In its latest magazine, Slanted Publishers compiles a collection of the most form-pushing typography work
Slanted’s magazine editor-in-chief, Lars Harmsen , talks us through the makings of the experimental 40th issue of its eponymous magazine.
- Roz Jones
- 28 November 2022
“After the experiment is before the experiment,” Lars Harmsen tells us when asked what he’s learned from producing Slanted #40—Experimental Type. In other words, he elaborates: “The game is never over”. That’s the impetus – the conceptual fuel for the experimental propulsion system that is Slanted #40: Experimental Type – an enthusiastic exploration of Lars’ graphic obsession with experimentation. A quirk that has seen the German publishing house assume a front-rank position when it comes to exploring uncharted graphic territory. Slanted has shown off that critical edge in previous iterations of the magazine, in which the team has dialled into colour and artificial intelligence.
The project was the result of a long process involving co-editor Saehyeen Shin reaching out to hundreds of artists and designers. With her hands dipped in both the structure and creative direction of the project, Saehyeen played a crucial role in reinforcing the foundations of the magazine. This meant that the publication could pull “cutting-edge” projects that offered “a glimpse into spaces that have been explored by pushing conventions, limitations and thoughts to the next level” into its orbit. Inspired by French painter and sculptor Marcel Duchamp, Lars was on a mission to find designers providing “something provocatively fresh” and “changing the parameters” of their discipline.
Forty issues are no mean feat, and Slanted has near perfected its visual language, aided no doubt by Lars’ background in design. So when presented with the challenge of fitting these skill-soaked submissions into one publication, the fact that Lars wanted the magazine to be less a “neutral exhibition space” and more a “stage for friction and debate” worked in its favour. “We want to enter into dialogue with our readers” Lars notes. For the designer turned lecturer, this gave the magazine more leeway to be “uncomfortable” with its design. Still, Lars says “even if it may sound strange, experimenting needs a common thread.” Careful categorisations let Slanted “focus [its] gaze more sharply” and “look beyond the end of our nose,” which led to the development of eight experimental strands. Lars notes that “tactile Realism shows works with tactile character, adding material properties to the typeface” while “In the Deliberate Imperfection & Serendipity space, disassembly and assembly of type leads to great discoveries,” and so on.
While the work was conceptually classified for curational purposes, Lars holds that “the most interesting works are those where you feel that borders have been crossed, either by accident, experiment or on purpose” which, mind you, is quite a few. Unlike other editions in the catalogue, Lars says that “form often takes precedence over content”. A decision made because with experimentation, “Non-conforming tools such as 3-D modelling, AI, processing etc. are often used in contemporary experiments,” and force creatives to dive into unknown forms headfirst. “I call that kidnapping” he details “in a well-intentioned sense, use some violence to forcefully air the dust out of our brains full of conventions and rules.” In this respect, he points to the works of German-Chinese graphic designer Jianping He, as well as that of Benoit Bodhuin for it’s “delirious playfulness and happiness”.
For Lars, experimentation is the lifeblood of progress. It “opens our horizons, letting us enter the undiscovered and feed our lust for more.” And with that, he confidently says “in ten years we will be able to do another edition on the same topic with completely new findings.”
GallerySlanted Publishers: Slanted Magazine Issue 40 - Experimental Type (Copyright © Slanted Publishers, 2022)
Slanted Publishers: Slanted Magazine Issue 40 - Experimental Type (Copyright © Slanted Publishers, 2022)
About the Author
Roz (he/him) joined It’s Nice That as editorial assistant in October 2022 after graduating from Magazine Journalism and Publishing at London College of Communication. He’s particularly interested in publications, archives and multi-media design. Feel free to get in contact with Roz about ideas you may have for stories from the Global South.