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Words: Camilla Sterne

The power of


hen did you last earmark a page or plunge nose-deep into a magazine to inhale the heady scent of freshly-printed ink? In the age of Snapchat and clickbait, these moments are few and far between. But independent publishers have created a trend for a new kind of optimised content: print products where the medium is just as important as the message. The magazines in question come in odd formats or feature unusual materials, like blood and algae. MagCulture founder, Jeremy Leslie, thinks these outlandish designs are a reaction to the commodification and lower print standards of mainstream magazines that must compromise to turn a profit. He says: “It’s easy for smaller independent magazines to do something that’s much more focused on the physical item. On the one hand, some production techniques can be gimmicky; on the other, it adds a level of thought to the magazine. Some people look at these designs and think, ‘Yes, but is this a magazine?’ It starts a new conversation.”

Vangardist, Vienna

This Viennese “progressive men’s magazine” put the AIDS issue into readers’ hands by printing its May 2015 issue with the blood of three HIV positive donors. Partnering with advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, the magazine injected 90 millilitres of sterilised HIV positive blood into two kilos of ink to print 3,000 special editions of its “HIV Heroes” issue. Each blood-infused and safe-to-touch copy was sealed in a plastic envelope, asking readers to open the package and break the seal on the stigma and misinformation that still surrounds the HIV virus. 48

Werk, Singapore

Issue 23 of Singaporean graphic designer Theseus Chan’s Werk is a collaboration with renowned German publisher Gerhard Steidl, who is known for his mastery of book printing techniques. Entitled “Deformed”, the magazine features the handmade collages and surreal compositions of young Japanese artist, Masaho Anotani, who inspired the project when he sent a carefully wrapped package of art to the editor. Chan explores layered typography and unconventional materials, like fluorescent inks, shipping materials and foils. The resulting book is an anarchic bricolage of printed odds and ends.

Sirene, Milan

Sirene is uncompromisingly devoted to the sea: this indie magazine for thalassophiles (lovers of the ocean) is printed on paper made from the algae 1 that infests the Venetian Lagoon and upsets its fragile marine environment. The overgrown algae are cleared away, harvested, dried and mixed with recycled paper particles to make the speckled pages that host Sirene’s graphically minimal flow of nautical content.

Credit:Werk, Sirene,Vangardist


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