Very Elle, Very Cool
With so many photographers and stylists working for both editorial and advertisers, fashion magazines are finding it impossible to create a distinct tone of voice through their imagery. Instead, it is typography that is increasingly being used to separate ‘ed’ from ‘ad’. Joining the likes of David James’ Another and M/M’s Arena Homme Plus is new-look French bi-annual Very Elle, designed by Non-Format’s Jon Forss and Kjell Ekhorn.
Part of the studio’s brief was to use its renowned typographic skills (displayed, for example, in the design of Varoom magazine) to give the magazine a singular voice that would set editorial pages apart from the advertising. “This led us directly to the idea of creating typefaces especially for the magazine,” they say. Forss and Ekhorn created Heroine, an adaptable family of display faces used for headlines and standfirsts. “The magazine aims to celebrate women from very diverse fields so it was important for us to develop a family of typefaces that would not only signal high fashion but one that could span the whole spectrum,” they say. “To begin with we created an ultra-thin version which would be used for the main feature openers in the fashion sections of the magazine. Then we began work on a bolder, much brasher version and then, regular and thin versions.”
They also decided to employ blocks of type with very tight spacing. “To avoid the inevitable problems with clashing ascenders and descenders, we produced alternative versions of each typeface with extended characters,” they explain. “These can be altered to get an offending ascender or descender well out of the way and, as a bonus, they also provide an appealing visual texture within the body of the text.”
The result is a really beautifully crafted magazine that absolutely succeeds in creating a distinct voice - this is, after all, a mass-market publication, not a niche arts title. There have been other periods when type has come to the fore in magazines - think the three B's of Brodovitch, Brody and Baron. And no doubt advertisers will soon catch up with editorial's use of elaborately expressive type – it's often the same people doing both anyway. But for now, editorial pages like these offer a rare chance for typography to shine.
UPDATE: Further to 'Action Man's comment below, I've found an image of the cover (below). To me, it doesn't work anywhere near as well as the inside pages, which can largely be attributed to the fact that the masthead had already been designed before Non-Format started working on the title: "We were brought on-board after the launch issue was published. We were invited to suggest alternative mastheads for the cover of the magazine, but in the end the publishers decided it might be confusing to change it after only one issue."
Non-Format will be working on the spring issue so perhaps this issue will be resolved better with that one.
I know you should 'never judge a book by it's cover', but it would also be interesting to see this...
@ Action Man
See Update in post
Looks great, big shame about the cover though: it barely looks like the same magazine!
Typefaces are great, they remind me of the way letters extend when a fax or photocopy gets stretched as it's going through. Will the fonts eventually be available for purchase?
Excellent! Love the type and typography too! The type reminds of the letraset stuff from the '70s. Very expressive.
ps. more white space please!!
Very imaginative, and good to see new typefaces being created for such a satisfying result. Roll on next issue with the revised cover!
Perhaps I did not read the article carefully enough, but I did not come across any information about using these highly customised typefaces in every issue henceforth. I imagine it would get mighty difficult for the designer to use them continuously on every article title. It would also become rather monotonous and inefficient no?
I dig the custom type but as a whole, I feel it's Very Non-Format and not really Very Elle. Apart from the large, custom titles, the rest of the layout is quite plain and uninteresting from page to page. There's not much in the way of a particular style. Put your thumb over the titles and it looks like it could be any magazine.
And can the Elle team execute superbly issue after issue with a single custom typeface? Monochrome pages get old really quick when you're restricted to a single typeface that's too distinctive. It's like driving down a road and seeing a billboard advertising the same product over and over. It needs to be combined with a workhorse typeface to achieve more variety.
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