Magma, a typo-pop laboratory

Interview with Jan Kiesswetter

8 MARCH 2013
Robert Kinmont. Standing here in front of these mountains is success, 1970 – 2012.
Robert Kinmont. Standing here in front of these mountains is success, 1970 – 2012.

Interview with Jan Kiesswetter, Art Director at MAGMA Brand Design

Can you give a brief account of your work and professional experience?

In 2004, Slanted Weblog, a portal for typography and design, is launched by Magma. A year later, the first issue of Slanted magazine was published, a combination of typography with editorial design: two worlds, each separate and asynchronous, but still harmonious. It is an attempt at reconciliation, paired with the urge to push boundaries, combine the unexpected and tell cinematic narratives. Order, standards and habits will systematically be broken. Magma sees itself as a laboratory: experimental, curious, and instinctive. Magma is typo-pop. We perceive design as functional and emotional – as center of communication, information, quality and attitude.

Can you illustrate the idea of the book Bright! and how it was born?

In 2011 we developed a series of three books called Fresh – Cutting Edge Illustrations. It is a collection of illustration from around the world, presenting a wide range of styles and techniques. Upon our call entries we received over 16.000 inspiring submissions. To everyone’s surprise, there was a huge amount of typographic works included. The idea to set up another book was born. We later decided to tweak the concept and to concentrate on contemporary art.

Which aspects do you consider to be most significant and why?

The compendium comprises an extremely varied collection of styles and artistic disciplines and presents a wide selection of examples by over 200 artists, ranging from the world of illustration to sculpture and neon installations. These include Gilbert & George, Jenny Holzer, Ferdinand Kriwet, Barbara Kruger, Glenn Ligon, Michel Majerus, Allen Ruppersberg, Ed Rusha, Steven Shearer, Christopher Wool and many many more. These diverse approaches are also examined in seven interviews with the artists Marc Bijl, Tracey Emin, Ed Fella, Alex Hanimann, Tobias Rehberger, Mark Titchner and Lawrence Weiner. As a third chapter, we offered the artists the opportunity to comment their works within a summary that is set at the end of the book.

What kind of message do you think to convey to your readers? How might it be useful to them?

We present a collection of examples of art which reflect both aesthetic dimensions as well as discourse in terms of content – rows of letters and images which go beyond the specific meaning of individual words, which offer several different interpretations and which question our traditional way of viewing things, our use of language or individual perspectives. And of course, each presented artwork invites the reader to discover its own “legible” message.

What is your inspiration and what did you hope to achieve?

Language and text are all around us. We perceive them both consciously and unconsciously. They provide us with information, convey images, awaken desires. Typography, or the arrangement of print in a specific manner, is, for many artists, more than simply a visualization of language. Typography is a source of fascination to the creative world because it opens up considerable potential for exciting, creative opportunities. What happens to purely typographic information when it is presented in the form of an image or object, when its surroundings are altered, when it is enhanced by graphic images, deconstruction or visual reversal?

At what kind of public does Bright! aim?

At the meetingpoint where type becomes art, Bright! promises the observer an exciting and stimulating experience within a sphere of sense and sensibility. The book provides a great overview that is interesting for typographers, designers, artists and everyone who are interested in creative controversy with language. Bright! is an atlas and a source of inspiration.

Do you see the book as contributing to an ongoing public debate of some kind?

Our projects often deal with the questions of the identity of typography and language. Is language / typography just in a pure form – material – or is it directly and inseparably connected to structures and certain characteristics? Further we try to examine, what is to be seen as art or design? Bright! marks intersections of the disciplines and opens the boarders.

In conclusion, could you mention what projects you have for the future?

In cooperation with the Städtische Galerie Karlsruhe (City Gallery Karlsruhe) we are working on an exhibition with the topic art & typography that will open in November 2013. With the contents of Bright! in mind, we will elaborate a new concept in order to transfer the idea to the showroom.