Fact magazine returns with a futuristic identity and art direction by Zak Group
We hear from Zak Kyes on the details behind the relaunch of Fact – a bi-annual music magazine that’s returned after a decade-long hiatus.
- Ayla Angelos
- 4 January 2021
Originally founded in 2003, Fact has established itself over the past two decades as a leading voice in the electronic music community, first as a printed magazine and then as an online platform. Towards the end of last year, its editorial team worked with the London-based design agency Zak Group to relaunch Fact magazine, with the Fall/Winter 2020 issue marking a new era for the brand that sits at the intersection of audio and visual art.
“Fact’s decision to relaunch the magazine was fuelled by the audio-visual practices that are currently redefining the artistic landscape,” Zak tells It’s Nice That, noting how he and the magazine’s founding editor Sean Bidder came together around a mutual interest in connecting music, art, fashion and visual culture. When Sean approached Zak Group to work on the redesign, “We immediately said yes!” he says.
Zak Group was an apt choice when it came to picking a studio to work on the project. Zak, a Swiss-American designer, describes Zak Group as a creative studio that flits between disciplines including graphic design, architecture, web development and visual art. The studio is made up of Annika Thiems, Asel Tambay, Julie Kim, Teo Furtado and a network of collaborators who have worked on commissions for the likes of Paco Rabanne, Studio Nauta, Group Object, Design Museum and White Cube. And let’s not forget its work with artists from Anne Imhof to Albert Oehlen to Frank Ocean.
When tasked with relaunching Fact, the team’s first step was to look at what the magazine stands for. That is, a “new wave of cultural producers that crash the distinctions between sound, performance and visual art,” Zak explains. Since launching its online platform, Fact has been putting emphasis on its original films and documentaries, covering A/V experiences, artists’ creative processes and commentary on the advances within the realms of music, art and technology. “Fact came to us with both an opportunity: a magazine composed entirely of long-form features on sound and moving image. And a challenge: how do you present sound, moving image and performance in print?”
The outcome is a response to that question. Bridging the gap between futuristic and analogue, Fact is mash-up of all things music, tech, audio and visual art, and boasts 280 pages of features from the likes of Kelsey Lu, Ryoji Ikeda, Pan Daijing and Kahlil Joseph. The identity enhances the content with great finesse. The logo is drawn with extended letterforms and high-contrast counter-spaces elegantly “fused into a single graphic element” and placed boldly on the left-hand margin of the cover. “We were interested in earlier analogue and digital crossovers in the work of Aldo Novarese, who designed Eurostile and Nebiolo foundry in the early 60s,” says Zak, “or Wim Crouwel, who designed the zeitgeist with his work for Stedelijk Museum.”
Working collaboratively, Zak Group brought the Fact team in on the thought process and made sure to involve them in the design process early on. “With all our projects we think it’s important to open-source the process,” says Zak.
Of course, there were always going to be a few challenges, which isn’t uncommon when making a magazine. The key challenge, Zak says, was that magazines had for a while become too focused on books, “and the throw-away ephemerality that made them exciting and experimental in the first place was lost.” In this respect the team looked to bring out this tension, placing emphasis on both the lightness of the magazine form and the “permanency of a beautifully printed object”.
However, Fact still feels like a publication you’ll want to keep and refer back to. Zak had the idea of creating “printed exhibitions” within each issue. “In a number of features,” says Zak, “screen-based media is presented in densely layered pages that use the magazine’s built-in logic – a sequence of pages – to create a temporal dimension that unfolds over time.” In other parts, artists such as Kahlil Joseph are given the freedom to do as they wish to their “page-works”, a term coined by curator Hamza Walker and used to describe artworks “made for reproduction and distribution in books and magazines”.
It’s an exciting new turn for Fact, and having Zak Group there to spearhead the forward-focused identity has only heightened its rebirth. 2020 was undeniably a tough year for culture, specifically within the publishing and music industries, so much so that, as the first lockdown hit in March, Zak Group responded with the initiative Culture is Not Cancelled, “urging institutions, commissioners and organisations not to cancel culture,” says Zak. “If we cancel cultural projects in the short-term, we risk cancelling culture in the long-term. Culture is Not Cancelled became a call to action to advocate for cooperation and solidarity within the creative community, which we made available as an open-source campaign.”
Fact is one great example of how artists, editors, designers and creatives alike are counteracting the current climate – proving that even if the world isn’t looking so bright, there’s still plenty of hope for the publishing landscape.
GalleryZak Group: Fact magazine (Copyright © Prudence Cuming Associates, 2020)
Zak Group: Fact magazine (Copyright © Prudence Cuming Associates, 2020)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she became online editor in 2022 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.