Magazines, Uncategorized

Powerful pictures = powerful layouts

Notebook: 30 October 2020 | MAGAZINES

I’ve realised that many of my favourite magazines are those with big, powerful pictures combined with a simple, sharp layout that lets the images do the talking. Think of The Sunday Times Magazine, Nova or Twen from the 1960s and 70s, the Independent Magazine from the 90s and 00s and GQ or Cyclist mags for instance, from the present day.

I’m a firm believer that if a magazine designer has strong pictures to work with then it makes their job so much easier and they are already well over halfway towards creating a striking layout. So it’s important that designers and art editors have a knack for sourcing good imagery – either by commissioning the right photographers and illustrators for the piece or, if budgets and circumstances don’t allow, by tracking down the best pictures from photo libraries and other sources. And once the designer has the pictures in their hands then their challenge is to select, edit and crop those pictures to best help tell the story and make a beautiful layout. Twen magazine’s legendary art director Willy Fleckhaus was a master of this. (If you’re not familiar with Fleckhaus and the ground-breaking Twen magazine, take a look at this very good article from Eye magazine No.3).

The brilliant and ground-breaking Twen magazine art directed by Willy Fleckhaus in the 1960s. (These pictures are grabbed from a very good book on Fleckhaus published by Hartmann in 2017. Details here). A google image search will quickly unearth loads more pictures of Twen.

In 1979, with Twen well behind him, Fleckhaus was employed by the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) daily newspaper, to design and help launch their weekly magazine supplement, Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin. The brief called for a magazine that reflected the intellectual and cultural weight of the newspaper. Like Twen, FAZ magazine was rich with stunning imagery, but it carried lengthier texts and used more classical font choices compared to the more youthful and boisterous Twen.

Following Willy Fleckhaus’ untimely death in 1983, he was succeeded by his protégé, the art director Hans Georg Pospischil, who closely followed the design template that Fleckhaus had established. I have recently acquired three late 1980s copies of Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin. They are all designed by Pospischil and some of the striking layouts and imagery from those issues are reproduced below.

Some spreads from Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin, art directed by Hans Georg Pospischil. These are simple layouts that let the pictures do the talking. Note the refined use of white space especially on the elegant contents page.

If you are interested in obtaining old copies of Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin from the 1980s and 90s when it was under Hans Georg Pospischil’s tenure as art director, you can contact Veronika Reichert at the Baseline Store – an online bookseller that specialise in old publications on graphics, architecture and other design. email: