to look appealing somehow in the same idea of being modern, it becomes interesting to go the opposite. Because life has different kinds of beauty to present.
CR: Were you influenced by anything specific?
MM: I remembered a few things I made before the "APPLE Age". All done with the great help of a copy machine. Some early artist catalogues and a small art newspaper. But for the 032c everything really started with a very small stretched copy next to a picture. It was somehow strangely beautiful. A bit dark but very refreshing. It needed to be balanced because I didn’t want to go retro.
CR: Is the headline type stretched or did you have a special typeface drawn like that?
MM: This was actually the hardest job to get right. Most of the time my assistant Tim Giesen was stretching types like hell. The idea was getting us into a kind of "darker". We combined the stretched ones with types from the Helvetica and Futura family and the Times New Roman Condensed. We had to recondition our minds aesthetically wise while we were working on 032c. After some days everything commercial looked so boring… unbelievable! It was a bit like a trip.
I wanted to reveal a darker beauty which embraces mature elegance and coolness. When the layouts were done we sent them to Jörg, based in Berlin, he replied with his one-word-code: "KILLER!"
CR: Is it anti-design?
MM: It is what it is. Isn’t it? If you call it anti-design, that’s fine with me. I think being anti is important these days. Sometimes there is a real need to say NO. There is so much stuff around us …
As I already said I became a bit tired of all these look-a-like magazines. They’re all made very professional - but I was looking for something more charismatic. I wanted to search for an interesting look beyond the mainstream. Maybe something more "brutal" as Jörg used to say. We wanted a truthful intelligent independent magazine with a touch of underground.
I think we did it. And people may feel this and that’s why they are a bit confused because we all are used to this kind of efficient-streamlined-whatever-correctness…
See the September issue of CR, out 22 August, for further discussion of the 032c redesign and others in our feature,
The New Ugly
032c is probably one of the best mags around in my opinion and its redesign has further elevated it above the rest. Great to see a final product which has such a bold clarity of vision and sense of confidence. The quality of the design is also matched by the quality of writing which doesn't tend to be the case with most art / culture mags.
The whole stretched type thing / 'subverting good design' sounds pretentious nonsense to me.
Given that 99% of design out in the world is garbage, to try and imitate that in a publication that has the potential to rise above it just seems pretentious to me.
Looks like a bad trade magazine. Is the paper glossy too? and full of stock images?
Postmodern magazine design is dead.
It looks like he placed the type on the page and picked the first font he saw and the joke is on the client and anyone else that says it looks good, it's lazy and horrible. why are you even reporting on such crap?!
The stretched type = PUKE! This guy is so full of himself, 032C has taken a dive. What a shame this used to be a nice magazine.
Germans should stick with engeneering... designwise they really don't have it.
I perfectly understand the pursuit of something different, which is not an easy task right now, however we must be aware of aesthetical boundaries. These are real, like it or not.
Let's not forget the basics, design is a solution of a problem. Designers are supposed to be creative and talented because they can see/find different ways/paths to the same goal. In fact that's what separates them from ordinary people. It's like a highway compared to a single way street in terms of traffic.
In the search of something new the designer must always consider the difference but also a certain level of aesthetics otherwise a bricklayer or carpenter can do it too. There must be some classy touch that shows mastery no matter how simple the work can be or how saturated is the market.
Stretched typo just isn't a classy touch...
Sorry, but this looks ugly and I think that is the long and short of the whole tragic tale.
When David Carson subverted conventional magazine design with Raygun, it felt fresh and rebellious. It seemed to reflect the sensibility of the music and the audience. The 032c redesign, for better or for worse, feels academic, avant garde, and pretentious (if that's your cup of tea). What makes me nervous is the story on Acid Wash...please don't make a comeback...
Raygun a short lived treand!
032C will live an even shorter life.
What a shame I used to get excited about this magazine.
the fact that all you'z suckaz leavin comments says that the "design" is working. yur talking about it. you'll probably look for it on the shelves. you remember it. don't hate.
It is what it is...
I actually think that the design is really compelling. Rather like i enjoyed the London 2012 concept, which suppose is also in the "new brutalist" vein.
I also think it is extremely well suited to the content of the magazine.
However, M.M. comes off rather shockingly full of it in this interview, and it kinda confirms my sense that this approach is at best academic and at worst just sophisticated irony.
Can't wait to see the "new ugly" issue.
I like it, and with the most important thing for a magazine to do is stand out, this does the job. It is good to see someone stretch the definition of of aesthetics and what works
International Herald Tribune portrays 032c Magazine today:
Its interesting that a previous comment draws parallels between 032c and the 2012 logo. Both have drawn a similar kind of response on this blog - almost entirely negative. I happen to love both bits of design and the fact that most people hate them only strengthens my resolve! I'm all for this wave of "new brutalism", graphic design has recently been wallowing in a trend of childlike, self indulgent whimsy. Its a refreshing change to see something challenging, even if it does look "a bit off" on first glance. More please
What is interesting to me is this quote: "But this was only possible because of the incredible quality 032c stands for." This is true. The mag has come to stand for many things to many people and quality/craft are certainly things I think of. People have come to expect that the design of this publication embody a voice and a point of view; that is built into the "brand perception" of the publication. When they pick up the new issue, the design decisions will be read as purposeful; there is a clarity of intent that will come through. Not many other culture/design magazines can do that (well). The question in my mind is, will the strategy gain audiences, or lose them?
