Media Moves

The anti-aesthetics of Bloomberg Businessweek

May 21, 2019

Posted by Chris Roush

Cliff Kuang of Eye on Design writes about the funky design that has made Bloomberg Businessweek stand out.

Kuang writes, “That hodgepodge of young talent shared a surreal sense of displacement. ‘It had to do with money,’ says Ma. ‘I didn’t come from any great means, and I’d come to work at a place where everyone had graduated from some Ivy League school, and was reporting on and talking about money and the rich.’ This wasn’t a well of resentment so much as creative tension, which sprang from the vast disconnect between the young design team—Brooklynites, art nerds, turbo hipsters, Canadians—and where they’d suddenly landed: atop the beating heart of a multibillion-dollar corporation. Sheltered by a pirate ethos instilled by Tyrangiel and Turley, they achieved a rare level of organizational flow—the delirious, porous state of collaboration that you read about in origin stories of the Macintosh or the atomic bomb. ‘I remember getting there and Josh and Richard saying they didn’t want it to look like a business magazine,’ Keegin says. ‘When you create this structure of being the thing that’s the exact opposite of what you are, you create interesting problems to solve.’

“To take one example: Anyone who’s worked at a magazine knows the struggle of making stock photos look not stock-y—and the welter of bizarre imagery the stock houses contain, such as women crying while making salads or middle managers linking arms in an empty field. Those images are also a reflection of the Internet: literal mash-ups of search terms, meant to be easily discovered if you’re looking for something hyperspecific. Keegin wanted to lean into that strangeness, to mine a world of overlooked visual arcana.

“The staff shared her sensibility. Thanks to outlets such as Rising Tensions, low-brow visual vernacular was beginning to infiltrate high-brow art culture—a movement once perfectly labeled as the dirt web. Artists such as Cory Arcangel and Petra Cortright were resuscitating the look and feel of dated technology like GeoCities, GIFs, and LiveJournal. They were finding something sweet in a moment that no one had ever thought to be nostalgic for. In that milieu, the BBW staff figured that ‘tasteful’ design was the most cowardly move of all, a denial of the real world’s beautiful messiness. To do something truly subversive, they had to crib aesthetics that were hidden in plain sight—simply because they had never been labeled aesthetics in the first place. It’s perhaps the most psychedelic idea of all: that the world is deliriously strange, if you take time to look.”

Read more here.

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