Review: Birmingham Design Magazine

Finally, after the last two years we’ve made it back to attending design events!

I know in the grand scheme of things this might not seem that important, or that there are bigger fish to fry in the world right now, but this small (or not so small as it turned out) achievement felt like things were actually normal again. We’re of course talking about the newly renamed Birmingham Design event – Gather. Previously know as Glug, this time in a new venue but with the same passion, enthusiasm and high calibre of speakers. I won’t go into how great it was blow-by-blow here because enough has been documented about it already but in amongst the great speakers was the almost restrained unveiling of the very first Birmingham Design magazine.

The theme of the evening’s Gather was “Off the Page” and everyone speaking was involved in some aspect of magazine making. So an apt audience to reveal the mag to and done in great style with this video from Lalita / Loop 454:

On the night all three cover variations of the magazine were available (multicolour, gold and blue) and we went with the multicolour version. All three are beautifully illustrated by ‘Spanky’ creator Superfreak, who also features inside giving a step-by-step account on how the cover was put together, perfect for lifting the lid on the process to help any aspiring illustrators. Interestingly, the magazine does not come with any titles, headlines, barcodes, information or anything! On the inside page is a sticker sheet allowing your customisation with all the proper info. However, if like us, you want to keep it pristine then they’re not going anywhere.

Inside the mag, it’s wall to wall Brummie design utopia. Beginning with a few pages listing the ever-increasing activity that BD are involved in (think LWD, Fuse, Gather, Overlap as well as BDF) it quickly gets into features on previous Grintroducing contributors Pickle Illustration as well as BD stalwarts Seven Signs and Common Curiosity. Two of the best bits in the magazine though, are the ‘In Conversation’ sections between Sleep SparrowOld Bort and Imbue x Foka Wolf. In both conversations, everyone chats really openly and gives such honest insight into their worlds and artwork, it’s brilliant to read such unpretentiousness about art and practice.

As well as these conversations the other section that we were most excited about was the ‘Gallery’ featuring lesser known or maybe, rather, less featured designers and creatives like Kieran Shaw and Hannah Parkes. In stark contrast to platforms like Instagram and the problems it can create, like the tendency to render design practice as trivial and fleeting, (even if you do really like someone’s work, you quickly skip onto the next account or reel and either forget the work or move onto to the next piece for that next endorphin hit), magazines don’t have the same problem. Since they are solid physical, objects, they act like a milestone, capturing the work in a substantial way, allowing you to go back and revisit. Therefore, seeing the work in this section was brilliant and allows the reader to spend more time getting into the work for longer than you might have previously.

“It’s brilliant to read such unpretentiousness about art and practice”

And to be honest that is the greatest achievement of the BD magazine. Not any one thing, interview or piece of work featured, but rather that it exists. In its total beautiful state, delivered by people that obviously have a passion for Birmingham, magazines and creating a community. It wouldn’t have been that long ago that the mention of a magazine of just Birmingham design, illustration and creativity would have been laughed at let alone a magazine of this standard. BD and Luke Tonge have done a great job of not only designing, editing and delivering a superb piece of print but one that screams of pride in a fantastic design scene in Birmingham, one we’re proud to be a part of.

All photographs kindly taken and provided by Luke Tonge and you can buy the mag itself from the BD shop here.