Just over a year ago Rob spewed forth with excitement upon reading the inaugural issue of German independent magazine Flaneur – a publication that creates content based on a single city street. It was, he decided, “both surprising and compelling, ranging from a photo-study of one night in a bar to a full musical score which captures the street’s sounds. Meanwhile the design, overseen by Michelle Phillips and Johannes Conrad of Y-U-K-I-K-O, is absolutely killer, building on and bouncing off the content to powerful effect.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. To put it bluntly; we were hooked.
As ever where printed publications are concerned, we worried we’d never see a second issue of Flaneur, that it might simply be another beautiful flash in the pan and nothing more. But with a third issue recently launched – the first issue based outside of Germany – and a fourth currently in production in Rome, it seems that Ricarda Messner and her team of wandering creatives are well into the swing of things, and determined to expand and explore the creative potential that each new street has to offer.
We caught up with Ricarda as she landed in Rome to discuss the Montreal-based third issue, what she’s learned about publishing so far, and where she’ll be wandering next…
This is the third issue; how have things evolved since issue 1?
I think by this time people understand what Flaneur is about. It’s nice to see that no matter where we go, readers follow us and are starting to collect issues, travelling with us to the streets through the magazine. In the beginning people didn’t really know what to expect…
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned to date?
That things work out.
This is the first time you’ve left Germany for the content. Why did you move to Canada for this issue?
It was a great challenge for us to leave Germany and Europe with our third issue, but we were lucky to have been contacted by the Goethe Institute director who read our first issue about Kantstraße and invited us to Montreal. We were able to work completely independently but they did a great job in terms of providing us with a network. It was really good to realise that no matter where we go, we can work with our concept to come up with new themes and new stories.
Tell us a bit about how you put an issue together. What’s the process?
It’s a mix of research, knowing people who can point us in the right direction, intuition and random encounters. We do research on local artists before we head out to the city we’ve chosen and start reaching out to people that we feel could work. There’s always a theme – a red thread we’ve come up with that will hold the issue together before we even start producing – and that guides the way.
Then once we are on location, what we encounter leads to the next; we literally meet people on the street and the issue slowly starts to come together. Our two editors-in-chief Fabian Saul and Grashina Gabelmann will live in the chosen city for two months. The art directors Michelle Phillips and Johannes Conrad will pop by for about two weeks so that they too can get a hands on impression of the city and the street, as this is an important aspect for their design process.
“Once you start diving into it you soon appreciate all the different layers, the almost never-ending variety a street can offer, and then the limitation you’ve set yourself becomes limitless.”
Why did you initially decide to focus on just one street?
At first sight obviously a street is a very concrete frame. It’s limited; it has a beginning and an end. Once you start diving into it you soon appreciate all the different layers, the almost never-ending variety a street can offer, and then the limitation you’ve set yourself becomes limitless.
The magazine contents are in a variety of different languages so who would you say your audience is?
The magazine is always in English with a separate booklet translated into the language of the city/area we’re focusing on. Using a local microcosm we try to come up with universal stories that everybody can read, and so we want to make sure that those who provided stories can also read them. It’s about respecting the language and culture of the place we called home for two months.
A lot of the content within the magazine bends truths or creates entirely new ones within the place you’re exploring. How important is fictionalising a place when creating each issue?
For our approach it’s extremely important as we don’t claim to tell a truth as journalists might. We know we are telling an absolutely subjective story and though facts are woven into this story the street plays more of a fantastical role – it becomes a surface for us and our collaborators’ projections.
What should we expect from Flaneur Issue 4 ?
We just arrived in Rome, so anything is still possible! What drew us to Rome is a certain sense of tragedy, its eternal beauty, and the fact that we don’t know anything about today’s Rome – it’s a city completely bound to its past. We will continue to play with the magazine format, experimenting with different art forms on paper, so some more developments in that direction should be expected. It’ll be out in January 2015.
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