• 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185577

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

Graphic Design

Graphic Design: Esquire's creative director on The Big Black Book

Posted by Rob Alderson,

We’re always keen to see new publications and similarly we always take an interest in existing titles undergoing redesigns, but it’s rarer to see an established print brand producing a new product. But that’s exactly what Esquire did earlier this year when they launched The Big Black Book subtitled “The Style Manual For Successful Men.” With its big, bold typographic covers and slick stylish layouts it turned heads as soon as the inaugural issue landed in the studio. With the second one recently out, we decided it was the perfect time to catch up with Esquire creative director David McKendrick to find out more about the project.

What were the initial design inspirations? Is it exciting starting from scratch on a new title, or high pressure?

Design inspiration comes from a lot of different places really; I guess a traditional book design was a starting point, but with a clear point of difference. Commissioning Atelier Carvalho Bernau to produce a custom headline typeface would visually give The Big Black Book a unique look; we are going to have a custom headline for every issue.

It’s very exciting and a complete indulgence on my part. I really wanted it to also to be a very functional, clean but elegant design with a wee bit of oddness; allowing the pictures and words to do their own job. We have some of the best writers, photographers and illustrators in the world and didn’t want to mess too much with this.

It’s really exciting to start from scratch – it’s also high pressure juggling all the different products and commissioning all the content; that is the biggest  challenge. Interestingly though, juggling all these different products has seen quite a dramatic change in my role at Esquire. It’s much less hands-on and I find myself overseeing more and commissioning more as opposed to designing pages.

  • 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185562

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

  • 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185582

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

How would you characterise the design approach of the BBB?

It’s a clear and concise approach with fine attention to detail. We spend a huge amount of time crafting what, in the end, looks very very simple. Its a wee bit odd in its design too. When we send it to the printer, they called us up to say the typeface "has went all weird" which I kind of like.

What are the main design differences between this and the mag?

The Big Black Book is a different beast. The monthly is more poppy, lively, with a cheeky sense of humour and certainly more experimental. We have a huge amount of fun with this. The Big Black Book is a more grown-up, sophisticated beast so the design reflects this I think. So for example, we have a bunch of typefaces that we play with in the monthly, and with the BBB we only have two typefaces and a headline. 

The Little Black Book insert is such a nice touch – how did that come about?

Honestly, as a starting point I wanted to have a section on different paper in there to give it a change in pace. And from there we chatted about having a kind of directory, an insiders’ guide, a well researched list of indispensable contacts. I think it works well to give the magazine a bit of pace and also it’s really useful, so everyone’s a winner.

For such a visually rich publication the covers are very stark, why is that?

I think if you see it on the newsstand you will understand why. I wanted it to be bold and stand out from the crowd of nice on the newsstand. Also it’s quite a bold move just to run type on your cover. No? I think so.

  • 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185541

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

  • 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185540

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

  • 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185542

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

  • 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185543

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

  • 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185545

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

  • 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185547

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

  • 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185548

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

  • 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185549

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

  • 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185551

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

  • 13484_esq_bigblackbook2_jan14-mp185539

    Esquire: The Big Black Book Autumn/Winter 2013

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. List

    Illustrator Eleonora Marton’s raw, bold aesthetic lends itself perfectly to large scale design, so we were happy to discover that rather than confining herself to witty, irony-soaked zines and sweet watercolour portraits, she’s unleashed her talents on a huge series of A3 posters and smaller flyers too. Using recurring imagery in varying forms – legs, animals, furniture and toys all feature – she creates posters for upcoming events which tick all the boxes event posters should. They’re eye-catching, interesting and incredibly informative, and what’s more, she makes it look incredibly easy. Just trying spotting that record player wheat-pasted up on a street corner and not taking a step closer to find out what it was advertising.

  2. List

    There’s something about the painstaking perfectionism of type design that doesn’t scream fun and frolics, but Commercial Type’s new webfont showcase is ready to prove me wrong. The New York and London based type studio run by Christian Schwartz and Paul Barnes is widely-regarded as one of the best around, but the pair have struggled sometimes to communicate the personality of their fonts. Enter the Commercial Type Showcase which they built with Wael Morcos to show off the lighter side of 16 of their creations by way of 16 microsites, ranging from poetry and poster generators to a train schedule board and even a digital therapist.

