Published out of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hanover, Brasilia magazine is a collaborative effort by the students, teachers and friends of the university’s design faculty. Sensitively exploring a world issue with each reincarnation of the publication, design and content combine to create a bold, intriguing and thoughtful magazine. With issue five, the faculty decided to focus on waste — from the global waste problem to light pollution and even the objects that people leave behind when they pass away. Whilst the team explores the concept of waste with rigour, the focus remains always on how to convey these messages within the main theme of the issue — design.
It’s Nice That: How did the concept and design come together in this issue of Brasilia?
Brasilia: With our concept in mind, we started off looking for inspiration and interpretations of waste. First of all we found a display typeface that was not only edgy and good-looking but was also [playing] with the boundaries between being special and being trash. Its extreme proportions and contrasts made it really demanding to work with. Funny thing though, the typeface designed by Barcelona-based type-foundry Bruta Types is named Trash. So it did not only fit conceptually but also in a very obvious way.
After that we shared the visual ideas we had for each article with the design team and began with the layouts. Within the process we had to narrow down all the possibilities to a set of visual approaches that were suitable to support the message of an article and come together with the overall look of the magazine at the same time. At some points it was a balancing act between being extremely conceptual and legibility.
INT: I think it worked really well! What was important to get across with the art direction of the magazine?
B: One of the demanding things about Brasilia is the process of designing each article separately in order to reflect its statement and getting them all back together in the end. We did so using harmonious font sizes for the headlines or a rather small set of colours.
But the most important thing to get across with the art direction was to show that there are two sides of the same coin when it comes to waste. You can say ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ when you talk about up-cycling or second hand. But when it comes to radioactive military waste in Iraq you have to deal with serious problems that change the lives of more than one generation. It’s difficult to create a comprehensive look between an article about trashy gala shows in German TV and a photographic essay about children collecting garbage in the Philippines. I think sensitivity is one of the most important qualities of an art director these days.
INT: What kind of publications inspired you before you set out to create the magazine?
B: It’s always hard to pick a favourite from the huge number of great magazines that are being published these days. But in the case of Brasilia there is DUMMY — a magazine that has played some kind of role model for Brasilia – not only because each issue is designed differently and by another art director, but also because their editorial work is just brilliant. It is always a pleasure to read through the variety of stories they find inside of a single theme.
INT: Where did the title come from and what impact does it have on you?
B: The name Brasilia originates from its birthplace – not the capital city of Brazil but the former area of the Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany. The so-called Expo Plaza is located 30 minutes outside of Hanover and is now the location of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts which publishes Brasilia magazine. Nowadays this area is almost forgotten and most of the buildings that have been built for the Expo are decayed or demolished. That reminded the founders of Brasilia magazine of the city Brasília which once was created from the scratch by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. It was supposed to be a flagship project but ended up being a city with large social inequality and non-functional buildings.
The Logo of Brasilia magazine with its stretched L symbolises the long distances students have to go everyday to reach their campus. And as the editorial team meets and works at the University, the title is always present in our minds.
INT: What range of students were involved in creating it? Can you tell us how it related to the course?
B: The magazine was founded by the public relations department together with a handful of graphic design students to create a platform for the students to communicate with each other and present their work. Since then, the editorial team changes from issue to issue. The students involved in the editorial team are mostly from the visual communication and the photojournalism class. For the next issue we will be working with a lot more young students from other disciplines like scenography, media design or experimental design. I think that will enrich the discussion about the next issue’s theme and its articles. Also we hope to get more creative and interdisciplinary contributions.
INT: There are so many tangible aspects to the design, even beyond it being a print publication and thus a tactile object…
B: During the design process we always had an eye on the feeling you get when you touch the magazine. Therefore we used five different papers for this issue – more than ever before. For example there are two articles that deal with water. To support their statements, we used a coated bulk paper that felt actually wet.
INT: Then there’s the article on light pollution — we honestly felt like we experienced this through the design, was this intentional?
B: Yes, exactly. For the layout we wanted to irritate the reader in the same way that light pollution affects humans and animals. Therefore we used a light background colour with white text on it to create a very low contrast. But that wasn’t enough, so we decided to take it to the extreme and to break the typography with white spotlights that outshone the text.