You are the creative director of Fukt, ‘a magazine for contemporary drawing’ since 2006. What changes have you overseen during your time in this role?
In the past 13 years (oh my god!) that I have been the creative director for Fukt, we worked for a long time without any themes other than ‘contemporary drawing’. We just gathered what we considered an interesting mix of international positions in the field of the medium. Our choices for selecting works were driven by our personal taste, visual rhythm, gender and age equality of more and lesser established artists.
For a long time the magazine was purely visual, with almost no text interrupting the visual flow. We didn’t want to create a magazine that looked like your typical art catalogue. Also both Björn (Hegardt) and I have visual backgrounds as an artist and graphic designer. We didn’t feel like writers. But then Instagram came along and all of a sudden people looked at easy consumable images all day long. This made a picture-only magazine somewhat redundant. At that point we began to dare to ask artists some questions, we started to have conversations with them about their work, the whys, the hows and whatever else came up in these interviews. That was a big step for us. In a way it was leaving our visual comfort zones of selecting drawings we liked or designing some funny covers. And three issues ago we began to publish themed issues.
For many years this seemed ridiculous to us because contemporary drawing is already a niche field – why should we narrow it down further? And on top of that we only publish one issue a year, what if we’d get bored having to concentrate on one topic for a year? But, it turned out to be the opposite, focusing on themes drew us deeper into drawing and finding works and artists we probably wouldn’t have encountered otherwise. It created a different editorial process which is more satisfying in a way.
We needed all these years to collect knowledge about drawing, to observe and ‘see’ the themes, which often emerge from patterns we recognised – recurring matters artists work with, like sex or words, or systems. Some other changes involved distribution, we do more of that work ourselves now to be more sustainable, which sounds counterintuitive, but reality has proven it’s the right way to go.
Why should people who may perceive themselves to be not interested in ‘drawing’ decide to read Fukt?
I am not sure that people who aren’t interested in drawing should be reading or looking at Fukt because that’s what it is about. But having said that, I get the feeling most people are interested or intrigued by drawings! It is something they probably did themselves as kids – often before they can write or read – the sensation of leaving traces on paper is a pure one.
In that sense, a magazine for drawing might be speaking to everybody’s inner child. Drawing is our first language we express ourselves in, even if we forget at times. While people may not enjoy doing drawings themselves, many do feel a subconscious relationship to it.
You have described the cover as “the playground for design” and your cover for the recent edition of Fukt won ‘Cover of the Year’ in the Stack Magazine awards. Can you tell us a bit more about the cover and its evolution?
A design idea usually doesn’t fall just out of the blue sky, it often relates to my interests, my taste, my conscious and subconscious goals in design. The joy and fun perceived by the viewer is certainly a big one of them. It may relate to things I wanted to do before or half-baked ideas that didn’t fit for a client or concept. The system cover idea is in that sense nothing new as it continues my taste for cheerful design. If there is a little challenge in achieving it (production wise) the better, I guess there is also a certain thrill in being able to say at the end ’it worked’. For the system issue it was crucial to create something that is in order at one moment and can be disturbed at another. The letters of ‘system’ are laid out over the cover and two rotating disks that the viewer can turn and break the word ‘system’ apart into an unreadable arrangement of black shapes, which makes us at least question our letterforms and on a grander scale see how easy it can be to disrupt (anything). It makes the viewer experience the idea of ‘system’ and being responsible for it as soon as they touch the cover and turns the disks. It’s so easy to disturb!
What type of ‘systems’ do you deploy in your own approach to work?
I am actually not a very systematic person which means I don’t follow a specific set of rules in my work. I am always fascinated by designers or artists who organise themselves in strict steps or schedules. I can totally see how that works for them, but I think sometimes it is also out of fear that things will dissolve into chaos. I often think the hyper-systematic people are very chaotic deep inside.
Instead of using or setting up systems, it’s more a question of getting into the right emotional state or mindset. but it’s something I fall out of once an idea is born or the project is completed.
What is the secret to ensuring a balance of harmony and challenge in working with your life partner, Björn Hegardt who is the founder and editor of Fukt?
We just work on this one project together. The rest is our individual practices as designer and artist. Björn definitely has the wider knowledge of what’s going on in the field of the medium. I have this slightly more design look at things.
Can you shed some insights into your ‘day job’ outside of Fukt? What was the most rewarding project you worked on of late? How important is it to have sideline, passion, projects such as Fukt?
I try to be as passionate with all my client projects as I am with Fukt. One rewarding piece of work was the recent redesign of the school my kids go to, albeit unpaid, it had an immediate impact, seeing the kids running around in their new shirts was definitely heart-warming. The redesign and continual seasonal campaigns we do for a classical orchestra in Germany has made the members of the orchestra more proud of themselves besides of the great music they are playing. I am currently working on the graphic look of the Yokohama Triennale 2020 of contemporary art which is themed ‘Afterglow’ – that moment the light stays once the sun went down. It’s a collaboration between different cultures, curators from India, organizers from Japan and myself.
With a project like Fukt there are no boundaries. The only limits are ourselves, our money and our time. Everything in between we can design and do as we wish. that’s the most important aspects of a ‘passion’ or in-house project.
Anything you have recently come across which has proven particularly insightful and inspiring?
A recent half-read book which was inspiring and a bit mind-wobbling was the eco-philosophical book Hyperobjects by Timothy Morton. the attempt to give a name to complex ‘vast objects’ and processes we cannot see or touch as for example global warming or language.
What trends and predictions do you have for the publishing industry and world of graphic design in 2020?
More niche books and publications. Smaller print runs. In general graphic design… I don’t know what will happen, but I think there will be a further development in social, activist and critical design, as direct answer to our current situation in the world, the right-shift going on. I think some designers feel more than ever the responsibility and need for making responsible design decisions on all levels, that might be ecological, societal and on a human to human ground. Nasty politics gives way to more critical world views and hopefully the wish to do better in the field where each of us works. There is so much (political) confusion which at the same time has the potential to trigger good stuff going on.
Fukt will be finalising its open-call for submissions to their next edition whose theme is ‘Story’ early this year. Potential submitters should watch out for further information on their instagram @fukt_magazine
Issue 18, the ‘Systems’ issue is out now, €18
Words: Michael McDermott