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Festskrift. Designed by Mathias Skafte. Published by Passive/Aggressive

Work / Graphic Design

Mathias Skafte on designing the playful but academic Festskrift magazine

“Google tells me Festskrift translates into something like “Memorial Volume” or “Commemorative Publication” but both of these seem a little too grandiose. In Danish the word has more of a celebratory vibe,” says Danish designer Mathias Skafte on his latest project. Published by the non-profit music forum Passive/Aggressive, Festskrift is an annual journal that celebrates the current state of art, music and culture. This year’s issue is designed by Mathias and delves deep into contemporary music criticism.

It was only after he graduated from high school that Mathias discovered that graphic design even existed as a practice. This seems hard to believe considering the accomplished designer now works multiple creative jobs; he splits his time between graphic designing for the architectural firm Sleth and working as a freelancer. “When I finished school I was told that studying architecture for a year would better my chances of getting accepted into a graphic design course – so I gave it a go. I then forgot to reapply and ended up with a Master’s degree from the Aarhus School of Architecture,” Mathias tells It’s Nice That. Throughout the years of architectural history and construction theory, however, Mathias seized every graphic design-related opportunity that came his way: he designed the school’s yearbooks, composed books for his professors and co-founded and art directed the small critical journal Polemik.

This year’s Festskrift is the second of its kind and consists of work from various creatives who have reflected on the role of music criticism today. “This publication, like its predecessor, is a compilation of contributions by music and sound artists as well as journalists and academics,” he says. The journal is a mosaic of articles, experimental writing and graphic work and contains a plethora of written and visual essays, some of which differentiate various forms of music criticism while others predict its potential death. Mathias continues: “An important part of the publication is the actual release which features performances by some of the contributing artists. This adds an auditive dimension to the printed publication.”

Mathias initially approached Festskrift with a traditional layout in mind, a serious and straightforward textbook-style journal with a 9×9 grid. But as he received more contributions, the design began to morph accordingly. “I started interpreting them into layout strategies, adding new typefaces and breaking the grid when called for. The shapes and compositions that show up through the publication are basically my way of adding music to this publication — which is really about sound — without the help of an instrument,” the designer explains. Festskrift is a small but dense publication. The 15cm-tall book contains 80 pages of thought-provoking content yet Mathias has skilfully mastered the aesthetic balance between academia and the playful avant-garde.

“We wanted it to have a more zine-y character than what you would normally associate with a critical publication. It needed to be something that fits in your inner coat pocket and is easy to pull out and read during the intermission of a concert.”

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Festskrift. Designed by Mathias Skafte. Published by Passive/Aggressive

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Festskrift. Designed by Mathias Skafte. Published by Passive/Aggressive

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Festskrift. Designed by Mathias Skafte. Published by Passive/Aggressive

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Festskrift. Designed by Mathias Skafte. Published by Passive/Aggressive

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Festskrift. Designed by Mathias Skafte. Published by Passive/Aggressive

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Festskrift. Designed by Mathias Skafte. Published by Passive/Aggressive

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Festskrift. Designed by Mathias Skafte. Published by Passive/Aggressive

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Festskrift. Designed by Mathias Skafte. Published by Passive/Aggressive

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Festskrift. Designed by Mathias Skafte. Published by Passive/Aggressive

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Festskrift. Designed by Mathias Skafte. Published by Passive/Aggressive