Rant #1: Grafik

First posted by Michael Bojkowski on October 30th, 2006.

The world needs Grafik magazine. It’s ace. It’s critical. It ‘loves design’. It has lush foil blocked, special colour covers. It’s everything a modern Graphic Design magazine should be... Which is why it’s so painful to see when it starts going a bit wrong…

I’m for robust, opinionated and critical journalism. I’ve enjoyed editor Caroline Roberts editorials, even when I haven’t entirely agreed with stuff she’s said (you can’t please all the people etc.) but seems lately she’s just lashing out for no good reason. First Grafik gets a redesign so she sees fit to criticise the previous designer’s efforts (”yup, it really pissed us off too”, she assumes). Now she’s having a go at blogging. Huh? Okay, I’m obviously biased, but I wonder what type of ‘weblogs’ she’s been reading (It can’t be the Creative Review blog, can it? Do they ever mention what they got up to on the weekend?). I know it’s fashionable in certain journalistic circles to consider ‘blogs’ to be faddish and a bit 'rubbish' but for me it’s become an excellent way for professionals and friends to communicate on a level a few fathoms above a three line email or a message on MySpace. See our suggested links for some excellent examples.

Okay… This is where I offer my humble opinion on the recent re-design since Grafik doesn’t have a letters page (I’m actually quite happy about that, it doesn’t really need one)…

Avant Garde does not make for a happy text reading experience, especially with such tight kerning and leading. I thought this was a given. As someone on Newstoday mentioned, “I’m surprised Sea didn’t do it all in Helvetica”, I kind of wish they had. Anything other than Avant Garde. My eyes hurt.

The new logo (’masthead’, surely) looks clunky and hard to read. I know we’re all meant to be design professionals and up for being challenged but it just doesn’t gel with the idea that this is a “simplified and streamlined” version of the magazine. In my mind, there is little that speaks ‘inclusive’ about cutting your name in half, flipping it round and jamming it back together… but, again, maybe that’s just me.

Grafik magazine, issue #145. Publisged October 2006. Design by Sea.

One last gripe, I promise. The latest issue includes a "Special Report on Editorial Design". They have done this before and it’s generally been quite good. This edition is dismal. As if a four page feature on Vice magazine wasn’t enough (Vice makes money because advertisers looking to reach a young, ‘bleeding edge’ audience believe it fills this gap. End of story. Ask how many Vice readers would actually pay for their copy and I’m sure you’d get a much bleaker picture of their popularity), deputy editor Angharad Lewis then parades a sad, bedraggled collection of “favourite fellow independent publishers”. Saddest of which has to be The Chap.

Hurrah for independent publishing but does The Chap really deserve a place in a magazine that claims to ‘love design’. The editor freely admits that he doesn’t use a permanent designer, relying occasionally on “students on work experience”. One look and it’s immediately obvious that this is where the magazine falls down. Likewise, Karen and Amelia’s Magazine are pretty sporadic with their moments of brilliance.

At least Wonderland take design seriously enough to understand you have to employ a creative team to develop any sort of real following. Remember kids, people always look at a magazine before they read it.

I guess I should back this up with a few examples of design loving independent magazines. Maybe try some of these a tell me know what you think or you could just visit [colophon2007.com] for a much wider selection…

Riot Magazine [www.riotmag.net]
Super Super [www.thesupersuper.com]
Fact [factmagazine.co.uk]
Lodown [lodownmagazine.com]
Suite [suitemagazine.com]
Empty [emptymag.com]
032c [www.032c.com]

See other posts for Dummy, Special, Little White Lies and loads more. You can also visit Grafik magazine here… [grafikmagazine.co.uk], although you’ll be lucky to find anything much of interest on their site... certainly not a blog.

End rant.


  1. I have a lot of time for Grafik—I’ve written for it and subscribe—but I agree completely with you about the redesign. It’s unfortunate that a magazine about design can get such a basic thing so wrong. Around eighteen months ago it was looking fantastic, now it is just dull. That’s the most disappointing thing—it’s not even ugly or annoying, just plain. [Posted by Jeremy Leslie on 1st November, 2006.]
  2. I hope I wasn’t too harsh. It’s only because I care. :) I assumed a lot of things that were done in the initial redesigned issue were because it was a special edition… I can see the novelty of having ‘type, no image’ covers every issue wearing thin already. Be nice if Grafik handed the design over to a different studio every 12 months or so, they could approach the design like a game of ‘exquisite corpse’…[Posted by Michael Bojkowski on 1st November, 2006.]