Whenever I go to a Japanese bookstore, I always seem to find myself at the foreign magazine section. Since flipping through issues from so many countries is like taking a virtual trip around the world… Luckily this November, Japanese publisher BNN brought us from Magazines, a superb collection of the best design, fashion and culture journals the world has to offer. It was edited by acclaimed Toru Hachiga, founder of bilingual design magazine +81 and creative director of the Gas Book series by GAS. Today, PingMag talks to him, one of the top magazine editors in Japan, about… magazines!
Written by Chiemi
Translated by Kevin Mcgue
“from Magazines” is certainly not only about Japanese magazines!
Could you tell us how it all started with from Magazines?
From a design point of view, I have always been interested in foreign magazines and I collect them for reference. Whenever I travel overseas, I always come back with a suitcase packed with almost nothing but magazines and books. Recently there have been more and more online magazines, while still new paper magazines continue to pop up. I thought this situation is very interesting, so I decided to collect some of the best.
How many different magazines are featured in the book?
There are around 140, which were selected for their interesting design and editing, their independent style – and a few I just happen to like personally.
Did you discover any magazines you found really extraordinary?
The well known Fantastic Man, a men’s fashion magazine published twice a year in Holland, has very powerful content and design. The editor, Jop van Bennekom, has worked on Re-Magazine and Butt Magazine, and I always love his work.
Another one I particularly like is SuperSuper from England. It is valued both as a design and a culture magazine. It is produced by the same people who did Sleazenation, and they use new techniques to express today’s styles.
Fantastic style! The very chic “Fantastic Man” from Holland is published only twice a year. All good things to those who wait. (”Fantastic Man,” issue no. 6)
Culture served up with a big bite of style and energy – the monthly SuperSuper from England. (“SuperSuper,” October 2007)
Which ones do you get excited about?
Until recently, Douglas Lloyd was the creative director of “Arena Homme +”. Beginning with the latest issue, M/M (PARIS) has taken over both the creative direction and the art direction. Many creative people are working on each issue, so I am really looking forward to each new one.
Another personal favourite is WAD from France. The title stands for “We Are Different!” They really do have a unique style.
With a newly appointed art director, the English men’s fashion rag “Arena Homme +” has gotten much more arty recently. (“ARENA HOMME +,” Winter/Spring 07-08)
We Are Different! “WAD,” a fashion & culture magazine from France. (“WAD” #34)
Since you gathered 140 magazines, did you notice any common trends?
The role of creative directors at magazines has become much more important recently. There is no longer just one chief editor, but also the creative director and, in the case of a fashion magazine, also the fashion editor. Together, these three form the core of production, and it seems this arrangement is changing the way magazines are made.
I don’t often see “creative director” in the credits of Japanese magazines. How does his position differ from that of the art director in overseas journals?
I think the art director is responsible for the visual look of the entire magazine. The creative director also deals with the visual side of things, but is also concerned with how to make the magazine. Because there are so many web magazines popping up, it is important for paper magazines to improve their visual impact. So, both of these jobs are more important and necessary for most magazines.
Now, what do you think of the Japanese magazine scene?
I like magazines that show their creators’ personalities. Unfortunately, there are not so many magazines like that in Japan. Perhaps Japanese publishers are thinking too much about how to improve their sales or getting the message of the magazine across. In the Japanese market, it is very difficult to strike a balance between business imperatives and creativity.
I asked this same question of Jeremy Leslie of We Love Magazines before: What do you think is the future of magazines?
I asked that of many of the chief editors of the magazines appearing in the book. Many replied that they want to make magazines and so that is what they do. They are not that worried about the threat of the Internet. Also, anyone can make a magazine – but not everyone can get great photographers and writers to contribute to it. That is why high quality magazines will survive. Magazines that are primary information magazines probably are more convenient online, and some of them will disappear.
Finally, as someone who works on Japanese magazines, what do you find attractive in publications from outside Japan?
Just looking at the magazines, I can tell that the people who make them have a lot of fun with their work. Of course, it is different to see a layout done in the alphabet rather than Japanese, but there are so many interesting visual things relating to the design and photos. When I am looking through foreign magazines in a bookstore, I feel the coolness, the beauty, the excitement coming across through the magazine’s size, the texture of the paper, the smell of the inks, the fresh photography, and typography you have never seen before. I think of them as gorgeous visual newspapers and the knowledge, experience, technique, and creativity of many contributors are contained within!
Thanks to Toru Hachiga for sharing his favourite magazines with us! And if you happen to read the same old magazines every month, why don’t take a look at more! You might find something new that you really love!