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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Wallpaper*: The Handmade Issue (and IdN™'s Eco-Graphics Issue)

Wallpaper*: The Handmade Issue > IdN™: Eco-Graphics Issue

Considering the project scale and magazine standard, I don't know if I should even compare them, but since IdN (aka International designers' Network — with most content from/for Hong Kong, the international part is mysterious) always claims to be a top design magazine of international standard, I suppose I could happily put them side by side. When they were on shelf two months ago (sorry for being outdated, I always read magazines when they're months-old), it was an immediate reaction to compare their similar content: one on handmade, one on recycling, both responding to the fast-mass-producing modern world. I almost wanted to buy both just to compare the hell out of them, but since I've experienced enough useless purchases with IdN, I decided to just flip through it at the bookshop, confirming once again not to buy it. [You could take a look at this issue on their website] At a glance, it looks exactly like an ordinary IdN, loud graphics on glossy paper, a smash on the environment. So the recycled cover (I forget, but supposedly it's recycled paper) is just a facade. And what's up with the CD-ROM, to add more waste? Not being picky, only that they didn't go all the way for it. The feature is just a tiny bit in the middle, all the rest look like they don't have anything to do with the environment. Let's see their introduction:

"One simple motto - 'Buy and use only what you really need and then get rid of it properly when you have finished with it' - could make a huge difference in helping to reduce the mountain of waste that is threatening to destroy our eco-system. As those responsible, in one way or another, for most of the products we purchase, designers bear a heavy responsibility to make sure that our shopping is environmentally friendly. But many are worried about the supposed higher costs, the potential loss of clients and the restrictions on creativity that this might involve."

Doesn't look like they're trying hard to make "a huge difference". I mean, I wouldn't be asking too much from IdN. They do graphics right and that's what they do, exciting graphics. You wouldn't ask fashion magazines to go green cos extravagance is the thing. Either they have to construct the whole magazine environmentally just for this issue, or they have to take another statement (meanwhile "Fucking Recycle" is fucking corny) to make it work as a whole. Now it's too ironic and hypocritical and shallow — which they always are. I've always had a thing with IdN's editorial content. They look like boxes of school assignments gathered for the sake of filling. The type is so fancy it's not supposed to be read as text. The writings themselves are bland and uninspiring. Seriously, to "buy and use only what I need", I wouldn't buy IdN.


ANYWAY. That's with IdN. This entry is supposed to be an appreciation of Wallpaper's The Handmade Issue. All the contents and tactile feelings of the printed magazine are so good I couldn't describe them without the help of images. The following are a few shots.

First thing first, the cover. By this you could see they'd do anything for this issue: using a software tailored for Wallpaper, subscribers were asked to design their own cover to be printed individually for them, that's more than 21000 unique covers [gallery]. This is a demonstration of how the treatment of a subject could match a topic, even when identical machine-printed magazines seem to have nothing to do with handmade goods.

As with a lot of well-thought publications, the advertisements run seamlessly with the content. The very first spread of this issue makes it very clear. It's an LV ad emphasising craft, a perfect introduction to the theme of Handmade.

In the details: delicate use of stamps to illustrate contributors. Below: sketched typeface.

"We know what we want and how to get it. For our most ambitious project to date, acting as client, patron and creative director, we brought together and briefed some of the world's leading designers, craftsmen and manufacturers. They then went away and came back with furniture, fittings, foodstuffs, fashion and more. Just for us. And for you, too. This issue, then, is a testament to the craft, skill, vision and will to do better that is required to arrive at the truly remarkable."

[product gallery]

There was an entire exhibition, titled Wallpaper* Handmade... in Italy, held to showcase the commissioned pieces. This is one installation made specially for the issue.

An elegant booklet containing sketches of the original designs featured. It's so fine you'd handle it with the greatest care. It feels like a real sketchbook.

Killer graphics.

The power of photography: highly professional and original shots, meticulous sets even in presenting the tiniest subject.

"This Handmade issue of Wallpaper* not only looks different, but feels different too. We have plundered the stocks of Finnish paper giant UPM to print the various sections of the magazine on carefully chosen papers: fashion gets glossy stock, technical drawings are on newspaper-style paper, the cut-out house model is on a thick matt card — and that's just for starters. All in all, we got our hands on eight of UPM's finest stocks in seven different weights, and transformed the Handmade experience into a tactile extravagance."

I know what you're saying. All publication designers go through the process, you may say. But when you can do it really professionally, it doesn't sound annoying to hear. UPM is mentioned continuously throughout the mag, I've never felt so good about editorial advertisement. When they say it looks and feels different, it really does. It's the artistic integrity that gains your respect.

Something that can't be missed from a handmade issue: DIY treat.

I love this spread of signatures, even the logos are drawn by hand (well, feel like they're drawn by hand, at least).

So this is a quick tour. Seriously, I bought this Wallpaper at HK$65, that's so cheap for an art piece.

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