4c is a new English-language annual from Belgium dedicated to the proposition that what’s important in life is only skin-deep. This is appropriate I suppose—the glossy, a new foray into publishing from Techni-Coat International, a manufacturer of plastic coatings knows the value of the superficial. If there is no there there in 4c—the magazine bounces from travel to fashion to industrial design to self-promotion (The first feature—and there’s no FOB to speak of—profiles the company’s vice president), at least it’s all done quite stylishly. 4c fits into the class of new magazines doggedly determined to prove the value of print by doing things with varnishes, coatings, foldouts and die cuts that cannot be simulated on the (as it happens, really incredibly filthy) screen of my computer.
If 4c knows color, and all those expensive printing techniques that I, for one, am really jealous of (though for the life of me, I can’t think how they would benefit readers of the political magazine I call home) their type handling is another matter. body copy is in Gill Sans and headlines are in various weights of Helvetica Neue, creating a bit of a clash of cultures on the page. The humanist sans, basically Garamond without the tips and ticks, and the grand old Swiss Miss just do not play well together.
Beyond the joy in surface, gloss, and the tactile (and there’s pleasure to be found here, little of which translate to jpeg), there seems little glue holding the publication together, as it flips from topic to topic, except possibly really grandiose text. (Sample: Since forever it seems, beauty has been spoken of as being skin deep, a shallow conceit, a facade. The surface, while meaningful, is hardly of importance. If anything, it remains a superficial trait. Not so to the plastic surgeons among us, the building resurfacers; ditto to those in the business of plastic coatings….)
But, as with many new glossies, 4c is meant to be seen (and touched) and not heard. And it gratifies those senses a bit more pleasurably than Antenna and some of the other empty shells launched recently.