Why did you decide to commission Jack Sachs for the cover illustration, and what was the brief that you gave him?
James Lunn: The Association of Illustrators supplied us with a shortlist of illustrators for this commission for us to choose from. We feel that Jack’s work is very current and has a playful mix of computer generated imagery and fun naivety; there’s humour in his work we felt suited the issue. We also wanted to see something that enhanced the new masthead. Our brief for Jack was pretty simple and open: we asked him to interpret the issue’s theme of storytelling and then went from there. He provided us with about four sketches and we picked the one that we felt worked best—incidentally, it was the one that made Joe and I laugh first.
Can you explain the rationale behind the layout, feature openers and colour choices throughout the magazine?
Joe Hales: With the type choices and grid already in place, the structure was set: the openers gave us a chance to control and adjust the pace whilst also being playful with the design. An important consideration was to give the reader breaks, palate-cleansers between courses to give pause and prepare for what’s next, but also to stop the reader in their tracks when flicking through the magazine, breaking the repetitive nature of an article lead format. There was a rationale for the openers that worked throughout the magazine, and we followed a few rules such as using the headline typeface larger and at an angle, taking it off the horizontal axis and suggesting the theme of the features with simple abstract, geometric hairline drawings. For example, the storytelling section uses the outline of a succession of books to suggest ongoing narrative, whilst the VR opener uses the outline of a notional room set behind the text to suggest the layering effect of being immersed in the other 3D world of a VR headset.
Colour was a challenge as it needed to be strong, without feeling out of place or overly dominant. We were restricted to CMYK, in some sense making the choice easier, but on the other hand the lack of a Pantone colour was limiting, and so our concern was to make the colour selection carefully, and not in any arbitrary way (which is all too easy when faced with large spreads full of colour). A few things simplified the decision making of choosing colours for feature openers: did it sit well with the subsequent image pages, was there a connection between the openers and features? Would text, black overprinted or knocked out in white, sit well and be clear and legible? We finally reduced our palette to around 10 colours, and using this selection all the colour choices were made as a committee, with input and conversation happening between the designers, editor and publisher.