The first Disegno editorial meeting was hosted in The Crown & Anchor, a pub just off Seven Dials in London. The setup, I remember, was faintly shambolic – as perhaps befits an independent magazine in its early stages.
At that time, Disegno had no existence beyond the premise set down by its founding editor Johanna Agerman Ross. In an industry frequently dominated by press release journalism, Disegno’s remit was to offer long-form reporting and critical writing around design. The magazine would provide the projects it wrote about with space to breathe and in so doing, start to tease out reflection on some of the spheres within which designers operate, be they industrial, artistic, political or scientific. The plan, set out in that initial meeting, was to take design seriously.
Over the following five years, Disegno has grown dramatically – from an initial group of three (Agerman Ross plus interns), the journal now has a staff of nine. Under the guidance of its new creative directors Annahita Kamali and Florian Böhm, it has become more readable and beautiful, with a fuller appreciation for the role that imagery and visual layout play in our appreciation of design. Editorial discussions are no longer hosted in The Crown & Anchor; a dedicated meeting table has been procured.
Yet throughout that time the journal’s ethos has remained consistent. Over the course of 12 issues, Disegno has produced the kind of journalism we always aspired to. Through the conversations we have had, the books we have read and the places we have visited, we believe that Disegno has made a positive contribution to contemporary discourse around design.
Looking to the future, the journal’s overarching ambition remains unchanged: we want to untangle the way in which the discipline intersects with the world around it, however difficult this may be. The design landscape looks different to how it did five years ago, and the journal must adapt to face these changes. Our purview is design, architecture and fashion - how will design production fare in post-Schengen Europe; how can architects attend to a global housing crisis that shows no sign of abating; and how to think about fashion when the clothes women choose to wear to a beach is deemed a subject for state intervention? Disegno is a celebration of the ingenuity of the design industries, but it is also an investigation of the context in which this ingenuity is played out. I hope that in another five years’ time this context may seem kinder than it is at present.
Tonight, however, Disegno will keep one eye on the past. We are excited for what the magazine will go on to become, but immensely proud of what we have accomplished to date. We hope that as many of you as possible will join us to celebrate five years of Disegno.