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Digging into design: Ariane Spanier on Fukt magazine

As part of FIDO contents, we’re gathering here some women designers to talk about some of their works. The Digging into design section aims to focus on the method and the strategy to approach a design project, presenting specifically the ideas that stand behind it and the step-by-step.

Photo by Ingeborg Øien Thorsland

Ariane Spanier runs her own Berlin based studio for graphic design and art direction under the motto “we design whatever sounds interesting and fun.” Covering works both on the analog and the digital side—winking also to moving images and animations—Ariane Spanier Design includes clients mostly within the cultural field, from publishing houses, to museums, artists and art centers. On top of that, she’s also the art director of Fukt, a magazine for contemporary drawing where she both designs and co-edits, giving life to a juicy collaboration with her partner Björn Hegardt that flows in sync since 2006. And this is exactly the subject of this new feature of Digging into design: we talked with Ariane about Fukt, art direction, independent publications and everything in between. 

Starting from the beginning, Fukt magazine was established in Norway in 1999 and then moved to Berlin in 2001. Since then, it comes out almost yearly, without ads, but with a bunch of amazing features including illustrations, drawings, interviews with interesting artists and essays by engaging authors. It’s now come to its 20th issue, and for the last five they decided to work on a different topic for each edition. “It felt natural for a long time to keep it broad, the magazine is already very nichy, it’s just about contemporary drawing that felt already like a small field and a small topic for a magazine” she said. It started with the #16, the Sex issue, and following with the Written Drawings of the Words issue, the System issue, the Storylines issue and the #20 is dedicated to Faces and portraits, to celebrate the human face after two years of a global pandemic and people hidden behind masks. “At that time, before we decided for the topics, we thought that if we chose a theme, we would cut off some opportunities for the contents of the magazine, but as it often is like that, if you focus on something, you find so much more that it felt a bit more widening the scope even. It’s definitely not something new for an independent magazine, but the thing is that every project has to find the right time and the right moment to start and to change,” she continues.

As for the contents, the main selection is made by the editorial team. They recently took the decision to launch an open call “that’s a great way of getting to know people and artists’ work that we wouldn’t know about otherwise, and this is also a widening look into the world of artists working,” she adds. And when it comes to design work and art direction, that’s definitely her territory, a land of experiments and freedom since it’s an in-house project. 

For books and magazines, the cover is considered the most important thing, basically because it’s the first thing a reader sees, and it has to be eye-catching and striking. Besides, it may also be used as a declaration of intent. Just to name a few, latest issues’ covers have won a D&AD Awards 2020 – Graphite Pencil for “Magazine Front Covers” in the category Magazine & Newspaper Design and the Stack Awards 2019 for the “Cover of the Year”. They’re also been shortlisted for Cover of the Year for the Coverjunkie Awards in 2018 and 2019 and for the Stack Awards in 2018. Like the previous issues, #20 features a playful approach through a paper handling cover: it comes with two different levels, an outline of the face below and an exact looking flyer glued on it featuring a sketching portrait, to give us the opportunity to have one of the 24 different covers they designed in collaboration with some of the contributing artists, but also to give us the chance to draw our own funny face with an interactive purpose. We tried to discover the secrets of creating brilliant covers as for Fukt and for Ariane, they’re indeed an essential part of the making of the magazine:

Ariane joined the team at Fukt on a more regular basis in 2006. This is more than 15 years of design and inspiration, and also a pretty remarkable skills development on a personal and professional level, and all this evolution has been constantly put into Fukt, greatly increasing the magazine’s potential.


We also had the chance to discuss gender disparity with Ariane. We were interested to know if in north Europe things are actually better in terms of gender gap, and it’s always curious to discover how certain behaviors are perceived as normal, and inequalities can be distinguished only after a careful analysis.

Thank you Ariane for this brilliant conversation and for sharing with us the making of Fukt and all the details about this amazing publication. All good things must come to an end but don’t worry, hang around because we’ll be back soon with the next episode of Digging into Design and another special guest. 

*** All the images are property of ©ArianeSpanier, you’ll need her explicit permission to reproduce them

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