The latest issue of C Magazine explores how graphic design is always political

“Initially, we were going to call this the ‘Graphic Design and Power’ issue”, explains the guest editors Chris Lee and Ali S Qadeer on the latest issue of C Magazine. “But we decided to go with just ‘Graphic Design’ because it is always about power. That is something that other magazines aren’t foregrounding — that graphic design is always charged with the political.”

The 141st issue of the long-established arts magazine turns its attention to the field of graphic design this spring. Historically undermined as “a prosthesis to art and a facet to commerce,” the new issue gives light to makers and thinkers that discern a way of practicing graphic design as a mode of inquiry. The editors add, “by this, we mean the acts of making and reproducing forms as a way to study and theorise.”

Carefully choosing a myriad of thoughtful contributors, the featured creatives look at the tools and materials of graphic design practices with a new perspective. “They situate the history of design within the larger framework of settler colonialism and extractive capitalism”. And with this in mind, the magazine hopes to “destabilise the umbrella or practices we call ‘graphic design’ beyond its typical linear history that narrates the development of design as a sequence of progressive steps and without much conflict or context.”

Chris and Ali cite media historian Lisa Gitelman’s coin of phrase “scriptural economy”, which offers a refreshing take on the canonical perceptions of graphic design. Fundamentally covering a neglected space in graphic design convention, C Magazine’s intentions seek an unseen identity of the art form, focusing on the “banal and deflated genres of the discipline, exemplified for instance, by sub-genres such as the document.”

Designed by Raf Rennie, the Toronto and Brooklyn-based designer talks us through the design for the issue. “Over the process of the redesign, we looked at a lot of comparable art mags and there were certain kinds of minimal, simple, boring type and grid systems throughout that I thought it would be fun to mess with. I also looked at old magazines such as Eros and Avalanche and the way they approached type more freely.” Going through old issues of C Magazine, dating back to the 90s and 2000s, Raf took design inspiration from some of these “phenomenal” visual cues. With all these influences in mind, the designer created a “sort of homage” to all the magazines he’s spent so long looking at. And they do look great.

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