Thursday, August 14, 2014

A New Harvard Design Magazine

It seems like it was just yesterday that Harvard Design Magazine (HDM) reinvented itself. Yet taking a look at their back issues makes me realize that the last reinvention took place five years ago. Now starting with its Spring/Summer 2014 issue, HDM has been "reconceived and relaunched with a new editorial and design approach," under the direction of Editor in Chief Jennifer Sigler. 

Sigler says in her editorial intro (spread below) to the issue, which was handed out at the vernissage for the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale (where I snagged a copy), that the magazine's new direction "invites 'reading' across disciplinary boundaries, and stakes out an expanded arena for architecture and design dialogue." These are boastful words that might ring hollow in today's saturated digital/print marketplace for architectural writing, except I must admit that I really like the new direction.

The issue's theme is "Do You Read Me?", a play on the phrase in radio communications "do you hear me?", and it's certainly a good question to ask. At its most basic, it asks the reader if he or she actually delves into the words or if they just look at the pictures. Furthermore, if they do read an essay, are readers getting the intended meaning? Or are they misreading the articles, yet still gaining something useful out of them, such as new ways of thinking about or looking at things?

In terms of what the issue makes me want to actually read, a combination of factors come into play: the length of the article (they range from one page to 14 pages); the size of the font (many of the pieces are in large fonts, much like many websites are rendered in the same for mobile devices, making them appear quite large on laptops and other computers); the page design (beyond the layout of images and text, the issue incorporates special, small-size, glossy inserts for four pieces, as seen in the bottom spread); and of course subject (more on that below).

Subject-wise, there's a lot of interesting things to be found in essays and interviews that expand upon what the editorial theme might actually mean: an interview with Peter Galison about "the architecture of air"; Jeffrey T. Schnapp's essay (spread above) on libraries as "warehouses of thoughts and things"; a long piece by Sanford Kwinter (I'm planning to read that on the train ride home this evening); Daniel Rauchwerger and Noam Dvir's piece on comparative analysis of "national libraries as knowledge icons"; K. Michael Hays and Peggy Kamuf's rereading of Jacques Derrida's "Point de folie – maintenant l'architecture," a 1986 essay on Bernard Tschumi's Parc de la Villette; and many more, as these are just a few among many. Yes, this is Harvard GSD, so the texts are scholarly, but nevertheless there is an effort to make things more accessible given the various contributors, lengths of article, design and so forth. Oh, and there's even a crossword puzzle on the last page.