The literary and arts magazine American Chordata has an impressive track record for featuring some of the brightest names in the creative business. Packed with fiction and essay writing, as well as poetry, art and photography, the magazine, now in its ninth issue, has undergone a fresh redesign by the Brooklyn-based graphic design studio No Ideas.
When Adly Elewa, the man behind the original design came tapping at the door to “switch things up”, the studio was eager to try out some new explorations. Founded by Devin Washburn and Philip DiBello only last year in 2018, Devin tells It’s Nice That of the redesign: ”American Chordata has a track record of featuring brilliant writing and photography and it was a pleasure to work with such incredible artists.”
Its latest issue sees the Chinese-American photographer and director AnRong Xu grace the cover while Patrick Clement James takes the reigns with his non-fiction writing. Along with works of fiction by Rémy Ngamije and Alana Trumpy, poems by Basie Allen and Sara Elkamel and art and photography by the likes of Ryan Lowry, Ronan Mckenzie and Ben Atkins, the ninth issue of the publication is jam-packed with content.
On the redesign however, Philip goes on to tell us about his studio’s creative process. “We started off with a long research and exploration phase which slowly turned into a ‘just pin everything on the wall’ phase. After seeing what worked, we narrowed down our explorations into a few different visual systems.” Devin continues on the matter, “We weren’t sure how far the editors wanted us to stray from the original design, but each direction gradually pushed certain visual themes further and further.” Eventually, the designers plucked a few key concepts from each creative direction and moulded these ideas into a systematic redesign which later became the ninth issue.
The design retains American Chordata’s restrained sensibility from its original design. A big fan of the original masthead, designed by Mike Thompson, the designers decided to “make it as large as possible”, commanding the space of the cover while simultaneously complimenting the cover image as well. On the publication’s type, Philip says, “Adly Elewa wanted to avoid ‘show-off’ typography so we kept the layouts and typesetting simple. Resultantly employing the neutral typeface Unica for headings and Times Now for body copy, Devin and Philip created a print framework that allows the design to subtly recede into the background, highlighting content at its core.
Sensitive to the content, the redesign doesn’t overshadow the work it features. A “close sibling” to its previous issues, the redesign embraces the self-described “weirdness” of the editors, writing and photography by pairing artist’s work against somewhat juxtaposing texts and the reverse stress sans serif, Savage. On these elements of quirk, Philip explains, “We didn’t want to define the system so rigidly that it would feel the same from issue to issue. We hope that in the future, things can shift or change to relate to the artwork. Then, we delivered a few core layouts and visual ideas and gave the rest to the internal team at American Chordata to pull it all together. So the end result is an interesting collaboration with us, Adly, and the editors.”
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.