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Impact 1.0 & 2.0: Type only!

This month we’re featuring highlights from our two-volume Impact books that bring together some of the best covers created for design magazines and journals from the 1920s to the present day (both are now £29 each in the Unit shop, or available as a bundle for £50).

For our fourth post, we’re putting the focus on type – and looking at some of the most interesting typographic approaches to covers that feature in the two books. [Our first post, on Swiss titles from the mid-1950s, is here; our second, on 1960s type and pattern experiments, is here; our third, on IDEA magazine, is here.]

Type-based covers have been a staple of design magazines since their inception. Some of the fine examples of designs for both Grafische Revue and Domus in Impact 1.0 show how this was the certainly case in the 1920s and 30s. Often merely the carrier of basic editorial information – from the masthead and edition number, to an array of coverlines – in the examples featured below text and type are used in highly inventive ways in order to create stand-out visual appeal.

So, in no particular order – and covering 1941 to 2012 – here are some of our favourite type-based covers that we included in Impact 1.0 and 2.0.

This cover for Eye 83 (2012) demonstrates how type can be as exciting a visual device in abstract close-up as when set at a more regular, legible size. Here, art director Simon Esterson made great use of an element from a 1966 poster designed for Knoll by Massimo Vignelli. The overlapping letterforms generate seven different colours!

A deliberately clinical design for the inaugural issue of … (Dot Dot Dot) magazine from 2001 exemplified the claims it made in the cover text. A “magazine in flux”, it would be “ready to adjust itself to content” – and implied a critical approach to its subject through as blank/objective a cover as possible.

Emigré’s issue 48 from 1998 sported a design by Rudy VanderLans (using one of Zuzana Licko’s fonts) and juxtaposed a bold sans serif, white out of black, with a cartoony, hand-drawn face above it. Weird, but rather brilliant and eye-catching, too.

Issue 31 of OASE – Journal for Architecture starts with body copy on the outside – a visual trope that these days feels rather familiar, particularly in book design. But this was 1991 and Karel Martens’ deft, overlaid pink titling flows downwards against the smaller text and, on closer inspection, seems to resemble the ink of a fluro highlighter pen.

This chaotic beauty is the cover of Germany’s Gebrauchsgraphik (9) from 1962. Hans Kuh art directed it and it has lost none of its scorched power over the years.

Mid-century Graphis covers rarely disappoint and this example from 1962 (issue 99) is no exception. It’s a Reid Miles classic and neatly incorporates his signature, the issue number and some brief coverline text into the overall design.


OK, so there is an illustration of Father Christmas sat within the bright red bowl of the ‘P’ in this Nov/Dec 1959 signage-style cover of Print but, other than that, it’s all text – and rather wonderful for that.

There aren’t many magazines, or indeed designers, who would go for this – but this 1941 cover (vol. 7, no. 3) for A-D magazine by Paul Rand takes the distinctive route of implying the masthead through removing the relevant letters of the alphabet. The ‘U’ is also missing – A, D and ‘you’ perhaps? Intriguingly, the corner of this copy of the magazine appears to have been ripped off in a similar fashion.

We end our type covers round-up with a question – ‘Was ist Typographie?’ and the final issue (12) of Wolfgang Weingart’s series of covers for TM in 1973. Has anything more austere been committed to the outside of a design magazine? Text within text, set on an industrial, metallic-grey background, Weingart’s approach here was the culmination of a run of bold experimentation across ten issues that year.

These covers are featured in Impact 1.0, which includes some of the best covers of design magazine and journals from 1922 to 1973 and is now available to buy for £29 and its sister volume, Impact 2.0, which features covers from 1974 to 2016. Both can be purchased together as a bundle for £50.