Is the Twen magazine the most influential magazine of all times? This question might sound pretentious but it is not far from the truth. Why was this magazine so influential? It was the groundbreaking design ideas, innovative usage of photography and full use of the advanced printing methods that made Twen a leader in magazine layout and design.
You have to remember that we are talking about the post war era in Europe in the 60’s. In this decade Europe started to recuperate from the horrors of WWII and new generation of postwar youth was Twen’s main audience. This generation wanted to distinct itself from their parents and Twen with its new graphical style was just what they needed.
Willy Fleckhaus was an art director of Twen from its beginnings in 1959 till its end in 1970.
Fleckhaus was heavily influenced by the Swiss formalism shown in the layout of the Twen magazine. He used rigid grid layout, simple typography and striking, often erotic, images.
The grid of the Twen magazine was 12 column grid which was used in a seemingly endless number of ways combining its columns to produce two, three, four or six column layout. This is considered one of the most notable grids ever developed for magazine layout.
Fleckhaus used 12 column grid in interesting and innovative way because the format of the magazine was large (265×335 mm). Vertically, the grid was divided into 9 divisions which allowed Fleckhaus to create coodinates for endless possibilities in placing images and text on the page.
This was a brilliant solution that was not seen in any publication of its time which resulted in Twen’s characteristic layout which often used images and text hanging from the top of the page, leaving the foot of the page deliberately visually ragged.
Fleckhause also used striking images in an innovative way, cropping and manipulating them to create strange shapes. He also heavily used close up’s and Twen’s photography was dramatic and different, ahead of its time often making use of rounded corners, making images tightly tied in the columns of justified text.
Typography used in Twen was based on the Modernist approach developed in central Europe between the wars and in Switzerland in the 50’s. He predominantly used sans serif typefaces stripped of unnecessary detail.
Headlines were set in condensed or even compressed variations and usually in all caps. Headlines set in strong sans serif’s were often spread across the whole page width, producing a striking visual impact in which Fleckhause believed more than in journalism, although he was a journalist.
In body text Fleckhaus mixed sans serif type for narrower text columns and serif type for wider single column introductory passages utilizing two or three columns of the grid.
Letter and line spacing were tight and the text blocks often mimicked the inset pictures. Fleckhaus also enjoyed using one typeface in contrasting colors to highlight specific articles.
As mentioned above Twen was the voice of the new modern generation of youth in post war Europe. Twen not only used striking layout to send the message but its journalism was thoughtful and intelligent. Combining all these factors resulted in huge success of Twen magazine which perfectly reflected social and cultural changes of the 60’s.
As its readership matured and specific social issues died or shifted, so did the appeal of Twen. In 1970, the publishers forced Fleckhaus to resign and Twen folded soon after, thus ending an era of magazine brilliance.
Fleckhaus brilliant work continued in another magazine that set new standards in magazine design, Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazin.
Of the many magazines hailed as classics of their time, Twen is one of the few that genuinely looks as strong today as it was at the time and continues to exert influence and attract praise.