Ben Fehrman-Lee and Julia Novitch’s Balcony considers editorial design as a cinematic exercise
Launched in June 2021, biannual arts magazine Balcony covers contemporary creative discourse – collating together art, design, photography, writing, filmmaking and more – providing a platform for the artists’ voice in favour of criticism or review. With the content focusing on the notion of the everyday, Balcony seeks to challenge the perspective on high and low culture, as well as our commonplace relationship with art. This whim also directs the conceptual and aesthetic decisions behind the magazine’s design and art direction, a task accomplished by creative duo Ben Fehrman-Lee and Julia Novitch.
Leading the magazine’s design is Facit Plakat, a typeface Fehrman-Lee and Novitch commissioned solely for the edition. Originally found in Otto Piene’s 1970 MIT Press artist book ‘More Sky,’ and digitised with type designer Wei Huang, Facit Plakat makes up every piece of dialogue or conversation across the magazine, sitting alongside Optimo’s Antique Legacy, which is used for the essays.
The choice to use this combination of typefaces came from Fehrman-Lee and Novitch’s cinematic approach to the design, in which they considered the magazine as a film. “We conceived of interviews as screenplays, photographic sequences as videos, and magazine issues as episodes,” Fehrman-Lee and Novitch tell us, suitably relating the aesthetic form of a screenplay with the inclusion of creative conversation in Balcony.
Drawn to the earnestness and simplicity of the format, Fehrman-Lee and Novitch note how it leaves room for the reader’s own interpretation and conclusions, and explain how Facit Plakat feels thematically and aesthetically appropriate. “It was perfectly suited for our purposes,” they recall, “Facit Plakat as a monospace has just enough character in that it serves both as a blank slate,” as well as providing an additional uniqueness and peculiarity to Balcony.
Similarly bringing a reserved eccentricity and originality to Balcony is its focus on material and tactility, with pages printed at different sizes, multiple paper stocks, and the use of a striking yellow throughout – a graphic device utilised to section the photographic collections in the magazine. This tactility is also brought front-and-centre with the silk-screen-printed front cover, displaying Balcony’s unique lowercase, fractured logo. “Considering the magazine as an architectural space in and of itself,” Fehrman-Lee and Novitch explain, “we conceived of a peripheral margin,” not dissimilar to a balcony, “that will move from issue to issue.”
Designed with future-facing flexibility for upcoming issues, Fehrman-Lee and Novitch are excited for what lies ahead, despite the unpredictability behind it. “We’ve established several parameters but there’s enough loose ends that we’re not even sure where it may take us,” they conclude, “it’s sort of an exercise of unity in diversity, rather than through conformity.”