Wallpaper*’s new faces

Wallpaper* magazine has had a redesign featuring two new typefaces from Commercial Type. We talk to creative director Sarah Douglas about the project

Wallpaper* magazine has had a redesign featuring two new typefaces from Commercial Type. We talk to creative director Sarah Douglas about the project



Wallpaper* creative director Sarah Douglas worked on the redesign with art director Lee Belcher. The design team also included Aneel Kalsi and Ben McClaughlin on the magazine, Jon Evans on the iPad. Ben Ewing and Michael Ainscough on the website, and Ben Jarvis and Luke Fenech in Wallpaper*’s Bespoke department. Paul Barnes of Commercial Type was the typographic consultant.

The main feature of the new look is the introduction of two new typefaces: Darby and Portrait



Darby Sans Narrow

Portrait Inline


Here, Douglas (who took over from Meirion Pritchard as Wallpaper* creative director earlier this year) explains the thinking behind the redesign and goes through its main features:


CR: Were there any particular issues with the design of the magazine or the magazine’s positioning that you were seeking to address with the redesign?

When Plakat (Graphik) was made for Wallpaper* by Paul (Barnes) and Christian (Schwartz) in 2007, it was perfect, and has served us very well for six years, but when the fonts are put in the public domain, they start to have lots of different personalities, rather than just a Wallpaper* one. This is why we felt it was time to create new fonts, to bring it up-to-date and make it even more relevant for Wallpaper*’s content. This creates a new, fresh, sophisticated, modern elegance to the Wallpaper* layouts.

Our front section has been steadily growing, so we felt the sections needed more definition, to help the reader navigate easily. We do this by using Darby throughout the front of book, and Portrait begins with the feature section.


Newspaper section featuring Darby


Portrait in use on the Editor’s Letter (note the reference to editor-in-chief Tony Chambers’ football team)

The Wallpaper* masthead has had the ‘clicker’ cursor arrow removed taking it back to the previous design with asterisk


CR: What are the most significant changes that have been introduced?

Two brand new typefaces created by Paul Barnes and Christian Schwartz: Portrait and Darby. They both contain a variety of weights and styles, freeing up the overall design.

The masthead has had the ‘clicker’ taken off, going back to the original logo. The strapline has also changed… ‘The Stuff That Refines You’ is a nod back to the first strapline ‘The Stuff That Surrounds You’, but bringing it right up to date for a consumer that’s more sophisticated, intelligent, and refined.

We have introduced wider text columns in features to give a longer read and overall the pages have more air and space. The photography and illustration remain integral to the design.

We have chosen a paper that was heavier and makes a more luxurious read. In the digital age the tactile quality of the print version is becoming ever more important. This is why we looked at over a hundred papers from all around the world before choosing this one. It is clean, smooth and just the right kind of white.



Darby Sans Text


Portrait Condensed


CR: What was your brief to Paul Barnes in terms of what you were trying to achieve?

We started talking with Paul eight months ago, discussing widely what the idea of modern luxury is within design. The conversations and communication that followed were extensive, intense, and rewarding. It was only until right near the end we all felt that eureka moment and everything clicked into place. This eight month period runs from these initial discussions to our final layouts, also including the new iPad edition which launches today (August 8), and our website which is coming soon. We have brought Nicolas Roope of Poke and Marc Kremers as consultants and are working together with our digital design team on a brand new website.


Portrait text


CR: Talk us through the two new faces – why did you choose them and how are they used?

We decided we would commission our own typefaces allowing us exclusivity and to be sure they were a perfect fit.

Portrait is a serif letter created by Hawaian-born, New York-based designer Berton Hasebe, drawing inspiration from Maitre Constantin (circa 1500 – 1533), the Parisian punch cutter who initiated the new style of Renaissance roman that spread across France and Europe. Portrait has a minimalist approach to detail, with sharply pretty Latin-style serifs. While its lighter weights are classical and elegant, the vibrancy of Portrait’s heavier weights references chiselled and wood-cut forms.

