Lupton “Grid”

As a words-on-the-page guy, I was at first daunted by the whole design thing.

How reassured I was to see The Believer featured on page 141! The Believer is a literary magazine (and a damn good one at that) featuring long-ish nonfiction essays. It’s sort of an off-shoot of the fiction mag, McSweeney’s, run by Dave Eggers. Eggers himself is a writer, and apparently (and I didn’t know this before) also a gosh-wow good designer. He designs the covers and tables of contents for The Believer. The design of this magazine is a throw-back to nineteenth-century almanacs. Easy-to-read, and suitable to the new wave of hip erudite readers. I like seeing this sort of thing: a designer who is not really a ‘designer,’ designing in a way that is actually better than a ‘designer’ might otherwise do it, because he himself IS the audience he’s designing for. Tying this into the discussion about grids–I like how the grids on The Believer cover contain different elements in them. They’re not all text, or all image; they’re a combination thereof. This creates variety in an otherwise very structured, uniform layout. Nice effect.

Another literary character implementing grids in an exciting way is F.T. Marinetti, who would make certain lines of text larger, so as to span multiple rows. I don’t think this works so much in poetry (frankly, this kind of thing often strikes me as more gimmicky than artsy), but I do think it can be an effective trick in the designer’s toolbox when it comes to designing things like magazine covers and advertisements. The sort of stuff that a reader is not expected to read in a linear fashion. For instance, the postcard by Piet Zwart on page 160 is beautiful. The letters of varying size suit their purpose, and draw the viewer in.