A Return to Craftsmanship: Editorial Design for Walter Magazine

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French artist/designer Fabien Barral (aka “MR CUP”) has earned a dedicated online following for work that effortlessly melds classic letterpress style and attention to detail with cutting-edge surrealism and grunge. From coasters and wall stickers to his own annual letterpress calendars, Fabien has celebrated “print design as art object” for years. Last summer, off the back of a successful Ulule crowd-funding campaign, he brought that sensibility to a new publication: Walter Magazine.

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Art director and curator : Fabien Barral
Editor : François-Xavier Forgereau
Design : Jean-Louis Massardier, Laure Dalet, Laure Fournier, Thomas Girault

“We All Live To Enhance Reality”

“I love print, I love tangible things,” says Fabien. “I collect independent magazines, vinyl – I love a great object.”

And for a decade he’s blogged about different “great objects” that have caught his fancy. For much of that time he had dreamed of putting together a print magazine, “but I wanted it to be different, to go deeper into the creative process of each project.” He also knew that unlike his other work, this was something that he couldn’t do on his own.

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Approaching his former boss at a design agency that he used to art direct for, he gradually put together a small team to create the first issue. He brought some feature story ideas to the table, “and each member of the team came with editorial design ideas,” he explains. “Then all together we kept the best ones…. I also asked Andy Luce to design the Walter logotype as I wanted hand lettering and I love his work.”

Ah yes, the logo for Walter. Why “Walter”?

“We were looking for a name for the magazine and we wanted it to have its own personality,” he explains. “I wanted to call it ‘Mr Cup magazine’ at the beginning, but it is a team effort and it needed to be different. Then my partner sent me this quote by Walter Gropius (architect and founder of the Bauhaus school) and it makes sense of what the magazine is:

‘The ultimate goal of any creative project is construction! We must all return to craftsmanship because there is no such thing as professional art. There is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman. Let us wish, conceive and create the new constructs of the future, that will embrace all in one single form.’ One other thing I discovered afterward (and love) is that WALTER can stand for ‘We All Live To Enhance Reality’ ” – the publication’s tagline.

And as you would expect from someone who’s spent the last decade blogging about design in all its forms, Walter “tries to be a graphic design magazine but not for designers. Graphic design is everywhere: in a movie poster, a record sleeve… We see it as designers, but for most people it’s just emotion, not ‘a font,’ ‘a color…’ Also I love the creative process, how an idea becomes an object!”

All of which leads us nicely to the premiere issue.

 

Walter Vol. 1

The first thing that strikes you about Walter Vol. 1 is the fact that the cover alone is a work of art. Featuring a detail shot of typographic artist Kevin Cantrell’s Bible-inspired print “Terra,” the cover is an excellent example of how to use spot varnish to optimum effect.

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“I loved ‘Terra’ and thought it could be great in black on black with all its details,” says Fabien. “The cover for the first issue is ‘just’ a spot varnish printed on black, but it’s a great contrast with the matte black beneath it. The varnish covers everything, even the white areas, so the cover really looks different depending on the angle you view it from, or the light!”

And the inside of Walter Vol. 1 fulfills the promise of its cover. In addition to features on the aforementioned “Terra” poster and the hand lettering of Andy Luce, there are examinations of letterpress, the work of designer Ty Mattson, the credit sequence of the “Sherlock Holmes” flick starring Robert Downey Jr., and…coffee. All text is in English and French.

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And the most challenging hurdle the Walter Magazine creative team had to overcome?

“Definitely the hardest part is getting the high-resolution images! A blog is easy: You see something, get the images and share them,” says Fabien. “For print, you need high-res images, big ones! So after waiting weeks for designers to finally send us images, we decided to invert the process. We designed the pages with the images we found on the Web, and then contacted them to ask for specific images.”

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Walter Vol. 2

In March, Fabien and company were already hard at work trying to crowdfund the second issue of Walter, this time through Kickstarter. To do so they came up with a cover and a number of sample spreads to encourage backing. Stories this time around will include a look at The Neon Museum in Las Vegas, globe makers, the recent luxury playing card craze, and an exclusive interview with Dutch photographer/director Anton Corbijn (“The American,” “Control”). The cover for Vol. 2 is another two-color one, but that is where the similarity ends.

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“The idea is to have a designer project highlighted on every cover,” says Fabien. “It was the ‘Terra’ poster for the first one, so this time I was totally blown away by this illustration by the Venezuelan artist Rafael Araujo, especially because it is drawn by hand! And I think the subject – a geometric shape based on the golden ratio and the Fibonacci sequence – is a great metaphor for what design is: creativity in harmony. I do not want to have too many rules but more follow my instinct. If I want to put a picture on the cover of the next issue, why not? Rules are frustrating; I believe in guidelines.”

Walter’s perfect binding really gives it that “magazine as art object” feel, but of course there are many more binding options from which to choose. To see them all in one place, download your free PaperSpecs binding cheat sheet right now. It has everything you need: illustrations, relative pricing, page-count limits and more!
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