Harvard Design Magazine Refresh Inspired By Avant-Garde Fashion And Culture

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Alexis Mark has redesigned the Harvard Design Magazine. The overall design shifts away from traditional academic journals and is inspired by avant-garde fashion and cultural magazines. This refresh takes a more holistic approach beyond the architectural and charts a new course of experimentation and collaboration.

This new look references an extensive assortment of influences, including art and graphics, using arresting photography and a neo-grotesque font explicitly developed for the new magazine. The font is part of the firm’s revolutionary approach to the redesign, intending for the typography itself to be gradually tweaked and updated in future issues. The printing and binding will be done in different locations in other editions, changing the magazine’s paper stock, binding, and feel. In turn, this will make each edition an engaging experience of discovery.

Harvard Design Magazine 48: America marks a turning point for the magazine as the first issue under new editorial director Julie Cirelli, featuring Mark Lee and Florencia Rodriguez as guest editors. This issue also debuts a full redesign by Alexis Mark, the Copenhagen-based graphic design firm. Publishing this month, the issue gathers contributions from leading figures across the fields of architecture, design, urban planning, fashion, art, and governance, including Maurice Cox, Shaun Donovan, Michèle Lamy, Sylvia Lavin, and Marc Norman. Join Lee, Rodriguez, and Norman, alongside contributors Paul Andersen, Neeraj Bhatia, and Maite Borjabad Lòpez-Pastor, for a virtual launch event Tuesday, March 23, 7:30pm ET.

Harvard Design Magazine 48: America reflects on the theme and definition of “America” through lenses of cultural production, racial justice, and architectural and design practice. In the 20th century, a paradigm of America characterized by progress, openness, and democracy was perpetuated—but with an ominous underbelly of exclusion, racism, and inequity left unexamined. While viewpoints on America’s story and history differ, if not reject one other, what is widely shared is a sense of 2020 as a breaking point—or, “a consciousness of an imminent existential threshold,” as write Lee and Rodriguez.

The redesign of Harvard Design Magazine collided with this watershed moment—and, through that coincidence, “Harvard Design Magazine 48: America” critiques the paradigm of “America” that has evolved over modern history, scrutinizing America through its design objects, projects, and dialogues. From this unpacking, the issue gestures toward how different Americas—or definitions of “America” and “American”—may grow from the current moment of tension, deconstruction, and reconsideration.
“With the redesign and relaunch of Harvard Design Magazine,” Cirelli says, “our goal was to engage and reflect the kinds of dialogue and work coming out of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and to reveal the innumerable, often invisible ways in which the policy, theorizing, creation, and governing of the built and natural environment impact every facet of daily life.”

Contributors texturize and illustrate American culture through the portals of Artifacts, Territories, Cities, Precincts, Buildings, and Things. A closing Call and Response section poses new questions and leaves the conversation open. The magazine critically examines recent American history, with features by Sean Canty, Alexandra Cunningham Cameron, Ana María León, Marianne Mueller, and others— including one of the final interviews given by the late Henry N. Cobb, to whom Lee and Rodriguez dedicate the issue.

Readers encounter this dialogue through a sequencing of formats that aims to provoke idea-sharing and conversation, stir personal reflection, and pose or reopen relevant debates. Visual cues—including custom typography and photography, directed by design team Alexis Mark—provide an immersive, rhythmic reading experience.

Cirelli has reimagined Harvard Design Magazine to emphasize community and create bridges, maintaining the magazine’s design depth while introducing formats that encourage candid conversation, opinion, and experimentation. In establishing a guest-editor model, Cirelli aspires to “pass the mic around,” decentralizing the magazine’s editorial purview and allowing for more voices to lead critical dialogue.

Under the curation of Lee and Rodriguez, Harvard Design Magazine 48: America works to trace how America gained global definition and influence in the 20th century, and where and how American culture and design provoked unequal social outcomes. Lee and Rodriguez seek to chart the rise of post-war idealism and innovation, the subsequent “cultural megaphones” that fueled processes of Americanization in a newly globalized world, and the rise of capitalism and its ensuing decadences—and ensuing social stratification and exclusion. The built environment was crucial to all of these phenomena, the editors observe, especially the role of design in instilling or perpetuating structural inequity and disparate outcomes.

“Part of our role here,” write Lee and Rodriguez, “is to critically analyze how many of those structures were created to support privilege and a slanted model for society.” They aim to critique the American paradigm while also demonstrating hope for where design, and America, may lead from today’s liminal moment.

“Maybe that’s another thing that you could attribute to America—a kind of willful optimism that helps fuel this country,” observes Harvard GSD dean Sarah Whiting, speaking with Rodriguez in the magazine’s opening feature. “We all see one highly dangerous extreme today of a self-absorbed optimism, but I believe that there is still a shared, collective, inclusive optimism that holds promise.”
“While some of the events that made [2020] so singular can be listed objectively, it’s too early to understand the significance it will have in the long term,” write Lee and Rodriguez. “We do know, however, that a deep understanding requires critical thinking, engagement, and reformulation.”

Project Credits

Alexis Mark