“Talent borrows, Genius steals”
Those are the words of Oscar Wilde, TS Eliot, Pablo Picasso and many others who thought it fitting to steal the quote from whoever wrote it in the first place. That was pretty much the code that wrote all we did on Torpedo magazine.
We’re writing the early nineties and the world was still young. Not. I was still young, fresh from an unfinished printer’s apprentice program. I was assisting software classes to pay the bills, as I toned my Photoshop skills. A pamphlet on newspaper print was dropped in the lobby. They looked for volunteers. For a magazine.
I joined the team. Did my first spreads in the fall of ’91. Then it all came to a halt. The editor had criticized the same public program that happened to support the media project. The sawdust from that log was still fresh, when Søren Heuseler asked me to develop an independent version. “This guy’s got drive” I remember thinking. “I don’t need the official brainwash from the Journalist Academy to make a writer”, he said. “How do you feel about the state of education these days?”
This was an approach after my liking. Who cares about theory, when you can learn through practice? Be your own Master. Teach yourself. Eat the mistakes and learn by flaws. Make mistakes faster.
We worked from a software class room at night until the cleaner came 7.00 in the morning. We only had one machine, so we had to switch between layout and editing. We changed the format. We threw printing friendly paper around the bulk. Added black and yellow warning stripes top and bottom and went to Jylland to get the thing printed cheaply. In the middle of Nowhere.
In Nowhere, they still know how to press. I didn’t. As we were having Danish with the sales-reprsentative, the prepress director peeked in: “Do you have a minute?”. I walked with him to his assistant, who looked fairly frowned. “The image are not adjusted over the cropmarks”. I tried to focus. Three days with no sleep and a mission does things to you. When you’re in Nowhere. “All through the document:. Look” I did not have a clue what he was talking about. I was 19 and an underground hero. But I … Suddenly, I got it. “How can the images be cut to the edge, if they don’t overlap a bit?”
After that pricey, embarrassing lesson, I went to the Craftsman’s Library. Studied hard. Established layout principles, that would be challenged and criticized by readers, writers and printers. Adjusted, re-tested and defended. It looked something like this:
1 Keep the body text strictly functional, maximum navigation and readability.
2 Allow white space to create optical tension
3 Let the visuals talk – create simple hierarchies
4 Go crazy on the headline
There. Not a bad start.