Behind the scenes: Zweikommasieben magazine

by Steve Watson in July 2015
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Our Sampler offer from 25 June was Zweikommasieben, the Swiss magazine of contemporary club culture. I love its stark, functional design, so I caught up with graphic designer and co-founder Kaj Lehmann to find out how he keeps each issue looking fresh, and what inspiration he draws from the magazine’s electronic music.

Our Zweikommasieben offer has ended now, but if you’re a magazine fan, head over to our Sampler site and sign up for the newsletter with your email address, and we’ll send you our weekly offers every Thursday.


First things first, how did the magazine start?
Me and Remo [Bitzi, Zweikommasieben’s editor] studied at the same school in Lucerne, but I did graphic design and he did design management. One of the great things about Lucerne’s art school is that once a year all the classes get mixed up and do workshops together, and it happened that Remo and me did a workshop together. During the breaks he started saying he wanted to make a magazine on contemporary club culture, and would I like to design it?

Obviously I was totally into it, so that’s how it started, back in 2011. The first issues were riso printed and stitched on a sewing machine, and everyone helped. The family has grown a bit since then, but we’re still really the same group we were at the beginning.


The first one I saw was issue nine – is that the first one that was also in English?
I think so – yes. That was about a year ago.

The magazine had been in German up until then – why did you decide to add English?
The feedback came from Alexis from Motto Books – he distributes the magazine, and he said it would be really cool to be able to send it out to other countries too. Because our magazine really talks to little groups of very nerdy people scattered all over the world, but of course to have that international reach you need to be in English.

Alexis even offered to do the translations for us; they’re done by the people who work with him in the bookstore. That was a really great opportunity for us, and a lovely way to work together with them.


Having two languages in a magazine can be difficult, but I really like the way you handle them.
When we started with two languages Remo always told me, let’s not divide them too much, because then people will ask, why do I need to buy the German part if I only want to read it in English?

So we came up with a system where both languages interact with each other, depending on the text. We have the primary language (the language the piece was first written in) set a bit bigger, and the secondary language a bit smaller, and then for example you’ve got pull quotes that interfere with the body text, totally mixing up the two languages.

With a very simple set of rules, each spread looks totally different and more like a sculpture, and I think that fits with electronic music because it’s very system-driven.


Speaking of rules, you change the entire design of the magazine every issue – why do you do that?
That’s right – we have absolutely no “Corporate Identity”, and I think that’s the only way to keep something fresh and exciting. We want to be contemporary, and we can only do that if the magazine is completely new, so nothing stays the same. Of course people don’t always recognise it at first glance from one issue to the next, but look again and you can see the similarities.


I’m only just realising this, but you don’t even have a recognisable masthead – you don’t have a logo for the magazine.
That was a decision we made right from the first issue, that we would never make a logo for the magazine. Not even the binding, the colours or the size are the same – every issue is completely different.

The newest one is a little bit smaller and a little bit thicker than before, and we spent a lot of money on it! None of us get paid, so we spend all the money from sales on making the next issue the best we can. This issue is bound like a book so production was super expensive, but we can try stuff like that because we’d rather spend the money on production than paying ourselves.

We’ve also added a special silver colour in all the black and white photography. We printed at Kösel GmbH in Germany and they had this special silver that’s not in the Pantone collection – it has more pigments, and they asked if they could try it on our magazine. Of course we were into it, and it has a really nice effect – the background of the images has this silvery metallic finish that looks really high end. But it’s really important that the price stays at €12 – we want to make an affordable magazine, and I think that will always stay the same.

See that lovely silvery finish for yourself – buy a copy of Zweikommasieben from Sampler and get 10% off, plus free shipping to the UK, Europe and USA (or subsidised delivery everywhere else)

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