Thinking with Google

Known for its intelligent coverage of both film and surf/skate culture, The Church of London has a new quarterly magazine in its stable. It comes as a handsome hardback book and is a different kind of venture for a different kind of client: Google

Known for its intelligent coverage of both film and surf/skate culture, The Church of London has a new quarterly magazine in its stable. It comes as a handsome hardback book and is a different kind of venture for a different kind of client: Google…

TCL has been developing Think Quarterly with the internet giant since December last year. The first issue is themed as Think Data and has been sent to 1,500 of the company’s UK partners and advertisers. As the name implies, Think Quarterly will be published four times a year, alongside TCL’s already successful titles Little White Lies and Huck, its portfolio of contract magazines and the studio’s print, web and motion graphics work.

TCL were kind enough to have an edition of Think Quarterly printed up for us (well, me) and having had a chance to pore over it, it’s a very encouraging start to what could potentially have been an overwhelming project for a small creative company.

While clearly a Google project, the design of TQ only subtley references the company’s branding; there’s a wax seal, a debossed logo on the box cover and a foiled one on the book itself. Inside, the subject matter is clearly related to the business of data. Guy Laurence, CEO of Vodaphone UK is interviewed on the subject of information overload (and what to do about it); while statistician Hans Rosling is duly probed on the importance of data study in business. Journalists involved include Guardian Datablog editor, Simon Rogers, and WE magazine editor, Ulrike Reinhard.

Google claim that TQ’s intention is to offer some breathing space in our ever-increasing world of data. And certainly, slowing the intake of information down via the printed page is an interesting direction for a digital company. Indeed, when images of TQ first hit the web, the rumour was that Google had launched an online magazine. Not so: while readers can access some of the articles online at, TQ is resolutely a physical printed object, and blatantly celebrates that fact.

There are numerous elements at work here. Each edition is boxed and 1,200 copies of the run of 1,500 arrive with a bespoke cover, tailored to each individual recipient. Housed in its red slipcase, the cover depicts a brain made out of the letters in ‘Think Quarterly’. When this is removed, a light bulb (ding!) made up of sections of the recipient’s name appears, as above, à la Sagmeister’s schizophrenic canine on his Made You Look book.

It’s a sweet touch that will no doubt be a hit with recipients but compared to TCL’s usual fare, which relishes illustration and impactful cover design, the box-and-cover concept feels a little staid, if aimed at the limited edition look. Of course, TQ isn’t necessarily designed to appeal to the average design-literate snowboarder, or indie film lover, so perhaps this is merely more of a compromise, but a subtly crafted one at that.

That said, TCL’s design of the contents inside is a real treat. The studio has used an array of illustration talent to fill these pages and there are particularly strong contributions from Geoff McFetridge, Adrian Johnson, Matt Taylor and Mike Lemanski alongside photography by Spencer Murphy and Jonnek Jonneksson.

There’s also a gatefold infographic in the centre of the publication that opens out to reveal a visual history of data capture, from sundials to the Hubble telescope. Yes it’s geeky, but it’s also golden, too.

Similarly, a pop-up construction detailing usage data captured from the ‘Boris Bike’ scheme in London works brilliantly (designed with help from specialists David Carter and David Pelham). It’s difficult to get pop-ups right – let alone convey data about a bike hire scheme creatively – but this unexpected spread mixes statistics with involving, far from dry presentation. And you can’t convey the physical possibilites of print much better than that.

Think Quarterly isn’t available to buy but some of the content is also published on (also designed by The Church of London). The next issue will be out in May.


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