Introduction and Background to Better Mjstakes Volume III

The following text is the introduction of the third issue of Better Mjstakes which is basicly an exploration of six favourite magazines. Each analysis is supported by an interview with either the art director, designer, or editor of the publication. (The one’s you don’t know yet are going to be published the next days …)

I wrote this introduction some months before the actual finalisation of the magazine, and although I’m content with the result there is still quite some work to do if I want to print and distribute it seriously. I wanted to expose this anyway and let you be part of future developments. Here we go …


This is Better Mjstakes Volume III. Whether you are familiar with the first issue of the magazine or not — this one will be different. Not only has the design, the format, and the overall aesthetics changed but the whole approach to the content. 
This issue is devoted to magazines — a magazine about magazines — so to say, or how the makers of Liner Notes the book about books say about their project: a self-reflexion in the medium.

The idea for this new issue was born when we got the assignments for the fifth semester at ECAL (École cantonale 
d’art et design Lausanne) where I am currently studying visual communication. The briefing: to find a savoir-faire, a
 specialisation, something that we are passionate about, 
a competence that we wanted to develop further.

I chose the designing and art direction of interviews and magazines. Talking of the latter I wanted to take it to another level in combining and publishing the project direct
ly as a new issue of my own magazine, which is the one you are holding in your hands right now.

In this issue of Better Mjstakes I write about, show and share my discovery. The magazines I’m presenting are mainly from the culture sector of fashion, design, architecture, movies, music — and the people behind.

For a more technical part this issue provides an analysis with both objectiv and subjectiv view on the construction, conception and design of interviews and conversations 
in the editorial context.

The main reason in doing so is to reach a wider audience in order to share what I have discovered and learned on my journey.

If you are still on board and want to dig deeper sit back now and let me throw to you some very personal thoughts and background info on the whole project with a bunch of delicious “W” questions — here we go:

For who am I doing this?

First and foremost — as I have to admit — to nurse passion. I was always fascinated by magazines and I wanted to know more. Much more. I wanted to go deeper, into the “underground”, discovering the subjects of interest with a na
ive look on the making of my favourite titles.

In order to do so I made a lot of interviews. I love interviews. The first one who reponded to my demand was Kai von Rabenau publisher of mono.kultur, the wonderful 
little magazine from Berlin. I always liked the simplicity and radicalness of the concept. One issue — one interview. It’s honest and direct. So with this one as a opener to my project I found myself directly on the edge of the art:

“I think interviews are an amazing way to portray a person. It adheres again to our sense of modesty: of course, interviews are edited and thus in a way manipulated, but still they give you the sense of having direct contact with a person’s mind. If I want to find out about a specific person, then I’d much rather hear it from him/her directly than filtered through a jour-
nalist’s words. A good interview will give me exactly that: a glimpse into someone’s life, their experiences, their thoughts and ideas” (Kai von Rabenau)


But main reason for going “public” with a project like this and to realize my two projects for real distribution stems from a deep lust for sharing. The driving force is necessity. Somehow my heros barely or never got interviewed which was no less than a scandal for me!

So I collected the information with the aim to give in return and share my thoughts with every interested soul. This 
issue is a research fueled with personal, subjective, objective, polarizing, hopefully inspiring opinions and thoughts.

Why magazines?

This is a cliché answer but I think I always loved the sensation, the haptic, the smell of printed matter — be it a magazine, a catalogue, a book, a LP inlay — diving into a special universe. Of course, what also comes into my mind 
are my internships at Bureau Mirko Borsche or Mike Meiré or my work experience at 032c. But this would be too easy as 
an answer. My passion lies deeper.

I think I have the talent/ability/problem/tick (?) to get seduced very easily. When something — say a magazine — 
is well made, visually, conceptually, soul-touching, … or when I’m absorbing a well-written article 
and/or interview I’m feeling not less than über-motivated afterwards. I love to get motivated just by reading a text, 
or looking at a series of photos — motivated to the 
point that I shut the magazine with the absolute will to better start creating something amazing myself.

The whole diving into a universe story is also related to 
a fascination with branding. I remember that I always had 
a fascination with brands. But in a rather and posi
tive way. I loved sub-brands and merchandising. With branding in a magazine I mean the idea of unity not in a “bad” capitalist way but brands as universes: 
magazines = brands. OK?

An early example would be the Mickey Mouse magazine I read in the 90s wholeheartedly. It had its own identity, its own language, its own world. And it did not stop with the magazine: there were many so many sub-brands, merchandising etc. that created the whole experience.

Also, it’s all about personal, subjective experiences. The feeling 
of the light pages of Der Spiegel that I read on the couch every 
monday afternoon after the lunch, or — earlier — the smell of a fresh new square format LEGO catalogue highlighting 
the favourite sets with a big marker, carefully putting out the many posters of BRAVO Sport, or getting lost in my 
mother’s fashion and design magazines …

Magazines were always very present in every stage of 
my life so far. Countless subscriptions, huge amounts of spent money I did not really h.ave … When I started studying graphic design “professionally” my focus changed with the stages of my unconcious research. I became open-minded to a whole new range of magazines, mainly cultural titles, fashion, architecture, art. A long-time favourite was 032c the magazine for “contemporary culture” based in Berlin (see pages 54-71). I once even grabbed the chance to interview the founder, editor-in-chief and creative di
rector Jörg Koch and afterwards got a job to design the magazine’s 
first real website after ten years. (But that’s another 
story already told …)

Anyway: Besides all these external influences the biggest adventure was and is the creation of my own magazine whoms second issue you are holding in your hands right now … comm’on keep on reading my friend!

Why graphic design?

Graphic design is my vehicle, my tool to show the world what I got; what moves me, what intrigues me, what fascinates me. It helps me to translate and present my 
thoughts and my ideas to my environnement.

In recent times I got involved with the term Art Director. Meaning for me to be someone who is very open-minded, curious about everything that happens in the world. 
And who is able to communicate his/her visions in an appropriate way. Besides that for me it also simply means connecting and knowing a lot of interesting people from all over the globe with different backgrounds and professions.

The designer as author

The making of this project was quite a journey as I found myself being the jack-of-all-trades. In an early interview with 032c Jop van Bennekom, art director of Fantastic Man and The Gentlewoman (see pages 90-107) explains this “beautiful dilemma“ more clearly:

I try to incorporate that difficulty into the magazine. 
I used to be a designer, now a designer/editor/pub-
lisher/art director/manager. It’s always a circumstance 
of how to bring these things together. I feel a bit schizophrenic; I never know exactly where I am. It’s an arbitrary way of working, almost an artist’s position, 
to make things that are not solved yet.

That being said I hope you enjoy my journey into all 
these magazines and their “schizophrenic“ but so greatly inspiring creators of today’s most exciting magazines. 
On the following pages you will find the answers to 63 questions and a lot more …