Blueprint New Era

Becky Rushmer
Blueprint Magazine
October, 2006
Photography, Richard Legge

Blueprint’s redesign, the very first issue of which you hold in your hands, is founded on a 20-year relationship between two designers. In 1988 Patrick Myles, art director of Blueprint, was just a student trying to decide which design trail to follow when David Quay, a leading typographer responsible for the D&AD Award-winning Yellow Pages type, stepped up as his tutor and mentor. ‘David was the main influence in setting me on the career path I am on today,’ Myles says. It was while teaching him graphic design that Quay first suggested to Myles that he read Blueprint. At the time he could not have foreseen how closely he would be linked to the publication.

Myles’s professional connection with Blueprint stems back to the early Nineties at Wordsearch, a design consultancy run by Peter Murray, which originally launched the title. In 1983 Murray had noticed a hole in the market for an inspirational magazine that presented lavish images and a critical analysis of the industry – a magazine that would contemplate architecture and design’s relationship to the rest of the world.

He enlisted Deyan Sudjic and Simon Esterson as editor and art director and together the three touted the new publication as ‘London’s magazine of design, architecture and style’. The first 18 issues were put together voluntarily by leading journalists. This group of friends used their contacts in the business to drum up much-needed funding. Blueprint wouldn’t exist without Terence Conran and Norman Foster’s £2,000 and Richard Rogers’s £500 donations.

It was at Wordsearch that Myles began his long association with the magazine. He worked on Blueprint Extra books and design work that grew out of Wordsearch, such as Eye and Tate magazines, before moving on to Wilmington Media in 1994.

At this point, the magazine pursued him. In 2000 Wilmington bought Blueprint and Myles once again found himself working with the title, first as creative director and more recently in a more hands-on capacity as art director, assisted by senior designer Kieran Gardner.

Throughout this time Myles and Quay continued to take an interest in each other’s work. In 2004, Myles invited invited his former tutor to take part in the publication’s A Blueprint for Life exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Earlier this year they met at Quay’s home in Amsterdam to discuss a handful of works in progress Quay had been experimenting with in between designs for The Foundry, the fonts company he co-founded in 1990.

Myles saw potential in Trip Trap, a stepped typeface formed of bars laid out in columns, a construction that related to architecture in terms of blocks and skylines. He asked Quay to complete the font exclusively for Blueprint’s redesign. ‘It is a simple grid idea that has a strong structure and vertical emphasis. It was originally influenced by signage typefaces, the sort you see on the side of buses and trains,’ says Quay.

Blueprint New Era is now used for headlines and flagging up the different sections of the magazine. It is also reflected in keylines and the way images are aligned. ‘A lot can be developed from New Era,’ explains Myles. ‘With it we could construct images, contributor portraits, quote marks and chevrons for navigation.’ New Era will be complemented with the fonts Officina and Trump Medieval and, for the editorial, American Typewriter.

There is much to be said for going back to basics. No other design and architecture title can simultaneously make claim to both the heritage and originality of Blueprint. That is why for its first major redesign in almost a decade the magazine’s publishing team has delved into its past and reconnected with the roots that established Blueprint as the nerve centre for ideas that shape design and architecture in today’s society.

This redesign brings together the attitudes that shaped Blueprint’s past with the free thinking that will generate the future of the industry. You will have instantly noticed the new size, studied the new masthead and drawn your finger over the new typeface. But how did Blueprint get here and why did it need a redesign?

Though the Eighties were profitable for Blueprint, the ensuing stock market crash and recession led to a decline in advertisers, subscribers and – most tragically – design businesses. With the economic upheaval came a turning of the tide for design issues and media coverage of the sector. Today, television is full of both home-makeover shows and critical architecture documentaries; design and lifestyle titles dominate the shelves of every major and minute retailer and the internet provides the wealth of industry knowledge that Blueprint once stood alone in offering. Even the cutting-edge architects and designers – such as Zaha Hadid, Will Alsop and Eva Jiricna – who once fought to build a scrap of concrete in the UK, are now household names and the country is saturated with exotic structures and dynamic skylines.

So where is the cutting edge now? Following a redesign in 1995 by John Belknap and another by Andrew Johnson in 1997, Blueprint reconsidered its mission. The editorial team says the new approach strives for a ‘strong and coherent identity’ and aims to ‘take a grown-up slant that picks up on the design impact on social, economical and political issues’. Blueprint’s main priority is to uncover the ideas behind architecture and design.

To editor Vicky Richardson, these ideas are often expressed best by the people working at the borders where art, design and architecture meet. ‘This redesign is necessary to move forward, to allow us to explore new ways of writing about and illustrating the design process,’ she says. ‘We want the new-era Blueprint to be visually strong but not picture-led, with photos that tell a story and have a critical attitude just as much as the writing.’

With all this in mind, Myles was set the brief to bring about fundamental changes that paid respect to the magazine’s heritage. ‘It’s about making it personal, to be able to open any page and know instantly it is Blueprint,’ explains Myles, who, with Gardner, has sought to design a framework that allows the team to confidently deliver information and images, including several new editorial features – solidifying Blueprint’s identity without being overpowering.

The most dramatic modification to the magazine has been initiated by Royal Mail, which is now charging for posted items by size as well as by weight, forcing the magazine to shave millimetres off its width. This has paved the way for an overhaul of the publication’s content and Myles has designed a shape better suited to carry and read, as well as increasing the weight of the paper.

The classic serif stencil of the new masthead has been derived from the logo used on early issues, but is now set into a block so it becomes a stamp. As Myles says: ‘We’ve got the past, future and now we have our current identity delivering Blueprint’s individual view on architecture and design’