It’s easy now to realise how the magazine Metal was the beginning of something, but when we started it was totally uphill. This is a special project for us. It was one of the first commissions where we got to really prove our expertise, and in general Metal was part of a movement in editorial design which generated a slight change in the way magazines were done and in the overall perception of a fashion magazine itself. Publications like i-D or Dazed and Confused had been occupying the central stage of fashion editorial world for years: but in the mid 00s magazines like A Magazine and Purple were offering a new fresh and more indie take on fashion. Metal came out from this new Zeitgeist and contributed to the necessary creation of a new format, where content and concepts were finally dealt with in an unprecedented way in fashion fields.
Basically, Metal magazine — a publication now available in more than twenty countries— was born from the ashes of another Barcelona-based independent publishing project called ABarna, a free-press monthly magazine also known as AB. ABarna strongly influenced a generation of people with its pages filled with music, street fashion, singers, stylists, designers and the publication had a huge fame between young people.
Driven by the good reviews of his work in Fanzine 137 and having detected some major issues in Abarna that could be improved, Albert Folch decided naively to get in touch with the Abarna team, eager to redesign the magazine according to his vision. In a turn of fate, on the other side of the phone he was told that they had already been thinking of him for the publication redesign. Albert started working on a radical redesign, which eventually led them to define an overall repositioning of the magazine itself. In the first meeting, they liked Folch’s innovative proposals of the re-launching of the magazine, but they refused the chance of drastically changing the publication according to their ideas. Folch thought that the redesign was a great chance of launching a magazine that could represent the modern times and embrace a groundbreaking vision of fashion, while the team behind ABarna was hesitant about such a radical rethink. But after some time Yolanda Muelas —today editor-in-chief at Metal— made up her mind and things changed. Positively. Folch was entrusted for the overall redesign of the magazine, aimed at a drastic repositioning of the publication in terms of aesthetic, branding, art direction, format: so drastic that after a naive session of naming they got rid of ‘Abarna’ too and suddenly a new magazine was born: Metal.
Moving away from the young fashion publication for young people, Metal’s visual language turned more mature and sophisticated, claiming a more conceptual idea of fashion. The new format, art direction and typographic treatment symbolised this transition. While creating a strong attitude and strengthening the magazines structure, design almost disappears, creating with its absence a recognisable look and feel. Images were presented in a fresh and pretty irreverent attitude: overlapping shots and displaced pictures characterised the publication. Overlaid, partially hidden, stepping across the borders of the page: pictures dance around the grid and this treatment strongly characterises the visual impact of the magazine. Some of the photographers who turned their noses up at this choice, were later aspiring to see their work published in such a fresh and experimental framework. Images were strongly enhanced by an innovative and playful choice of papers, something not really common in editorial design at that time: the harmonic play between the organicity of the offset paper and the cold white of the coated ones was spread across the bound and stapled publication.
An important feature of the general layout was the way texts were treated. Uncommonly for a fashion magazine, text wasn’t diluted across the magazine, instead strongly present in a dense, serious and ordered form. This brought a more book reading experience which would provide a sensation of maturity and acquired adulthood. Eager to break the regular structure of long, medium and short articles, we reshuffled the cards and created thematic sections that revolved around two central indexes. The traditional forms of Times, the universally known typeface curated by Stanley Morison, made the rest of the work, accompanied by the geometric yet harmonious and sensible appearance of Avenir. These choices eventually made the fortune of Metal: this dynamic and innovative structure became an interesting reference in the editorial world.
Two overlaid pictures, a dynamic header, blank spaces: strange though it may seem, these elements shaped Metal’s covers across many issues. In a time where dynamic identities were still pretty unknown, Metal couverture plays with a changing headline, which is sometimes even partially hidden underneath pictures. Using white space as an element of design and enhancing the scope of the covers with the juxtaposition of two images —fleeing the conventional structure featuring one full-bleed image—, Metal’s cover layout has been a playground of experimentation and visual research. This freedom was also made possible by the non-necessity of calling the attention on the shelves, being the magazine a free-press at the very beginning. The cover was printed on a special embossed paper with a complex texture, allowing it to enclose the publication, offering a great photographic reproduction in terms of both colours and definition.
The overall layout was thought to be flexible, allowing creativity and innovation for each new issue, without forcing the designers to be stuck with a strict template. We always saw the design of Metal as something moldeable, dynamic, adaptable. Across the years we experienced three major redesigns: we played with new typefaces, changed the iconic cover scheme, introduced new elements, experimented with papers and textures. In general, we wanted to achieve a contradictory yet strongly coherent design: the solidity of a classic, sober, heavy typographic treatment was offered, counterbalanced by a provocative and radical layout for images.
Photography by Emilio Tini
The years in which Folch was in charge of the design of Metal were a period of both maturation and extreme experimentation. The exceptional professional who contributed to the project over the years are now among the strongest voices of editorial design: Omar Sosa, Isabel Merino, Miquel Polidano are internationally regarded respectively for their roles as editor-in-chief at Apartamento, art director at The Plant magazine and at Baron&Baron. Every new redesign led to new interesting trials and discoveries: spin-off magazines (like the supplement Silver), innovative means of promotion (an issue printed in red tint as a corporative marketing strategy for brands); a ground-breaking and influencing approach in photography (one of the first medium in Spain to bring a diverse visual language, within a bigger European perspective). Artists like Daniel Sannwald, Daniel Riera, Takahiro Ozawa, Nico Bustos, Txema Yeste, Miguel Villalobos, Christophe Kuttner, and Bruno-Clément experimented new approaches in fashion photography: their work had stepped for the first time in the Spanish magazines thanks to Metal and influenced a generation of artists and photographers. Beside obviously the great quality of the magazine itself, a beauty naiveness and a strong first-time enthusiasm made the 27 issues released for Metal a little treasure; and the seven years of working together a great journey.
“Metal Magazine has been an starting platform for many of now internationally successful artist and photographer. Metal and Folch believed, discovered and supported talents of the next generation before many others. The publication was for me one of the starting points of my career and a platform where I could express freely my visions.” Daniel Sannwald