Published by the Real Foundation, Real Review is a quarterly magazine that pursues “what it means to live today” through articles on monuments, simulation, abandoned cities and domestic life. Designed by OK-RM, and edited by architect and critic Jack Self, the magazine is experimental in form and direction, with nods to the tradition of the review format and newspaper design. As their first issue hits the shelves, we spoke to Jack and OK-RM about what it means to make a magazine about what it means to live today.
What compelled you to found the Real Review?
Real Review (Jack Self and OK-RM): Too many magazines are taking on the qualities of books. They become these beautiful objects, technically well-executed but often empty of content. People own them, but they don’t read them. The Real Review is an exercise in minimums and constraints. It is engineered to be the most efficient and resourceful design. Making a printed publication is expensive and complicated, so every square millimetre counts. In this sense, we treat the page like real estate.
It’s also a reflection on contemporary ephemerality. All magazines should be something that reflect their own time. They should be disposable, with only a precise moment of being useful, and then they are lost. This is why we say the Real Review is pursuing “what it means to live today” – it’s beautiful, but not precious.
How has it been funding the project via Kickstarter?
RR: It is a completely new type of magazine, both in its design and its content. So producing something like that is a big risk. We had to be imaginative in how we were going to fund it, and use the tools that are contemporary. Kickstarter is useful as a way to build a readership, but most of all to understand if there is an appetite for what we wanted to produce.
Real Review combines being about in-depth critique and for a mixed audience of initiated and uninitiated readers – how did you find the balance editorially?
RR: Making something popularly accessible doesn’t mean condescending to your audience, or striking a uniform tone. There should be articles in each issue aimed at all reading levels: those who have no knowledge of architecture, and those who have been practising for decades. This removes barriers for the casual reader to enter into the world of architecture, without making it a dull or generic read for actual architects.
The REAL foundation, which publishes the Real Review, believes in pluralist social democracy that is inclusive, tolerant and egalitarian. Today we can take these values for granted, but they are more important than ever. The Real Review, as a forum or platform, believes strongly in what the British so fondly call “robust debate.”
What was the plan for and conversation around the design?
RR: There is a great economy of means to the Real Review. It rejects the boredom of magazines overly concerned with lifestyle and glossy pictures. It is simply about what it means to live today, and it must express that in its design. Formally, the fold is taken from newspaper design, but applied vertically. What it creates is the idea of a four-column spread, which creates more possibilities than constraints. The grid is a pragmatic way to structure words and images, but we’re interested in the soul of content. That means it sometimes has to be liberated from rigidity to achieve specific relationships. In that sense, none of the design is dogmatic. It has an autonomy and personality that needs to be celebrated.
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