How BLAST magazine has changed literature
Blast was mainly consisted of a group of Vorticists under the central figure of Wyndham Lewis. Even though the onset of WWI put an untimely end to its publication, its opinions managed to remain in history as a representative part of modern era. Vibrant and merciless, full of energy and patriotic spirit, the Vorticist Manifesto remains up until today eye catching, contemporary and quite punk. Maybe those are the elements that the majestic Mr. David Bowie also appreciated in Blast and included it in his “Top 100 Must Read Books”. (We definitely approve many of them). But let’s go back for a moment to Vorticism. Deriving mainly from Cubism, Futurism and Expessionism, Vorticism was a bold blend with harsh lines and harsher colors. Instead of abstraction the Vorticists developed a vivid geometric style, which set apart their typography. Their typographic style had such a strong impact that is considered of equal importance as the famous Zang Tumb Tumb of the Futurist Fillipo Tommaso Marinetti.
One of the major revolutionists in graphic design at that time, mostly known for his typographical audacity, El Lissitzky became a source of inspiration for Blast. His influence was obvious on the magazine, which included among several of his works, two quite offensive manifestos, edited by Lewis and signed by the rest of the team, including their beliefs on British art and culture along with the vorticist aesthetics. The manifestos resemble as much a poem as a statement that declare on the one hand the group's intention to establish themselves "beyond action and reaction" and on the other their desire to “stir up civil war among peaceful apes”. (Apes. What a relevant word nowadays!)
Image via rowenadunn
Anyhow, when the first iconic issue "Blast No.1: Review of the Great English Vortex" was published its groundbreaking bright pink cover with the huge, striking, black lettering could not fit better this provocative bunch of artists. Bringing words into life with its unconventional visual elements, such as rhythm, Blast’s typographical layout is a dramatic piece of graphic design, that can be easily considered as a reference to concrete or visual poetry.
For example, for Vorticists’ “Love” and “Hate” lists, the editors decided to replace the words with “Blast” and “Bless” and to further visualize their content in a typographic way. So, while the difference in text size draws the reader's attention and emphasizes its importance in the “Blast Humor” pages, by reading only the YELLING bold caps one makes no sense, the meaning is lost. On the contrary, the “Bless English Humor” pages are less frantic with text that flows down in a more balanced way, lacking the aggressive metaphor in letters. There are bold caps here too, but there is a cohesive meaning through them, which gives the page a more unified quality.
The typeface that was used to bring their vision to life is Grotesque No. 9. Blake Stephenson's intention was to create a clean, straightforward, and non-decorative series of sans serif typeface. With these fonts Lewis expressed his violent ideas in the most intense typographic way possible. On the occasion of the 100 years from the release of the first issue of BLAST! Redaction’s poetry magazine pays tribute to this insane piece of typographic art. Vorticism is very true indeed.
By Konstantina Yiannakopoulou