08.06.09 | Comment?

“Mr. Magazine” Samir Husni had a tip in his article for Designing Magazines, that I think I’d always kinda followed but hadn’t really thought about, so reading it really resonated with me. He said that a designer “shouldn’t trap white space in the middle of a layout.” For years I’d been suggesting that students build pages around dominant…uh….somethings (could be a headline, could be a pull quote, could be an image…), his way of defining the same basic production trouble spot (more or less) was less cumbersome than mine. “Don’t trap white space” gets right to the point.

As a professor, aphorisms are useful to me, but, if you don’t have to teach, is there any advantage to cluttering your mind with rules? Personally, I sit on the sidelines in the design instinct v. knowledge debate—there have been too many talented unschooled practitioners to argue that a formal education is necessary for everyone every time. But I do think that for most people a GD degree is the shortest (and ultimately least expensive) road to competence. And, there are also other advantages to knowing rules—one is that you’re more likely to notice when, for good or ill, they’re broken. I was stunned by how impressively The Opak team shatters the “trapped white space rule” on nearly every page of this lovely magazine I found in its second issue on my recent time in Berlin.

The rule is most flagrantly violated on the above spread, but the entire aesthetic of the magazine seems to be based on throwing content to the edges of pages, leaving jagged gaps in variously places, particularly layout middles. Nevertheless, white space and content is balanced so perfectly that magazine never seems unfinished or empty.

Contributor’s page and content:

Typographically, (and possibly in the whole anti-design aesthetic of the magazine), Opak seem influenced by 032c, the German Magazine that created such a stir a while back for its (more rule violations) acid color mixes and past-the-breaking-point artificially condensed type. While Mike Meiré’s design for 032c might be more “innovative” I can’t help liking Opak better. It may be that the (mostly) monochromatic pages tame the wildness of the other glossy down a bit, but I think it’s more than that. 032c sticks a lot of fingers in your eyes at once. Opak is much more judicious in where and how it flaunts convention, and the resulting pages are much more elegant.

Love the golfing monkey:

Editor’s letter:

One more feature:

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