Works that Work (WTW) is a biannual print and online magazine that focuses its attention on consequential design that is rarely—or never—otherwise reported in design and lifestyle publications. Edited by Amsterdam-based type designer Peter Bilak, who also runs the type foundry and website Typotheque, WTW is concerned with the intentional and unintentional, jerry-rigged and precision-designed “work” that has made an incredible impact somewhere in the world.
Published every April and November since 2013, the digest-sized print resists the usual design-magazine trappings. It is not, for example, fashionably arranged. The clutter-free format relies on photography to bear the weight of the visual message. Smart typography presents text that is meant to be readable, not pretty. Although Bilak has done his share of digitally experimental graphic design, WTW bypasses what is au courant in that world: “My background is design, but I need to confess that I read very few design-related publications,” Bilak says. “I have always felt that design discussion stays within a strange bubble ... and makes little effort to make the discussion relevant for a wider audience.”
Works That Work intends to make design discussions relevant to non-designers. By way of example, a few of the articles in the first four issues of Works That Work: A look into the proposed 250mi long tunnel under Austria to connect Czechoslovakia to the sea. A story on the approximately 700,000 Albanian bunkers that are currently being repurposed as businesses and art projects. A piece exploring how direction of arrows on highway signage affects traffic flow.
WTW’s issues are not strictly monothematic according to Bilak, who populates each magazine with a mix of subjects. Still, about half of the issues deals with one specific subject: design’s practical aspect, and those that make the most of it. “We always like to speak directly with people—not the authors, but users of design,” Bilak said. Being on-location is the best way to do the research, as exemplified in Issue #4, devoted to extreme environments, which inspired the magazine’s first organized on-site content scouting in Tromsø, Norway. Bilak’s contributors sought ad hoc design adaptations that “make life possible in the challenging conditions of the Arctic.” From there the articles mined other such environments—like deserts, war zones, even Mars.