  3. List

    Lotta Nieminen is one of those graphic designers who is able to creating a lasting impression with her work in spite of it often being incredibly subtle in its approach. In my opinion this goes above and beyond her colour palettes, though they often combine pastel shades with serene muted tones; rather her projects seem to be finished with a kind of nuanced subtlety that resonates long after you first see it.

  4. Main2

    Not much makes us as happy as a brilliant studio churning out spectacular work, but to find out each member is a fantastic designer in their own right is even better. Diogo Potes just got in touch to show us some of his personal work away from his day-to-day collaborative venture, Portuguese design studio Alva Alva. Diogo’s solo work boasts all of the vibrancy, sense of humour and love of hand-drawn elements that Alva Alva has, but also contains a good dollop of personal style. For me, I think his work is strongest when he incorporates photography into his designs – something about choosing off-the-wall shots and enveloping them in rich colours and bold typography is very, very pleasing. Nice work Diogo, keep it up!

  5. List

    Like their counterparts over at Unit Editions, the Viction:ary team has an unerring eye for putting together graphic design books that are a cut above the competition. This stems from their ability to select a theme that is relevant and interesting and (crucially) identify the right creatives to showcase in exploring that subject.

  6. Wadelist

    When showing off a new typeface, most designers opt for the go-to panagram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” On one of the promotional posters for his new font Hardy, Wade Jeffree has plumped for “It’s too easy being a c**t.” In other words, this is a typeface with attitude.

  7. List

    20 years ago in 1994, little known designer Eike König set up his “graphic design playground” Hort, creating a community in the centre of Berlin where creatives could collaborate on ideas and client briefs side by side. Nowadays, the playground is slightly bigger, undertaking work for Nike, The New York Times and Walt Disney among others, but the underlying emphasis on collaboration and experimentation remains exactly the same.

  8. Main

    Political, powerful and poignant (although not always all at the same time), Abram Games’ work earned him a place as one of the 20th Century’s most iconic and influential graphic designers. Notoriously, one of his posters was banned by Churchill in post-war Britain and, although he crafted advertising for the Times, Transport for London and Guinness, his most impactful work was created for noble causes. During the Second World War he designed hundreds of recruitment posters and images discouraging waste, with slogans like “Use Spades, Not Ships” and bold dynamic graphics.

  9. Andrealist

    Sometimes the simplest things can be the hardest to pull off, but that is precisely what Andrea Evangelista’s graphic design achieves with quiet aplomb. I imagine most young creatives would quail at the notion of designing a book titled Trafficking Survivor Care Standards, but Andrea’s work is confident and careful, lending the text the clarity it demands. He lets the content sit in plenty of white space inside its buttercup cover, resisting the temptation to chuck in a bunch of pretty images.

  10. List

    As newspapers change, so the meaning, placement and purpose of their mastheads change too. This archive of Indian newspaper nameplates is therefore a celebration of the beauty and communicative skill that goes into them, and a snapshot of the contemporary news media in the sub-continent – see how the odd editorial email address crops up alongside some pretty historic type treatments. The collection has been compiled by Pooja Saxena, a Bangalore-based type designer who previously worked in Apple’s font team and studied at Reading University’s world-leading Type Design and Graphic Communication school.

  11. List

    Here at It’s Nice That we’re very aware of how often we cover certain creatives on the site, and we constantly make time to search out talented practitioners we don’t know as well as feting the latest work of those we do.

  12. List

    Every year during graduate season we sift our way through an enormous number of grad show identities. It’s arguably one of the trickiest briefs for a young student; creating a comprehensive identity for a showcase of upwards of 100 creatives’ work – all of them with different styles and concerns. Some of what we see is excellent, but many seem to struggle under the pressure of pleasing their peers.

  13. List

    Creating a visual identity to capture an aural experience seems like a near impossible task, let alone when the music is as lustrous and strange as Amy Kohn’s, but Non-Format have succeeded gracefully with their work for her new album PlexiLusso. The USA and Oslo-based team manipulated original photography by Merri Cyr to recreate the ethereal quality of her music, conjuring up a glass-like aesthetic with a hint of abstract surrealism in the form of floating boulders and rippling waves. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is all conceptual nonsense though; they’ve also made an original typeface to mimic the sonorous melodies, using disconnected arcs which resemble the notation of quavers and clefs laid out on the stave, as in sheet music. It’s an oddly alluring combination which creates an impression of Amy’s music before you’ve even pressed play.