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The latest issue of Sofa magazine circles around the topic of masculinity. A subject that publications, campaigns and brands often try to tackle, Sofa brings an unbiased, diverse and visually arresting way of speaking to the topic. As one of its editors Caia Hagel tells It’s Nice That: “Sofa is deep content and it feels like a companion once you’re inside it.” If the magazine is a companion, we want it to be our closest friend, one you share enlightening conversations with and one who always knows a little more about most subjects than you do.
To create such an issue, Sofa’s team – which includes It’s Nice That’s Ones to Watch Studio Yukiko in the driving seat of its art direction – organised a “mag jam”. Usually, an issue of the publication begins with the transcript of a conversation which is “ultimately informing a lot of the themes that we are covering in the rest of the magazine,” Studio Yukiko tells us, explaining the basis and first iteration of the publication’s bespoke mag jam. However, for this issue, the title opened up its mag jam, renting a villa in a palace on the outskirts of Berlin and holding a retreat described as a “wonderful, intimate setting for a series of insightful talks on male body culture, #metoo and porn, a great opportunity to collect ideas on subjects such as mental health, the alpha male and sex.” These topics, which as Caia explains even includes “the digital frontiers of Cyberlove to give a voice to guys today” through to working with YouPorn to gather scientific evidence on “how deeply connected world events and porn consumption actually are”, has resulted in the editor describing the issue as a jungle, and “nobody will read it and not be moved, inspired or enlightened.”
But how do you design and art direct an issue self-described as a jungle, with several male voices from alternate walks of life discussing varying topics into a cohesive magazine? Well thankfully Sofa’s editors Caia and Ricarda Messner, have been working with Studio Yukiko for several issues, and the studio, made up of Michelle Phillips and Johannes Conrad, view working on the magazine as an opportunity to have some fun and “flex our aesthetic limbs”.
In turn, when dealing with such a wide-range of subjects and voices, Studio Yukiko want its design to mirror this. “We try and purposefully avoid current design trends,” the pair explain, and so, “the sheer multitude of inspirations and references we use (or abuse) reflects that,” also adding that “the idea is more important than the look.”
To begin, Michelle and Johannes looked at the overall crux of the issue and wanted to “see what the men’s magazine of the future would look like,” says the pair, starting out by looking into the design aimed at a masculine man through to internet porn ads. The first example of Yukiko doing this is its cover which references the most alpha male image the studio could think of – “holiday snaps of Vladimir Putin in the Kaukasus, Napoleon and the Marlboro man, and all those other archetypal images of men on horses – and took this research into directing a shoot with Maurice, an Australian heartthrob from the band Bilderbuch, shot by Boris Camaca. Inside the issue photography takes a back seat for illustration, featuring many creatives “we have dreamt about working with for some time,” says the studio. From Benedikt Rugar illustrating gay gym culture, Kristoffen San Pablo illustrating Virgil Abloh through to the publication’s regular contributor Ben Mendelewicz illustrating his column looking at the online behaviour of celebrities — the issue is a corker for commissioning. Photography pops up again in spreads too of course, with Tim Georgeson’s “iconic photo of strong young males” and even George Nebieridze documentation of the mag jam including an exclusive Gucci fashion editorial too. “We are absolutely stoked to bring all this wild talent together in one issue."
When commissioning this plethora of visual talent, one piece of advice Studio Yukiko also gave – and is most likely one of the reason for the issue’s brilliance – was encouraging its contributors “to really push the boat out with their ideas and visuals for these”. In turn the magazine, pushes the boat out, starting from its initial mag jam, to its commissioning and its editorial angles and design attributes too.
The mag jam is also here to stay, with Caia adding how it felt “a much more exciting way to create magazine content” and the editors have just completed another in Brazil “with 13 video game girls from across Latin America. “Fasten your seat belts everyone, Sofa IV will be the fantasy issue!”
You can pick up the latest issue of Sofa here!
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.