Third Place: Iconologic’s HERE Issue 3

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“What we’re attracted to is the simplification and the zesty graphic sensibility.” This is how Alicia Cheng described the judges’ reaction to the third-annual issue of Here. This issue of the magazine, which is produced for the architecture firm Cooper Carry, is centered on energy—a topic that the entire team at Iconologic explores from a multitude of social vantage points. It’s devoid of agenda (other than conveying Cooper Carry’s worldly awareness and architectural prowess).

This approach—“content-driven branding,” as staff writer Kendra Rainey calls it—is highlighted by Here’s nonlinear format and by Iconologic’s collaborative method of production. Designers and writers collaborated and swapped roles, contributing both to the informative essays and the vibrant aesthetic. “It’s consistently engaging, considering the topic, which could be inherently stultifying in its complexity,” commented Cheng.

As designer Gabe Benzur notes, “It’s easier to make digestible information graphics [about energy], since energy is something that can be measured quantitatively, as opposed to migration or greenness” (Here topics from previous years). Still, certain articles, like the “What Is Energy” section, encompass complex subjects­­­—hydrogen fusion, photosynthesis, and power plants—that required vast simplification. Benzur explains that he had to “understand the material thoroughly in order to find a simple solution that anyone could understand. The more pictures, the better.”

There are lovely, subtle elements that unify the work. Benzur describes his color schemes as having “a somewhat garish, ‘psychedelic’ characteristic” that’s present throughout the book, and the use of Cooper Carry’s corporate yellow to highlight portions of the text is also a recurring feature. “The cohesiveness is subtle and the information dense, but not impenetrable or obtuse,” explains Rainey.

Iconologic’s exploratory approach to research and design is apparent in the final product. “Our process starts with a series of meandering, collective, and often very passionate brainstorming sessions,” says Rainey. “Many, many of the final stories that made it into the piece were offshoots, hiccups, and ‘Hey, what if we did X?’ bits and baubles from other ideas.… Happenstance is highly courted for Here. So is dissent that leads down unexpected routes.” It is this freshness and, as Greg Hahn commented, “the unexpected exuberance” in Here that evoke such a bubbling synergy between content and aesthetics.