FORM magazine—an essential read for anyone who cares about product or graphic design—shows why print design publications are still better than websites
I don't care what anyone says, design magazines are still the best network for reporting and critiquing design trends, fashions, and innovations. The Internet is nice, but nothing beats the visceral sensation of turning pages and finding inventive new and inspiring old objects of design. One of my favorite magazines is FORM for its holistic (and bilingual—German and English) coverage of industrial, product, graphic, and hybrid designs. German-born Gerrit Terstiege has been editor-in-chief since 2006, and has set the magazine on its current trajectory. I recently spoke to him about the past, present, and future of his magazine.
FORM, published by Birkhäuser GmbH in Basel, Switzerland, founded in 1957 by the Bauhaus designer Wilhelm Wagenfeld and three partners, began as a cultural magazine with musical and theatrical reviews, poems, and black-and-white photography. "I love those early issues of the '50s," Terstiege exclaims. "In the '60s the influence of the famous Ulm School of Design became greater, since our longtime editor-in-chief Karl-Heinz Krug had studied product design there. In the '70s and '80s more and more graphic design was covered. And today, our readership is basically split in half and both graphic and product designers read us."
Most FORM readers are German, Swiss, or Austrian, with subscribers in Holland or England, and distribution worldwide throughout Amazon. Terstiege sees this broadening demographic spread as function of design being more international. "A British designer is heading the Apple design department, a Dutchman is running things at BMW, and an Austrian is New York's most famous graphic designer, while the Berlin art and design scene is strongly influenced by Americans these days," he says. "So I don't think that much in terms of nationality. All I am interested in is good design. But I guess from an American point of view, our magazine is very European."
Terstiege's European focus derives from studying art history, German languages, and philosophy, before switching to design at Köln International School of Design. "An American book called Quintessence by Betty Cornfeld and Owen Edwards triggered my interest in design," he explains. "Back in those days, there weren't that many design books out on the German market. I was lucky a friend showed it to me. It certainly changed my life. That book featured very simple things like a bar of Ivory Soap, a classic American pencil sharpener, Ray Ban sunglasses, and the Coke bottle. I was thrilled to read about those products and wanted to learn more about design." Since coming to FORM in1996 as an intern he has worked on over 80 issues in various editorial positions. He also taught design history and theory at German and Swiss design schools and edited three design books so far, including one about three-dimensional graphic design, Three D - Graphic Spaces (for which I wrote an essay).