The front cover of this magazine is poor. It is an average image, a dull and cliched visual statement. Meire references another German (political) magazine in commenting on the cover. Wow. The cutting-edge is not to be found with these arrogant, self-obsessed German men and their Germanic "taste". 032c was better before I believe.
The best Redesign since the last few years. that's it.
And stretched typo really rocks! This is professional dilettantism! -- T R E N D I S O U T ! ! ! ! !
T R E N D I S O U T ! @ £ $ & !
a person who takes up an art, activity, or subject merely for amusement, esp. in a desultory or superficial way; dabbler.
The front cover of this magazine is poor. It is an average image, a dull and cliched visual statement. Meire references another German (political) magazine in commenting on the cover. Wow. The cutting-edge is not to be found with these arrogant, self-obsessed German men and their Germanic “taste”. 032c was better before I believe.
no, it has nothing do to with the german 'spiegel' magazine. perhaps you should google for the first 032c issue …
When I received this copy of 032c it reminded me instantly on 1985-1990 art magazines produced in small editions by students when computers became affordable and very few typefaces were available.
It also appears like a copy of early issues of FLASH ART MAGAZINE mixed with a tad of TEXTE ZUR KUNST presented in an sluggish art student behaviour way. So - nothing to worry about.
The only thing that’s worrying is the way it is sold us - THE NEXT NEW BIG THING IN DESIGN - ANTI - NO - and so on - and a lot of people are going buy this hocus-pocus and start copying it without reason. It is indeed another retro wave - differently - but definitely retro. It is not at all a "NO".
To be honest, it is not bothering at all. It just doesn’t matter. Luckily 032c is a lot more about content. 032c - please keep on doing what you are doing - you guys know better and I reckon Joerg had his reason to call the design "KILLER".
If this would have been done by someone we never heard of before, would the impact have been the same?
The above discussion has been brought to my attention. Having commisioned a huge chunk of 032c's fashion imagery and original photography for the past couple of years and co-conceptualised some of its most prominant themes and cover concepts, I have a couple of thoughts on the Meire issue/"issue".
I like much of the graphic design in the magazine alot although Meire's understanding and handling of photography (fashion imagery particularly) is perhaps questionable. The layouts really disappointed a number of the visual contributors. Maybe brave graphic design will always produce this result in today's environment? I too find this cover to be of questionable quality image-wise, although the red graphic "original 032" statement is strong to my eyes.
Contentious or not, it's not my favourite issue of the magazine - largely as a result of some clunky collaboration. Great glossy magazines rely on effective team play. This is what usually lifts a collection of inspired content onto a higher plane of magazine publishing. I thought the previous issue designed by Petra Langhammer was a magical moment for 032c. She'll not be subject to such exhaustive analysis here I warrant, perhaps understandably.
032c remains one of the best independent magazines in the world in my opinion, a benchmark for many far higher-profile glossies.
A PAIN TO LOOK AT. breaking the rules, is not making new ones...a "criminal" is not a powerful thing. To much words to justify UGLY.
Seems completely self-indulgent to me. Moreover: "032c is a very strong independent magazine with highly sophisticated content, but it became visually predictable." It's not as though Meire's Brandeins has changed considerably since its inception, as far as I can tell. Talk about predictable. Its covers, inside art (photo & illustration) and articles might be interesting, but the rest is just one huge boring template.
Everybody who knows Meire personal knews that this is just another example for his constant pushing of standardization in his work. What is sold as a cool theory is just him able to work real fast in ten different projects at a time using "easy to use" stuff that has been done a million times before (and that he has done a million times before). He is definetly not the one who is looking for atmospheres or complex design solutions. This goes on for years now. i think he lost interest in design around 98.
The rest is just labeled with "i´m a curator". Well if its not gettin boring for him and if there are still people out there who admire it this will go on for another twenty years. So im not quite sure: Maybe this is a clever copy of warhols mass production (his biggest influence) or maybe these days its more important to find cool labels for Nothingness (which he definetly is able to find) or maybe he is burned out and nobody tells him. Poor guy.
I like it.
"But for the 032c everything really started with a very small stretched copy next to a picture. It was somehow strangely beautiful. A bit dark but very refreshing. It needed to be balanced because I didn’t want to go retro."
I think its important to note MM's first impulse was toward the beauty of the thing. His trust in the eureka moment shows he is willing to question himself and his own approaches. The work is really beautiful as spreads on screen, need to hold it in my hand to see if it works (for me)
Great way to point out the hypocrisy of 'good design', which has become nothing more than a signifier of bourgeois status-quo. In this day and age we need design that reflects our reality, rather than masking it with some vague consensus of perfection.
Its shocking how much anger this design has provoked, and I think it is indicative of how hopelessly dogmatic and entrenched high design has become.
The cover looks like a Haynes repair manual.
I love the way you guys bitching proves his point.
Britain rules, but lost product design, graphics is last and all the brits hate seeing something really great. MM make art as design, this is ART. You will see...
|Chelsea Graphic Design Communication show (1)|
|Staying creative (12)|
|Uncle Grey's scratch vinyl posters (2)|
|Re-living history (1)|
|Jamie's Dinersaurs (2)|
|Wenlock & Mandeville: London's Olympic mascots|
|Apple reveals sleek new iOS7|
|Ogilvy France creates useful posters for IBM|
|2013 UK degree show listings|
|Information is Beautiful Awards open for entries|