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Editorial Design



Cover: Mitteschรถn (2011)

w Les Attitudes (2005)


A main focus of your work as a designer is on editorial design. But let’s start with how you use media as a consumer. What are you main media sources for information, inspiration and gossip? Berlin-based designer and editor Mario Lombardo is one of the world’s leading creatives in the field of editorial design. In his projects he juggles with photography, typography and strong visual identites in order to create awesome works of stunning beauty. He is the art director of Spex magazine (2001-2006) and Liebling, and works for many fashion and music labels. In 2006 he founded the Bureau Mario Lombardo in Cologne. At the age of 35 he was awarded “Visual Leader of the Year” for his complete works by the Lead Academy in Hamburg. In 2010 Gestalten published The Tender Spot: The Graphic Design of Mario Lombardo, the first monograph to feature the broad spectrum of Lombardo’s creative output.

I learn the most by talking to people. Nothing comes close to its impact on my level of being informed. Have you heard? Have you seen? Did you know? The daily chit-chat at the office is my social media. And there is always some well-informed intern letting us know about the current shenanigans in the tabloid press. I use the internet as my second most important source. Again, I am being guided in most cases by recommendations (Facebook). Also, each new project is a source of information. You can learn a lot from clients. Naturally, I buy a lot of magazines, but only read a fraction of them. And on Sundays I read the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung; if my daughter permits.

The Theatre of Real Life (2011)


Microhate, Background Records (2004)

When using these media sources, how do you perceive their design? How does the design matter to you as a reader?

Are you a collector? Do you collect magazines, newspapers, books, etc? How do you organise your library? Do you work with this archive later on?

Quite frankly, it does not matter at all. If I am really interested in the content, the design becomes secondary. If the design is good it will speak to me, certainly, but if the content is no match, the design will leave me cold. For instance, Spiegel Online, Germany's biggest online news site, I will scan the headlines and that's it. I do not pay attention to its design, nor to the ads. It's neither good nor bad. I just ignore them; they simply elude my field of vision.

I am an avid collector of magazines and books. Which poses the problem that I simply cannot throw stuff away. Probably due to a teenage trauma: I once, inexplicably in retrospect, got rid of my extensive collection of Face Magazine and Tempo. A deed that I truly dread to this day. My archive is a lifeline to the past and a constant tool of reference. I know it by heart, finding issues or photo series in them quickly from mere memory. It helps me a lot when developing ideas. This library is also a recurring test for interns. I often ask them to sort the magazines as they see fit. It allows me to check their "design knowledge" which I find dangerously lacking in the current generation. Do they see links

50 Background Records (2005)

between magazines, order magazines by designers, know of the ramifications of publishing houses and magazine pedigrees, the traces of art directors and their various career points? Many young designers know little of the history of their craft – not through any fault of their own. Many schools do not emphasize such knowledge anymore or give students enough time to discover historical developments or styles on their own. The time schedule to finish one's degree has been reduced greatly. However, this knowledge is the basis of design. Knowing your skills is important, but knowing what people have done before, what guided their decisions, why things today are designed the way they are is as important as knowing the minute details of Indesign and Photoshop. Knowing design from many areas and times educates the mind, opens the vast possibilities of design. My archive is a key to this awareness.

Irezumi - Spider Tattoo (2008)

You have worked for a large number and large variety of clients. What is your most successful project so far? There is no such thing as the most successful project. My job is to translate the essence of a client into a design. If that worked out, it is a success. There are only two projects which I deem failures and do not reveal as work of mine. Everything else I am very comfortable with.

What was the most painful project so far? Each and every single one. It's like in real life: There is the first moment of euphoria when a project starts, imminently followed by worries of failure and the gruelling quest for compromise. The execution of ideas is always painful.

Work Table (2009)

From which project did you learn the most? Not a project per se, rather a realization I made by observing my six-year old daughter Mila: Make things simple and direct. Avoid over-complexities or an abundance of hidden codes. For a lot of recent projects I opted again for the straight approach of centred typography, people photography that shows faces, colour-coding, really just the basic rules of designing to attract attention. It still works well.

Bielefelder Kunstverein (2010)

I understand that you maintain an ongoing relationship with some of your clients over a longer period of time. What do you gain and lose with a growing relationship? It's an even balance. The way I work I need personal contact, a degree of intimacy with a client. I need to get a feel for the person I work for. Only through this close relationship do I gain the information I need in order to give them a design that fits their purpose. I cook with them, meet in private at shows or bars, generally hang out with them. It is my private time I sacrifice. But I can only work like that. I can handle briefings well, but the right design will only materialize through intense communication. This closeness, however, makes the business end of things a bit complicated. For instance, I cannot personally give clients a quote. I am always embarrassed to ask for money, as this design process/ relationship building is such an organic entity of my life. That's something my assistants have to do. Mixing business and personal relationship can be taxing. But in the long run it is very rewarding.

