The Royal College of Art in London’s student-led magazine Arc is a cut above the rest. Following on from the resounding success of the Work-in-Progress exhibition identity earlier this year, the school brought designers Minna Sakaria and Carolina Dahl of Summer Studio on board again to design the 19th edition of the publication, of which the theme is Contagion.
It was a wise choice, as the duo is well-versed in the challenging practice of “merging ideology and function” in design, and in spite of the complex idea of “Contagion” – the call for submissions for the issue was headed up with the title of a Jenny Holzer artwork, Fear is the Most Elegant Weapon – they approached it confidently. “We chose to approach ‘Contagion’ from Vignelli’s perspective, where the designer is a doctor that cures visual disease,” Minna explains. “We set out on our design journey to define this stage of pre-design that Vignelli refers to as diseased, and try to maintain a sense of that rather than cure it."
“We concluded that pre-design is a stage characterised by diversity and unrefined human expression. We analysed and illustrated each contribution individually and threaded the 16 individuals together with a custom made, unrefined hand-drawn typeface.” In their note from the designers the duo continued with their refute of Vignelli’s idea: “Vignelli suggests that design should cure the ‘visual disease’ of everyday life – we disagree. Sanitising chaos silences diversity. We chose, instead, to avoid homogeneity and whitewashed design.”
The result is a dynamic and engaging publication composed of a combination of many different voices, which feels urgent and momentous without any sense of panic. “We wanted to make an issue of Arc that could recognise an impossible situation,” the editors explain, “but through words and images begins to see ways out.” Summer Studio have done a lovely job of bringing that aim to fruition.