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Art Direction, On the racks

Die Zeit

12.18.07 | Comment?

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Die Zeit is one of the world’s most respected newspapers from both a journalistic and design standpoint (full disclosure: Mario Garcia who handled its redesign is interviewed in Designing Magazines) but I didn’t know that the weekly paper also publishes several magazines, including Zeit Wissen, which I came across at one of several DC newsstands that cater to the city’s international population. I can’t say for certain—not being able to read German—but to me it looks like quite a well put-together science and health magazine. (Though it could be a disastrously-designed women’s fashion magazine—the translation widget only gets you so far.) But I’ll proceed under the assumption that my assumptions are correct.

What Ziet Wissen does right starts on the cover with the arresting computer-generated illustration which I gather is something of a trope for the publication. Nevertheless, as tropes go, it’s a pretty good one. The digital everyman (or in this case everywoman—or maybe not everywoman) is both compelling and dynamic, and provides a carefully-controlled background for typography and color. The cover art uses infographic conventions which lets the reader know from the get-go what ZW does best—the integration of text and imagery in an interactive way.

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The signature sans-serif is a bit “Star Trek” for my taste, but I can’t fault how it’s used here. The layouts have just enough air to feel open despite ample amounts of text and the occasionally unfortunate inclusion of fractional ads where they don’t seem quite comfortable. Both the news page above, and an otherwise elegant two-page table of contents are marred by advertisements that might have been more gracefully placed elsewhere.

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I often find myself judging non-English publications by how much it hurts not to be able to read them. ZW scores high in the pain threshold. The spreads just suck you in, sometimes with provocative photographs like the one above, but most often with the way images and words are used together—in ways that invite exploration and discovery. Almost every image, even photographs, are in some sense infographics or at least part of a larger narrative that I wanted to follow. This can be seen clearly in the piece below—about attempts to make the Golden Gate a less desirable location to visit before you die (if widge serves), and in a feature on how to build a pinhole camera using only a roll of film, some tape, and a can-do attitude. Though here Make has probably already done them one better with a simple approach to a 6.3 mp pinhole digital.

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