What would it look like if a print publication pulsated? What would it feel like if editorial design made words move through you like the gradual swell of a melody, or a hyped-up electronic drum beat? That’s been the MO of Swiss club culture magazine zweikommasieben since it launched five years ago, and its new issue, which visually echoes the experience of the music that it covers, is no exception. In 2011 art directors Raphael Schoen, Kaj Lehmann, and Simon Rüegg of Swiss studio Präsens Büro, approached the design by creating “simple, radical, and raw rules” to apply to the layout—not dissimilar from the way a techno producer might work on a new track.
“The outcome might be a steady pattern with variations in pace and frequency, or it could be chaotic noise,” says Schoen. “Each issue gets its own rhythm through long discussions about leading, spacing, font size, and, of course, the arrangement of images and quotes.”
Can every issue, then, be considered a track on the ever-growing album that is zweikommasieben? Maybe, though that’d be one eclectic album. The magazine rejects specific branding: it has no logo and no “corporate identity” of any kind, as its founders Kaj Lehmann and Remo Bitzi have said in the past. That means that the team is continually refreshing the entire design.
Issue 10 is a steady beat that oscillates quickly between a large and mid-sized serif and a bold, sans in large and small variations. Issue 11 is filled with a lot more silence—small bursts of energy in the form of blocks of text interspersed by the long pauses of white space.
The latest issue alludes to the online existence of dance music, so Präsens Büro has implemented a design that makes use of tags, keywords, and toggled boxes. What’s especially effective about the editorial layout is how images lie right on the edge of text; it reminds me of having multiple windows open on a screen and the awkward and occasionally claustrophobic visual effect of overlapping content.
“Most of the photographs we get are taken by the authors of the interviews themselves, sometimes they’re even taken with a phone,” explains Schoen. “We like it that way. It’s very honest. That’s why we set them smallish and close to the text.”
Issue 14’s staple binding creates an additional sense of rawness, and the insert of a red flexi disc makes it feel personable and playful. I enjoy the binding’s awkwardness, and the way it impacts the inner margin of the pages, and subtly warps the photographs. The issue has a strong rhythm, but with a sense of fragility underpinning it.
“The publishers organize the events and club nights associated with the magazine with a clear and precise concept, they avoid being arbitrary,” says Schoen. “Like us from the ‘design department’, they have a lot of long discussions about dramaturgy and setting. Sometimes their ideas are so radical that it’s irritating for a random person who enters the club. They totally share the same mindset as us.”