Behind the scenes: FAT magazine

by Stine Fantoft Berg in February 2016
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Art & design

Short for Finnish Art Today (or alternatively Famous Art Tomorrow), FAT magazine is an annual title published by the Helsinki-based Kasino Creative Studio.

‘Art dictator’ Pekka Toivonen was recently awarded Graphic Designer of the Year in Finland, so I caught up with him to find out more about the redesign of the latest issue, and the studio’s future plans.


Let’s start at the beginning – what is FAT?
FAT is short for Finnish Art Today, and it’s the first international art magazine from Finland. We started back in 2013 because we thought it was something that was missing and we’ve been publishing once per year since.

But 2016 will be the year for some major changes to FAT. The next issue will not be in print, but online. But don’t worry, it won’t be like anything you’ve seen before. It will be like a movie, but with a magazine feel to it. Like a TV programme slash art movie slash something…


Oh, I wasn’t expecting that – tell me more!
Well, you can expect the same Finnish craziness, all kinds of weird stuff, plus multimedia and elements you can’t print. We made a short film (below) that we released with the launch of our current magazine, which is pretty cool. So now we thought we should explore that medium a bit further.

It’ll be interesting to transform FAT to digital while keeping the same tone of voice and visual identity. Obviously you guys are really print lovers, so I’m sorry if you’re a bit disappointed.

I’m just going to have to take your word that it’ll be amazing! FAT used to be this big heavy magazine, but for your current issue you’ve switched to a skinnier, more wobbly newsprint type of format.
Yeah, and it’s going pretty good – it’s actually out of stock already. I don’t know if that had something to do with the new format. The cover price is a bit lower, but it’s also our biggest ever print run.


Why do you think it caught on so well?
I don’t know. I’ve been used to living in between boxes of unsold magazines, but now for some reason it just sold out. After two massive issues, we just thought we had to change. The world is constantly changing.

Mainly we wanted to make it a bit easier to approach. Even though people loved our two first issues, I’m sure no-one’s ever read it. They just stick it on their shelf. It becomes an object rather than media, and we’d prefer for FAT to be media.

And there’s obviously a financial aspect to it; printing and shipping from Finland is god-damn expensive, so there was simply no way to keep up with the costs. I don’t think we’ll make any money out of this skinnier version either, but at least it’s easier to distribute.


From an art director’s point of view, how did you find the transformation?
Actually, my title in the magazine is Art Dictator and I do a lot of things outside the usual role of an art director. We had an intern, Viivi Prokofjev, who did the design with me – under obedience of the master mind. It was a lot of fun. Changing your way of doing things will always be a hassle, but our approach to the content remained the same, so in the end it wasn’t really that big of a change.


Yeah, I was going to say that reading FAT I think two things: you’re having a lot of fun, and Finns are crazy!
I totally agree. Having fun is definitely one of the most important things. And yes, we did do some crazy things, like making typography with poo… Looking back at it, though, I feel like we could have gone even further.


But the ultimate aim will always be to bring Finnish art and artists to a wider audience?
Yeah, there’s a lot of potential in the Finnish art world, but we’re a fairly small country, so it’s not that well known to the outside. And we’ve always had the idea that making the magazine itself is an art form, it should be a piece of art. We try to make every story in a format that reflects the artist it features, and if it doesn’t we’ve failed.

Do you have a favourite feature in this issue?
I think my favourite page is the appendix in the back. It’s a list of names mentioned throughout the magazine, and it took forever to do, but there are a lot of cool people there and the captions are hilarious.


Is there anything you’ll miss with not creating a printed magazine?
Yeah, definitely. I’m really a print fetishist. I’ve been making magazines since I was a kid and I’m sure I’ll publish something in print again. Nothing is nicer than making a comeback…

True! Do you want to make any final remarks?
I was just awarded Graphic Designer of the Year here in Finland.

Wow, congrats!
Thanks! So because of that I’m setting up a multimedia performance titled My Signs in the Rock Church in Etu-Töölö in Helsinki on 11 May. So if anyone happens to be here they should come!


Portrait photography by Jani Laukkanen

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