When the first issue of Vanguards landed through It’s Nice That’s letterbox, we were drawn to it for its overall warmth. Founders Hugo and James created a magazine to spend an afternoon with, focusing on local characteristics by magnifying into the trades and creatives practices in Scotland.
Following on from a very successful Kickstarter campaign a few months ago, issue two of Vanguards is now available, sporting a new visual identity by London-based studio 12—B. Although the redesign retains and emphasises the community-like feel that made us fall for the first issue, it does so in a more refined and continuous graphic style and sees the magazine growing up from graduates to fully fledged professionals.
To find out more about Vanguard’s relaunch, below is a conversation between its founders alongside a proper introduction to its new designers 12—B., to get to the bottom of how they rethought the magazine to make it even better.
How were you introduced to 12—B and what made you want to work with the studio?
Hugo and James: We were introduced by a mutual friend, but once we looked at the studio’s website we realised we’d seen its work on the blogsphere somewhere, so that was a good sign!
In terms of 12—B’s work, we love its use of colour and type. I think it’s what the studio prides itself on and what we were drawn to. Once we met 12—B, we knew it would be a perfect fit. The studio was in a similar position to us: just out of uni, holding down another job but the guys were doing what they could out of work hours. We all went on a camping trip to the Highlands as a way of forced team-bonding. It went well and we secured the relationship over some piping hot steaks and ice cold Tennents.
They are a couple of ambitious guys we can hang with as well as make great work with.
What was your approach for redesigning Vanguards?
12—B: Our first meeting with Hugo, Jimi and Maverick was really positive and it was clear from the start that they wanted to become a bigger and bolder magazine. We had their backing to take it in a new direction away from issue one – we made an effort not to spend too long looking at the first issue so we wouldn’t become attached to the existing design features.
Having been given this opportunity to “relaunch” the magazine and put our stamp on it, there were no problems being brought in for the second issue. We gave ourselves a blank template and were just really excited to get cracking on with the design. We regularly met together as a team, which really helped bounce ideas off of each other and gauge our tastes, which we soon realised were aligned.
What do you think 12—B have added to the magazine?
Hugo and James: In the first instance, the studio has been amazing at making sure the magazine is printed correctly and to the highest degree. They have high standards, which we value greatly!
We also made sure the guys were part of the whole creative process of making issue two; not just the layout and design at the end. We think we pushed a more hand-made feel and they pushed how we saw type, layout and colour. They provide an alternative creative viewpoint to our own which results in something different and distinctive.
How do you feel it differs in tone from issue one?
Hugo and James: Issue two is more ambitious that the first. For example, we have a whole graphic novel about the history of leather jacket maker, Aero Leather. And following that, we have an essay on supply chain economics and the development of technologies to make manufacturing processes more transparent!
It’s not just more ambitious in the content but also in the design and feel. The magazine is twice as long in terms of pages and is a larger format. 12—B has given it a total redesign which means we have a much more distinct look. Pairing this with a bold editorial style, we feel that Vanguards is really finding its voice.
12—B: We wanted the design to stand out against other independent magazines in the market by using lots of colour, bold typography and creative imagery throughout. We wanted the magazine to catch the reader’s eye, while allowing them to discover finer details and subtle design features throughout.
There was an ongoing discussion as a team about the use of texture and physical marks. This is something that really comes through on the title and statement pages, where we explored the physicality of Risograph printing within an offset lithography job. The mix of paper stock throughout also added to this physicality and texture.
Do you have any favourite features of regular details within the issue?
Hugo and James: Apart from the ones mentioned, we are proud of the Sukotora piece, which investigates Japan’s love of Scottish style. It’s our attempt to frame Scotland from an outsider’s perspective. We were weary of becoming too insular and inward-looking, so we looked as far as we could to find another point of view on Scotland! Furthermore we love the message and artwork wrapped up in our statement pages; those layered double page spreads in-between the features. These are a lot of fun to develop and help us position Vanguards as a brand.
12—B: We created a custom colour palette, from two sets of historic Scottish Tartan. Also commissioning a custom typeface with Alex Gross of Placeholder Type and Our Place studio. The paper stock used for the cover was supplied by Arjowiggins, from their Stoneywood Mill in Aberdeen.
Designing the statement pages was really fun, we explored a lot of different references and were able to play on the relationship between Risograph and offset lithography. These are just some of the many details we were really happy with.
Once we had finished designing the magazine it was great to sit back and read through all of the articles cover to cover, there are discreet links between each of the features. Taking this time to read through the magazine also gives you a chance to absorb the look and feel of Vanguards issue two.
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.