Please note: Text from the magazine reproduced here by kind permission of the editor
Making the cover
We had to pinch ourselves when the gurus of design disruption SPIN agreed to illustrate our cover this month. With a peerless reputation for typographic innovation, they were the perfect fit for our experimental type feature, but they didn’t want to provide just an illustration… they wanted the whole cover: logo, coverlines, the lot… How could we say no? And in this spirit of ‘friendly takeover’ we hand over to SPIN creative director and partner, Tony Brook, for his take on proceedings…
‘The first thing to say is that we were delighted to be asked to make a cover for Computer Arts. I mean, what could possibly go wrong, right? It was only when we started to respond that we began to dimly understand how opinionated we were, and the compromises we might need to make. Type is a very personal thing as it turns out, it is either ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in the eye of the beholder. In this case us!
I thought we were pretty reasonable until we were asked to accommodate certain aspects of the template cover type furniture. That’s where we lost it a bit. We offered to step down explaining that we couldn’t compromise to such a degree. Thanks to some gentle negotiations we were talked out of our tree, and managed to find a way forward that we could not only live with, but actively support.
Good design is at its heart, a matter of opinion. It’s what differentiates us designers – we are not dealing with facts. We have developed, over a period of time, an approach to visual language that is flexible but very particular to SPIN. I’m delighted to report that after our initial concerns everything was resolved amicably.’
We couldn’t be happier with the results and loyal subscribers will have noticed that they have in their hands an extra special SPIN treatment that pushes our cover format into even more unusual and exciting shapes.
I didn’t get some of my favourite albums on first listening. REM’s NEW Adventures in Hi-Fi, Aphex Twin’s I Care Because You Do… they were strange and took time to focus to get through. So I pressed stop, disturbed and slightly baffled. But of course it was me that was a bit behind, not being able to see what was new and unique about them.
It was a similar thing when I first saw this issue’s SPIN cover drafts – both subscriber and newsstand versions. There was a moment of panic. You see, even for the best design mag around, magazine publishers can approach cover design a wee bit formulaically. Top right text hit? Check. An active voice in your coverlines? Check Is there a big number somewhere that’s shouting ‘value for money’? Check check check…
I was looking at around five drafts of insanely inventive, humorous, playful and bold design, and I was seeing the visual equivalent of Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music.
The I got it. The main feature this issue is all about experimental type, and the cover represented that entirely. The reduced font size of the subscriber’s cover demands that the viewer pay attention, make an effort. The ‘skybar’ text fades into black offering a big fat question mark where we expect a statement. The main heading of the newsstand version, which clambers over the Computer Arts logo, pokes fun at issues of legibility. The Pantone red is as loud as it possibly can be, but somehow puts full focus on the words it’s framing…
The whole thing is just genius, and does exactly what great design should: it engages, entertains, inspires and elevates our expectations.