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We talk about frieze's first redesign since 2007 with art director Sonya Dyakova

Posted by Rob Alderson,

Any magazine that undergoes a redesign will attract some attention, and if that magazine is one of the leading contemporary arts publications in the UK then the scrutiny will be all the more intense. This week the new frieze dropped through our letterbox and we were able to see how its first redesign since 2007 had played out. With the New York Frieze art fair taking place next week, it’s the perfect time for the magazine to reposition itself in line with its new global reputation and art director Sonya Dyakova knew how important it was to evolve along with the rest of the organisation. We spoke to her to get the inside track on the how and why Frieze settled on its new look…

Hi Sonya, what was the main thing you wanted to achieve with this redesign?

I wanted to project the Frieze personality  — authoritative, confident, on the pulse — by creating something that was contemporary, instead of trendy. I wanted to create something intelligent — a design that can evolve with time and last. Setting up design principles and a typographic palette rather than a rigid system is what I’m striving for.

To put it crudely, I wanted for the magazine to be ‘hot’ in the grown-up way.

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Can you talk us through what you consider to be the key features of the new design are and the thinking behind them?

—A multi-faceted typographic voice to create a more free, flexible typographic palette that would allow for a more expressive and more adventurous opening pages and headlines – type that would respond to image and the feel of the subject matter. Whilst keeping basic ground rules very traditional, I abandoned the idea that there has to be only one or two typefaces in order to communicate in a sound and clear way. This helped me create a more dynamic pace in the magazine, to keep things fresh.

— More commissioned photography and illustration (i.e. we commissioned Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin to take a portrait of Frank Bowling)

-The magazine features great artist projects, but I felt they were getting rather lost. To give them their own identity and define their presence in the magazine, I have proposed to print it as a smaller size insert — ‘a small book within a magazine’. Printed on uncoated paper it’s a lovely thing to discover amongst the main features.

—  Tactile Quality
The Reviews section is now printed on uncoated stock which makes it much easier to find and separates it from the articles. It adds a tactile dimension — in the digital age I crave to feel textures and surfaces. The cover features a foil, Yves Klein blue, a colour you cannot achieve with four colour printing process.

“In the digital age I crave to feel textures and surfaces.”

Sonya Dyakova

How will you measure the response and how nervous/excited are you to see the reaction?

I suppose the only way to measure a response is through sales/subscriptions/interest in the magazine. I’m very excited, but also already not letting myself off the hook – thinking I need to push it further and not relax too much.
I’m not so nervous (well may be a little) only because my instinct has almost never failed me. And this time I feel happy with what I have done, so I trust this feeling.

It’s obviously a tough time for print at the moment, how important is great design in this climate?

Great design is important regardless of the times. Does this sound naive? I really mean it. 

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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.