Darby is a humanist sans serif which follows the form of the English Transitional of the 18th century (in particular the work of Joseph Fry), but reinvents it for the 21st century. The high contrast display version echoes the early sans serif lettering tradition of the late 18th century as shown in The Nymph and the Grot. It is both a serif typeface without serifs as well as a sans with greater than normal contrast. The text is a low-contrast version of the same design, with differing proportions, and a slanted-style italic. Both were designed by Paul Barnes with Australian type designer Dan Milne. It is named after the Darby dynasty, a Quaker family that played a leading role in the industrial revolution, including the building of Ironbridge.


CR:The cover images (Newsstand on left, subscriber cover on right) are a collaboration between Linder and Paolo Roversi – can you tell us how that came about and how they worked together on it?

We approached Linder first. We were interested in her working on a new interiors/fashion shoot, as a lot of her work uses archival images from past magazines. I was moved by her quote in her show in Paris [featured in CR Feb 13]: ‘Collage is a great way to deconstruct how others say the world should be seen’ and felt this could translate beautifully with Wallpaper*.

We then suggested Paolo as her collaborator, and coincidentally, Linder had previously used a photograph of his in a collage piece. She was excited by the idea of working with him, and vice versa, Paolo felt the same. When we secured the model Saskia de Brauw it made the project complete, Saskia being a Rietveld graduate and artist/designer herself.

The shoot was sensational, creating for the first time, ‘live’ collage. From the selection that we’d chosen of furniture, chairs, cutlery and mirrors, Linder placed them into the photograph, in the same way she would usually create her collages with a scalpel and glue. Linder then took the images and worked on them further, using digital methods, with photographs of smaller items also shot by Paolo.


CR: What are the most important things that you have achieved with the redesign?

We have created a new look. We want to showcase our content in the most modern and luxurious way. The new look is not just about the the way it looks, it’s about everything that we do, our communication, our print, website, iPad, mobile devices. The whole reader experience.


The September issue of Wallpaper* is out now


Want to learn a new skill? Hone your craft? Or just switch off that Mac and do something a little less boring instead for a while? Then our August issue is for you with details on workshops, short courses and a host of ideas to reinvigorate the creative mind. You can buy the August issue of Creative Review direct from us here. Better yet, subscribe to make sure that you never miss out on a copy – you’ll save money too. Details here.

  • http://www.marcusmccabe.net marcus uniform

    The inline type is very nice

  • http://www.newlyn.com miles

    Confused about who designed Portrait – Christian Swartz, Paul Barnes or Berton Hasebe?

  • http://www.zaposphere.com Luke

    I love Wallpaper* magazine and have been a fan for quite a while. It’s great to see them pushing forward with a new design strategy. Personally though… I’m not loving the new ‘Portrait Inline’ font, too classic ‘Pantheon scripture’ for my taste.

  • johnjohn

    Thanks CR for sharing the interview

  • http://www.highergroundcreative.co.uk Mark Donington

    Liking Darby a lot

  • adolf witzeling

    Nice design overhaul. Although Portrait Inline is not my favorite, I think it fits very well with the content. Also I like the Asterisk masthead.

    In times where print is decreasing rapidly, it is important to give a publication like Wallpaper a distinguished and exclusive look to differentiate itself from the digital competition.

    I like PDFs but being a graphic designer, I love to browse through my collection of “analog” books and magazines if I need inspiration and references…and they look good on my shelf too. Sometimes it’s just great to get away from the computer, sit down and browse through a “real” magazine.

    In my opinion the new design of the magazine is a success and definitely worth buying and/or subscribing..

  • Chris V

    Is it just me, or did this interview fail discover the rhymes or reasons for the redesign? Or did Sarah Douglas fail to share this?

    Other than a couple of ‘elegant’ fonts we ‘like’ (or ‘dislike’) there is hardly an argument for the new look. How then is design to be taken as anything more than mere taste mongering?

    The new look was created for readers that were “more sophisticated, intelligent, and refined,” but weren’t those the old Wallpaper readers too? Wallpaper never seemed like the down-to-earth accessible type, now or then.

    For the life of me, I just cannot see how this comes across across as being actually intelligent and worth reporting on in CR webpages.