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Regulars / Printed Pages

Cover Stories: Veronica Ditting on the covers that left a lasting impression on her work

To celebrate the release of Printed Pages SS18, we’ve asked a selection of influential people in creative publishing to choose the seminal book and magazine covers that they loved, and made an impact on them and their work. The publications could be from any time, place or niche of the publishing world. In this series, they’ll tell us why these particular covers left a lasting impression.

Our final instalment of Cover Stories is creative director Veronica Ditting. Born in Argentina, before being raised in Germany and going on to study at the esteemed Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, Veronica now splits her time between her role as art director of The Gentlewoman and running her eponymous design studio in Clerkenwell. The studio operates across editorial and commercial sectors, creative direction and design, and collaborates with fashion houses, artists and art institutions, and architectural firms. Projects vary in scale but are recognisable by Veronica’s pared back, timeless aesthetic, her exacting and detail-focused approach and her collaborative relationships with industry-leading creatives. It’s this approach that has earned her clients including Hermès, Tiffany & Co and COS, as well as art institutions Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and White Cube.

An award-winner (Design Museum’s Designs of the Year, the D&ADs, the Dutch Design Awards, the Aica Awards, Stack Awards and Magpile) and a multi-linguist (she speaks five languages), Veronica is also a guest lecturer at renowned design institutions such as École cantonale d’art de Lausanne, the Willem de Kooning Academy and the Bauhaus Universität.

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Nest, The New Decrepitude, Issue No. 21 (Summer 2003)

Veronica Ditting: Nest was a NY-based independent interior design magazine, founded by Joseph Holtzman, which ran from 1997 to 2004. Its maximalist design and radical explorations in subject matters are things I admire. Each issue had a different form, playing with the physical shape of a magazine. On this cover, photography, graphic design and object quality become one — you don’t know where each one starts and the other ends. Holtzman’s unique and personal editorial approach is something I value highly. I don’t know too much about the team structure around him, but as far as I’m aware the magazine was mainly self-funded and only featured what Holtzman was truly interested in, which gave it an incredible independent spirit. It was always packed with layers of fascinating discoveries and stories. Furthermore, the execution level of the magazine was impressive; from the photography through to the design, format and production, every detail was impeccably thought out. You hardly see this kind of individualism in magazine publishing nowadays, even though there are so many independent titles out there. Nest definitely influenced a lot of magazine makers who still look up to it today.

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Skyline: The New York and Architecture and Design Calendar, Issue No. 2 (May 1, 1978)

VD: Skyline was the monthly newspaper of the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies in New York. It was designed by Lella and Massimo Vignelli. I simply love the architectural quality of the design and how all the graphic elements become building blocks that allow for a clear and recognisable but flexible design system across issues. It’s the perfect tone for an architectural magazine. Without even reading the text, you can figure out what it’s about. Apparently this particular issue is in the permanent collection at MoMA along with Number 1. Among the most important figures in the history of design, the Vignellis are best known for designing graphic identities for American Airlines (1967), Bloomingdale’s (1972) and the New York subway (1970). Many of their designs are still in use today.

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Atlantis, Issue No. 9 (September 1938)

VD: The hunt for vintage books and magazines started back when I was a teenager. During one of my searches I stumbled across a few copies of Atlantis, a German travel magazine. It was published monthly and as well as travel it featured different aspects of culture, art, history and science. This particular issue is from 1938 and includes stories on Myanmar, Peru, Nürnberg, St. Malo and even a beautiful photographic story on cacti in north-west Argentina. The cover features a black-and-white portrait of Pandit, a school teacher from a small village in Myanmar. I adore the clarity of the cover design and the thoughtful use of the portrait on the cover. Other issues of Atlantis had portrait, still life or landscape images on the cover. All of them precisely edited, the art director or picture editor did an excellent job. The inside combines different paper stocks and includes portraits, landscape images – all about the discovery of places. The publishing house Atlantis Verlag (Hürlimann) moved to Switzerland during the second world war. It’s hard to imagine the challenges they must have gone through during that time in particular.

Clarity and the feel of highlighting an edited moment has always been part of my visual vocabulary and approach. It’s all about the clarity of the image and how to combine all elements on the page. I assume some of my work looks quite straightforward, but many rounds of exact cropping, sizing and alignment adjustments go into the making of any cover. There’s a lot of experimentation happening, even if the end result doesn’t necessarily reflect all of that process. Graphic clarity was certainly something I chose to work towards when designing The Gentlewoman logo and cover design.

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Andy Warhol, The Curwen Press (1970)

VD: Designed and edited by John Coplans, this book details the beginning of Warhol’s artistic experiences, motivations, and the trends that influenced his film work.

I came across it while I was designing the identity and publication of a Warhol exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam back in 2008. Image research was a big part of those two projects. Even though it’s a book, I’ve chosen to include it in this selection, as it’s a good example of making the right choices. The format and size (27.8 × 22.8 cm) add something to how the photography comes across — it feels as though the book format is influenced by the format of the photograph itself. The straightforwardness of the (non-)design connects the viewer with the portrait capturing Warhol’s gasp. It feels like it’s one of the most sincere portraits of Warhol I’ve seen and makes you feel like you’re in the very moment the image was taken. The fact that the title isn’t on the cover and only on the spine works perfectly, of course, because Warhol is so recognisable. The decision to only use an image on a cover is probably not something many publishers would go with these days.