What is the impact the medium has on your design approach? Would you say that you mostly design with a specific medium in mind, or is it more about the story and less about the medium these days? The medium is always the framework. You cannot design without knowing the opportunities and limitations of the medium. Space-wise, budget-wise, usability-wise. You can try to bend the rules or push the boundaries, but overall your design idea needs to be firmly grounded in the language of the medium. Otherwise your medium and the message will not match and you lose the hoped for impact. Would you describe yourself as a visual storyteller? I see myself as visual translator rather than a storyteller. I want to create wow-effects for clients, by finding the right form to their idea or personality. This means designing from the end rather than from the start. What is to be told and in which surroundings? It's an idea I borrowed from Mies van der Rohe. When I was in New York years back I was awestruck by his Seagram building. The way it fits into its surroundings, the way proportions were chosen to fit the other buildings, the way it is receding a bit from the street, opening space for a fountain, etc. The building was well designed beyond the mere shape of the building itself. Knowing where a book, magazine, catalogue is being presented later on is very important for design choices. The product needs to function in its surroundings. Not just on its own.

Openers (2011)


Could you use one or two recent project(s) to describe how you decide on a certain typeface as the right one for a project? For each project I always design typefaces on my own, either from scratch or by altering existing typefaces. The only typeface I do not change is Times. It's just the perfect bread and butter type for most running texts. All the other ones I adapt. The balance between font and image is important to me and always differs depending on the project. Making the typeface fit that unique balance is paramount to my designs.

Wrapped up in Pleasures (2008)

How would you describe your mode of collaboration with the authors and content creators involved? Intense. I learned more from authors than from designers. When working with authors we always talk a lot. During my time at German music and culture magazine Spex I had the editors write treatments of their articles for me so I really understood what they were driving at. Both, author and graphic designer need to jointly develop an idea of the piece for it to be a success. I see myself often more as an additional editor than the art director. I need to understand the content in order to design it accordingly. And I value greatly the ideas of non-designers for design choices. In editorial design the basic problems remain the same. To come to new solutions the different perspective of editors and non-designers on things often yields the better answer.

You present yourself online with a statement about your work ethic and attitude. How important is that to you and how do not only clients, but also partners, team members, etc react to this manifesto? Whether anyone agrees or contests my manifesto is of their own choosing. But it is important to me that everyone who works with me understands the way I work and accepts this as the basis of our mutual cooperation. Otherwise it will not work out. So far, people who approached me knew how I functioned. My manifesto is not a natural law. It simply lays out my philosophy on design and cooperation. And people can decide whether that is something they can bear or not.

Liebling (2008)

Spucke (2010)

w Scott Matthew Poster (2010)

Page Magazine Cover (2005)

Beautiful Ending (2010)

In that context: What is your idea behind the term "charismatische Pr채senz" (charismatic presence)? The term describes the core of the design, and thus of the client itself. Every client or project carries such a presence, something that makes it unique and speaks to its audience. But it has to be found and defined properly first through discussion and elaboration. Only then can I find a design for it. I cannot create a charismatic presence for someone. I can only isolate it, distil the essence. Much like raw diamonds are bevelled into precious prisms. Many clients are not even aware of a charismatic presence innate to them. Helping them find that special quality is my main task before I start any real-life design.

Who are the most interesting people for you to work with?

What were the projects you decided not to do? What made that decision?

As I am the relationship type I need to like people in order to work with or for them. And I like people that espouse a certain amount of creativity, not necessarily in graphic design, but a general curiosity about life. It helps if we share a common, charismatic event of remembrance or if we have already developed a relationship. Once somebody made "the cut" he/she is part of my life and, often, working cosmos for quite some time to come. Also, I do not like to be the centre of attention nor do I seek attention. And somehow I always surround myself with this similar type of laid-back, introspect people.

Ever since I studied graphic design, my dream was to design the SZ-Magazine. To my amazement I was offered the position of art director of this supplement of the S체ddeutsche Zeitung not only once but three times. And each time I was heartbroken that I had to refuse for personal reasons. It was mainly because I never wanted to become a "Sunday dad" to my daughter, which ruled out a necessary relocation to Munich.

Who is your competition? Does that idea of competition matter to you? As trite as it may sound, I am my own competition. I always want to do things better in the next project. That's what pushes me forward and not the comparison to other designers. Design is hard to compare as each designer found his/her unique solution to a problem. It either grabs you emotionally or it doesn't. People's perceptions vary too much to make viable comparisons. You have won an impressive number of awards. What is their relevance for yourself and for your clients? Beyond awards what kind of response matters the most for you? Awards are nice, but they don't mean much. I stumbled into my first award because the ad department at Spex thought it wise to shine with a few awards in the portfolio. I never thought about them before. Now, I hardly enter any awards. They take too much of my time and are in addition often too expensive. I don't know of any client who came to me because of an award I received. To the contrary, too many awards scare off a lot of clients. They think that anyone sporting that many awards must be too expensive. Being invited to speak or teach on the other hand, that's the real compliment. People having paid attention to your work enough to be interested in your way of thinking/working, that is great. And receiving job applications at the office is nice, too. Those two things are the real gauges of relevance for me.

