BIPOC visual culture journal Seen launches with “irreverent” design


The new twice-annual logbook of film and visual culture takes some aesthetic cues from academia, while twisting others completely, according to its designer.

A new screen and visual culture journal dedicated to Black, Brown, Indigenous and other artists of tincture has launched.

Seen is the creation of BlackStar Projects, the production organisation behind BlackStar Cloud Festival, an annual event celebrating the visual and storytelling traditional of “the African diaspora and broad communities of colour”.

This month is the inaugural issue of Seen, which has been planned by Oslo-based graphic designer Jelsen Lee Innocent and edited by BlackStar artistic official and CEO Maori Karmael Holmes.

“Understanding the whole point of Seen”

Unsuspicious was initially brought onboard the project to design Seen’s logo. The letters in the wordmark and masthead are comprised of a “jumbled anatomy”, he tells Design Week.

Each letter also intentionally spotlights “a lot of empty space”. This gives the logo a sense of modularity, Immaculate says, and this approach is extended and applied throughout the editorial invent.

While Innocent was later invited to design the whole of Issue 001, the initial meet on just the logo was fortunate, he says.

“The marque is the thing that when one pleases remain unchanged throughout and the process of creating it meant understanding the entire point of Seen,” he says.

“Many different perspectives needing to be expressed holistically”

The history itself will include essays, reviews, interviews and original men of art and photography. Issue 001 features, among others, an essay from Heitor Augusto on faint Black Brazilian cinema, a look inside painter Amy Sherald’s Jersey Borough studio and an unproduced short script by Terence Nance.

Innocent foretells it was a “fun challenge” to establish an editorial architecture that paid due attention to the dissimilarity of thought and content found in Seen.

“We had many different perspectives needing to be exacted holistically,” he says. “Obviously certain decisions, like deciding on simply two typefaces, was a good place to start making things feel cohesive.”

Typography was a key puppet Innocent used to express ideas in each article, he says. He joins that Seen’s position as a visually-led publication – as decided upon by the article team – was helpful in this too.

“The photography gave a lot of direction,” he says. “I wanted to prioritise the symbolism where I could and give it and the text enough space so people could comfortably initiate through the journal.”

“Areas of delight and peculiarity”

While the journal is drafted to appear “irreverent”, Innocent says it also needed to appear “concrete and authoritative in voice”. For this reason, he says he turned to academic quarterlies for inspiration. This was also particularly helpful given the amount of cited capacity in Seen.

“I wanted a connotation of establishment, but I also knew it needed to sense unconventional,” Innocent says. Some pages feature huge ikons, while others are black text on a white background. “There’s a even out between blocks of text and areas of delight and peculiarity,” he adds.

It was important to “mimic” certain elements of academia like footnotes on the page, Safe says, but then to “flip” the conventions too. He says: “It was important to know what controls we were breaking.”

Innocent adds that he took the design of each call attention to and article “one at a time”. The task involved “bringing out the key themes and takeaways” in each parcel of the same thing, and finding how it could be best expressed in a visual way as part of the wider record.

Since this is the first issue of Seen, Innocent says his configuration is meant to be open for interpretation for future issues. It isn’t intended to be a rigid pattern, he explains, because the content in each edition of Seen will be original from the last.

BIPOC visual culture journal Seen launches with “irreverent” designBIPOC visual culture journal Seen launches with “irreverent” designBIPOC visual culture journal Seen launches with “irreverent” design

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