consistently pioneering

zuschnitt –  professional journal proHolz Austria, Vienna

There is a wide range of journalistic communication about specific products or companies. However, on taking a closer look you generally realize that what you are reading is not based on solid content, but is more like a form of cheap advertising disguised as journalism. The question here was whether it might be possible to design a specialist magazine in such a way that it becomes the flagship medium of a building material, indeed of an entire branch of building?

The starting point was the image problem that affected forests and timber in the 1990s. The forests (in German Wald) were associated with Waldsterben (death of the forests) – a completely exaggerated alarmist term – while timber itself suggested backward building methods, kitsch and hobbies, or at best a kind of rustic coziness. The aim here was to correct the existing image and to redefine it. Renewable raw materials had gradually been recognized as essential resources for the future. At the same time timber’s inherent qualities as a building material were rediscovered. The timber industry developed new large, flat elements that could be used to plan and build in greater dimensions. proHolz Austria, the strategic marketing branch of the wood processing industry, was called upon to assist this reorientation. Initially, research was to made into the essential messages and these were then to be communicated at a high level. The target groups were those who use and market timber – the “world of planning and building” in Austria and in the export markets – primarily architects, civil engineers, those who make the decisions about building projects and people with an interest in the subject. The focus was on structural timber building using innovative materials and construction techniques for larger buildings, in both town and country. As part of the preliminary concept the client together with architecture theorists Walter M. Chramosta and Arno Ritter worked out an editorial concept for a “magazine about timber as a material and buildings made of timber.”

The editorial line and the journalistic contributions were taken very seriously. Ever since the founding phase an editorial board made up of architects and timber experts is convened by the publishers four times annually and provides criticism, contents and focal themes – a top quality content management system. We have been involved in these workshops from the very start and they enable us to acquire the insights needed to implement the design. With considerable editorial effort the contents for the texts and images are researched with professional authors and prepared in journalistic terms and then “tailored” to suit the respective thematic focal points. The German for tailored or customized is zugeschnitten, a core quality that provided the basis for the publication’s name. In a team together with architecture critic Walter M. Chramosta and Roland Jörg and Reinhart Morscher as external name developers we created the magazine title “zuschnitt”. It avoids any reference to words such as timber, building or architecture and yet, in German, suggests wood and cutting, series and made-to-measure form, while it also has an excellent phonetic quality.

To date more than 60 issues have appeared. In choosing the text layout and the visual program of the medium sufficient room was deliberately left for creativity, which we then exploit. We read the texts with interest and shape them into an understandable and easily grasped system. Directed by our staff member Marcel Bachmann, each issue is individually designed, laid out and made ready for printing. The didactic means are appropriateness, scale and comparability as well as plan graphics, cartography and construction details. Sometimes, in order to make more complex contents more easily understandable we use sychronoptic or pictorial statistic illustrations and diagrams. The layout, typography and text make-up reflect the aims of a bibliophile design and materialization. To establish a distance to the excessive use of color that dominates media today, reproduction is primarily in black and white. The cover is dominated by the name of the magazine, the ongoing issue number, and a title image against a red background. The pages inside are cleanly organized and sober in design. The impression of advertising is avoided. There are no large headlines, the format is a simple A4, and the number of pages is limited. And there is no proHolz logo on the magazine. The brand is wood itself, not proHolz. The typography employs the Foundry Journal family of typefaces, which is sans serif but reader-friendly for large amounts of text. This well worked-out typeface was developed by David Qualy and Freda Sack from England.

We conducted a lengthy search for a suitable paper for the medium. It had to be suited to wood and architecture while also offering a broad basis for quality reproductions of delicate plan drawings and photographs. The light chamois color and gentle feel ultimately suggested PhöniXmotion. The matt surface is only lightly brushed and the fibres remain visible and tangible. The paper falls very softly in the direction of the fibres; it opens and can be leafed through very easily. The success of this medium in terms of the attention it attracts, reader-magazine relationships and interest is confirmed by constant feedback from readers, the large number of subscribers (around 15,000) and by independent studies. There are no advertisements or external advertising texts in this magazine. Even on the back, instead of an advertisement that might generate income there is an article on wood in contemporary art.

Alongside technical and architectural focal themes the publishers regularly allow themselves the luxury of issues that have primarily design, phenomenological and poetic intentions. For instance zuschnitt 16 dealt with “Wood in Language and Wood as Language” – it was deliberately designed without photography. Here things were precisely the other way around; The pictorial quality lies in typographical design. zuschnitt 28 was devoted to paper as a timber-based material and, at the same time, material for printing. For this issue six different kinds of paper were used and presented. zuschnitt 56 dealt with the phenomenon of “hearing wood”. Presented with the task of making the sound of wood visible, we first of all made a search for images. We looked for illustrations that suggested certain sounds to us and vice versa. Using a portable wave recorder we made recordings in which we could hear wood at a recording angle of 90 degrees: Mikado sticks toppling over, a creaking wooden stairs and other scenes. We used graphic programs to translate these mono tracks into sound graphics. These visualize the distance and amplitude of certain sound waves on a horizontal time axis. This depiction allows something of the purity of a sound and the repetition of certain sound elements to be experienced, such as the way sound grows or fades away or the density or finite nature of a sound.
Of all these specially designed pages only a selection can be shown here as a reference. You can get an idea of the variety of what by now amounts to almost 2000 pages on As Otto Kapfinger says: “With the journal ‘zuschnitt’ proHolz has for years been offering a wide area of the professional world Austria’s best specialist building medium in terms of design and content – a medial ‘resonance space’ of top quality.”

Reinhard Gassner