SPEX (2004) Vier Magazin (2009)

w MitteschĂśn (2011)

How is your work perceived in the public? Do you think there is enough understanding or enough of a public discourse on design issues? General public design competence does not weigh in at all. My job is to attract people to a product or make the product an enjoyable experience for them. I do not enter an aesthetic debate. Sometimes there is a hidden code in our design, known only to us or to the client, but the main task is to create attraction not a puzzle. And judging by the amount of invitations to lectures and conferences it seems to work.

Trimarchi (2011)

How much time do you spend thinking and working on "Bureau Mario Lombardo“ as a brand? Not all that much. We do not actively market the Bureau. Just trying to keep up with news on our website is enough of a task for us. However, when the book The Tender Spot came out the degree to which my name had become a brand really hit me. Suddenly I was this third person, "the Lombardo", not Mario anymore. I had a depressing winter that year. The mechanics and obligations of self-marketing do not come easy to me. I do not feel comfortable in the spotlight at all.

Let’s talk about your studio. What is the scale? How many people are working with you and are you involved with all projects on all levels? We reside in a 180-square metre former car repair shop. We are a team of eight to nine people. That's two project managers, one editor and the rest are designers. For bigger projects we temporarily expand the staff. It's a very hands-on team effort. I decide the main design idea and the others refine and implement it. But I am involved at all times. Firstly because I crave these design niches for me. I don't want to just be the guy who talks to clients. Secondly, I need to know even the minutest detail for those client meetings. I am the face they want to see and they expect me to know everything, understandably so. This type of involvement can be taxing (for me and for my staff) but imbues our Bureau with an additional sense of collaborative creativity. When, where and from whom did you learn the most? It's not so much people who have taught me skills but people whose outlook on life or approach to problem solving have left a lasting impression on me. I count Professor Sabine Fabo at my design school in Aachen among them, Markus Peichl, Mies van der Rohe, JÜrg Engel, he was my first design boss – ages back, Uwe Viehmann, Neville Brody, Peter Saville, and naturally my family, especially my mum. Andy Vaz - Life in Detroit (2003)

Liebling (2008)

You also teach, lecture, give workshops. What do participants learn from you? Hopefully self-confidence. My biggest motivator is my fear to do things wrong. It pushes me to question my design constantly. Also, I hope to instil a sense of design in participants that looks at designing beyond the craft. Lastly, I always tell people that it is important to know what one can do well, but also to know where one's skills are lacking and then let a better specialist do the job. It will always help the final product. What is the dream project you are still waiting for? Initially, I wanted to study architecture. And the desire to create space still stirs in me. Designing buildings is still a big dream of mine. Not just a house for me, maybe also for others. I would like to create the perfect space for its inhabitants. Spaces influence me and my creativity immensely. Sometimes, when we visit clients we sit in meeting rooms that stifle any creativity. I often try to meet outside sterile office environments. You will get better results that way. Thank you very much.




01 CHRISTOPH NIEMANN Illustration 2009 02 MICHEL MALLARD Creative Direction 2009 03 FUN FACTORY Product Design 2009 04 ANDREAS UEBELE Signage Design 2010 05 HARRI PECCINOTTI Photography 2010 06 KUSTAA SAKSI Illustration 2010 07 5.5 DESIGNERS Product Design 2011 08 NIKLAUS TROXLER Graphic Design 2011 09 JOACHIM SAUTER Media Design 2011 10 MICHAEL JOHNSON Graphic Design 2011 11 ELVIS POMPILIO Fashion Design 2011 12 STEFAN DIEZ Industrial Design 2012 13 CHRISTIAN SCHNEIDER Sound Design 2012

PUBLISHER Design Friends COORDINATION Mike Koedinger LAYOUT Pietro Namèche INTERVIEW Sven Ehmann COPY EDITING Duncan Roberts / Nadine Clemens PRINT Faber Imprimerie PAPER Scheufelen (Heaven 42 softmatt) PRINT RUN 500 (Limited edition)

with Carrérotondes asbl MAPPING AUGUST. An Infographic Challenge 2010

DESIGN FRIENDS Association sans but lucratif (Luxembourg)

ISBN 978-99959-717-4-8 PRICE 5 €

BOARDMEMBERS Silvano Vidale (President) Arnaud Mouriamé (Vice-president) Nadine Clemens (Secretary) Heike Fries (Treasurer) Mike Koedinger (Boardmember) Guido Kröger (Boardmember) Pit Kuffer (Boardmember) Stéphanie Rollin (Boardmember) Anabel Witry (Boardmember)



06.06 MARIO LOMBARDO_FLYER 148x148.indd 1

15/03/12 14:40

This catalogue is published for Mario Lombardo's lecture at Mudam Luxembourg on June 6, 2012 organized by Design Friends.

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Mario Lombardo  

Berlin-based designer and editor Mario Lombardo is one of the world’s leading creatives in the field of editorial design. In his projects he...

Mario Lombardo  

Berlin-based designer and editor Mario Lombardo is one of the world’s leading creatives in the field of editorial design. In his projects he...