New Vanity Fair Italia creative director Devin Pedzwater is one-to-watch in 2013. For sure. Before taking the design helm at VFI, he was brand creative director at indie US music magazine SPIN… and oversaw one of 2012’s most exciting (and intelligent) redesigns.
In the first of two Vanity Fair-themed Q&As, we chat with Devin to see what he’s got planned for the sassy (and weekly!) European cousin of, what is, one of publishing’s most prestigious brands.
Congrats on the Vanity Fair Italia creative director gig. How did it come about?
After SPIN, I was looking to take on another redesign/rebranding project. I heard from a few friends in the industry that Italian Vanity Fair was searching for a new CD. It sounded like an amazing opportunity and an incredible adventure. I was connected with Luca Dini, the magazine's editor, and over the course of a few conversations, he and I realised we shared the same vision for what the magazine needed... and here we are!
You're going to be based initially at Condé Nast’s New York offices. How long will this be for? Is the eventual plan for you to move to Italy? In the early days, how do you plan to overcome the distance and different time zones?
The schedule is still being discussed. But in general, I will work from New York on redesigning the sections of the magazine. Once the project is completed, I'll go to Milan to implement with the staff directly.
I thought the time zones would be a problem, but that hasn't really been the case. In some ways it works in our favour. As the Italian staff is finishing their day, I'm just beginning mine. So there's a kind of passing of the baton wherein we can take advantage of the time zones rather than letting them be an impediment.
Design wise, how different is the Italian edition to the American?
Well, first off, the Italian version is a weekly and it can run as big as 350 pages… every week! Its makeup is broader than the American version... authoritatively covering everything from serious news to celebrity news to pop culture to fashion, beauty and lifestyle. Only a fraction of the stories they publish are repurposed from the US edition.
Since its launch as a weekly, VFI has really connected with the Italian public. So the design needs to reflect the personality of a reader who wants to devour pop culture and be challenged with progressive editorial and fashion. Of course, it shares the DNA of the US edition, but it has to maintain an individuality... think of it as US Vanity Fair's Italian cousin.
Which Italian magazines/designers are you most excited by?
I really like the work that Francesco Franchi has been doing for IL. Fantastic stuff. It's hard to find on the newsstand here, but I highly recommend checking out their iPad app. David Moretti's Wired Italia is also very good. When I'm at an international newsstand, I'll pick up some downsized versions of Italian fashion magazines like Glamour and Elle. I'll also grab a stack of European gossip magazines, which are always really fun and unafraid of taking risks.
The re-designed SPIN had a modern look that felt quite European. Outside of Italy, which European magazines are you most inspired by?
With SPIN, I wanted to launch the print and digital redesigns simultaneously. We had to keep everything as simple as possible. For example, we only used two fonts to make every design. I think that gave it the modern and European feel. That approach was inspired by magazines like Domus and Casa da Abitare. Outside of Italy, I really like French Vogue, British Marie Claire and i-D and Dazed & Confused always inspire me.
How long will it be before we see your stamp on Vanity Fair Italia? What have you got planned?
I think you'll start to see some changes as early as the end of February, but the complete package will be ready to go in March.
The challenge with this is to design a system that's as much about the function as it is about the form. As you can imagine, 300+ pages every week can be taxing on a small design team. I'd like to give them a set of reliable tools that are limited in range, but flexible enough to cover the challenges of the broad scope of content.
The magazine can benefit from the shared Condé Nast assets so I want to forefront those photographs and let them set the tone for the shoots the magazine commissions exclusively. Visually, the design should feel akin to the US version, but have the pop and urgency that a newsweekly needs in order to be considered a must-read in the Italian market.
Like I said, it's a challenge with a lot of moving pieces. But I couldn't be more excited to take it on!