Novum Magazine: It’s all about print

On the occasion of the Forward festival for design, creativity, and communication, we interviewed Novum Magazine’s deputy-editor-in-chief Christine Moosmann, and art director Tobias Holzmann to talk about design, Munich and the unusual covers of this printed magazine about design.

They will host the Creative Paper Conference on 25th and 26th of October about printing finishes, fine papers and all that is related to designing and producing outstanding print products.

What is for you good design?

Christine: Good design is design that solves the problem and has an added value. It needs to work and make things better.

Tobias: Additionally, the real value lies in transporting content. It’s not about just making things look pretty.

Design is everywhere, but if you have to choose one building of Munich, one wall, or one design that catches your attention, which will be that? 

C: There are different corners in Munich, which all have their own charm, but near to our office there is a building from the 70s, called Fuchsbau. I’ always fascinated by its brutalist architecture and its boldness. I also like the Olympic park.

T: I enjoy looking at cultural posters, like opera and theatre posters. It’s nice to see not just advertising everywhere, but also great graphic design.

Tell us about a designer or creative in Munich we should track down. 

C: Mirko Borsche is one of the famous graphic designers in Munich, his daring poster designs can be seen all over the city.

T: There are also some new and young designers and studios involved in the cultural scene, art, exhibitions, and music events like Moby Digg. It’s quite a lively scene, not what people would expect from Munich.

When people think about the best cities for design and designers, New York, London, San Francisco or Berlin, come to mind. What has Munich to offer in terms of design and creativity?

C: There are a lot of designers here, there are big agencies, but also small design studios. Munich is not NY, but the advantage is that you know a lot of people and it’s easy to connect. Another big advantage is that Munich is a fairly rich city with a lot of potential clients.

T: I think that’s a basic requirement. Designers need to be located where they find people and companies who are willing to pay for their services.

Novum started in 1924. Can you tell us more about the magazine at that time? How has it evolved?

C: When it started, it was one of the few design magazines at that time and was called Gebrauchsgraphik. The aim of H. K. Fenzel, the professor who founded the magazine, was to create a magazine for professionals and graphic designers. At that time it was a young profession, and he wanted to give advice and show what the industry could do for them. He wanted to bring paper manufacturers, printers, designers and so on together on a platform for professional work. After a short time, the magazine was translated into English as well and became a bilingual magazine, with the aim to expand to the American market. This initiative was really successful because there was nothing like that in America, and advertising was becoming very popular there. They stopped publication due to the and paper shortage, but when they started again in 1950, the magazine became even more international and was published in four languages: German, English, French, and Spanish. It was actually “THE” design magazine for these markets. After a while, obviously other magazines came out and novum/Gebrauchsgraphik lost some readers at the beginning, but we changed our course and focused more on haptics, special papers, print techniques and other strong points of a print magazine, which you can’t find on the internet. With that in mind, today we are doing quite well.

Every issue of Novum is about a different topic. What are the topics you think are more appealing to the people?

T: We always have some issues every year with the usual suspects, e.g. illustration, typography or corporate design. But we also try to cover more unusual subjects like fashion, graphics for film or the advantages and disadvantages of living in the city vs. living and working in the countryside.

C:  The mixture is important, sometimes popular topics like typography and corporate design sell really well, but sometimes not, and you need to have unusual topics that catch people’s attention. A few years ago we released an issue about religion. It was hard to do research for, but there was also a demand for information and inspiration about this topic. Religious institutions actually commission a fair number of designs, but the topic sounds so un-sexy that before us nobody dared to touch it.

*The gold and the packaging issues. 

What were your latest and craziest cover productions?

C: We had an unusual cover design for the December issue of last year. We got a brand new paper, which was a fine paper produced by the English manufacturer G. F. Smith in the most favourite colour in the world. They did research with thousands of people participating all around the world, and they produced a paper in the most liked colour, which was a sort of greenish turquoise called Marrs Green.

The topic of that issue was packaging, so the designers had the idea that the cover should be something you can unpack, like unboxing the cover. They created four different layers of a Russian matryoshka. People could open up the cover and found the first puppet, and then the second, etc. Every matryoshka showed something different, like hot foil, embossing, scented paper… Every layer was a surprise and it was a nightmare to produce but was really challenging – and in the end satisfying – to do it.

Another one was the gold issue (novum 03.18) because we used a brand new digital printing technique, that allows you not only print but also to do print finishings, like spot vanishing and hot foil in one go. It was so new, that we had to do a lot of experiments and we didn’t know what the outcome would be until we finally had the finished magazine on our desks. This issue was really an adventure!

You have set up all the topics for the magazine until January 2019. How do you work with such an anticipation? How is the creative process to decide each topic, etc.?

C: We meet during the summer months and decide what will be the topics for the next year. Basically, we stand on the balcony and talk about it. Sometimes, not very often, we have to change a subject, because we do research and find out it’s not going to work or we have to modify the topic slightly. We are used to seeing a lot of things, therefore we get a feeling for trends, or for what’s coming up, but sometimes we just chose topics that interest us personally.

T: For next year’s topics we plan to involve our readers in this process and ask them about what interests them the most. Watch out for our posts on social media.

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