Interview: Bettina Schulz – In A World Of Design
Bettina Schulz has been chief editor of the international magazine novum – World of Graphic Design since 2001, and a member of the editorial staff since 1994. As a freelance copywriter and editor she also works for national and international magazines. Schulz is a member of juries in many design competitions, including the red dot:communication design, the European Design Awards, the MfG Award of the German Printing and Media Industries Federation, the twice-yearly diploma awards presentation at the U5 Academy. She is also co-founder of the Creative Paper Conference in Munich.
Name: Bettina Schulz
Place of residence: Munich, Germany
Profession: Chief Editor , freelancing journalist
Food: Across the cuisines of the world
Transportation: Cabrio or bicycle – depending on where to go
How big is novum Magazine and with how many people are you working together?
novum is a monthly magazine and has a print run of around 10.400 copies in more than 70 countries. Our team consists of four people: two editors, an art director and our head advertising. But of course we’re also working with a broad network of freelance writers, correspondents and a translation agency.
Why did you choose magazine design as your personal specialization?
Actually I’m not a designer and somehow my position at novum came out of the blue. After my publishing education I switched to the editorial department and thenceforward I simply got hooked on the entire graphic design topic.
As more and more magazines move from print to online, do maybe already fear the digital Damocles Sword?
It’s hard to say. There’s for example no chance to transfer the novum into digital form. We’re too much dependent on various paper qualities, print refinement and techniques.
The haptic part of our magazine is way too important and definitely a counter pole to the digital media. But there are for sure some great online magazines, which are extensively using the advantages of the Internet, just like we’re using the advantages of the print media. As far as I concern, both worlds are still having their right to exist. It’s the grand diversity that preserves the attraction of the media landscape, and I for my share don’t want to choose between the two sides.
How has your own work evolved in the course of your career?
As I mentioned before, I slowly slipped into the entire business. I know the commercial and organizational part of an editorial department and came through work experience and personal dedication to the creative side of the job. By now I’m working as freelance journalist and writer for various studios and magazines. In combination with the editorship for my precious novum I definitely won’t get bored for the next few years!
Where do you find your inspiration?
I think you don’t have to look for inspiration if you just walk with open eyes through our world. It’s probably much harder to find a healthy balance between rest and stress. Therefore I really try to select my informative input: I’m neither on Facebook nor do I own a smartphone. Might sound old-fashioned, but at least I have some truly relaxing moments, where I reflect and recharge? And when I meet people, I don’t feel the urge to check my mailbox every five minute. Of course it’s important for me to collect new impressions on trips or exhibitions, in the theater or somewhere else, but sometimes you have to make a cut to handle the input and evaluate your own thoughts. You can’t do that with constant overflow of information.
What’s the difference between design and art?
There’s probably also more than one definition. Art is able, but it doesn’t necessarily have to communicate or make a statement. Design in contrast has to do that. Art can exist without function. Design has rules that are based on pragmatic things. The easiest way to explain is by the famous sentence: Design is art that makes itself useful. Not more, but also not less!
Is design losing its relevance in our everyday life?
Definitely not! A good design is getting more and more important. The more communication, channels and media are available, the more orientation is needed. Nobody would for example cut out traffic lights if there were more and more cars on the streets. They would rather set up even more traffic signs to control the chaos! As soon as there’s only one single billboard around, it will always get attention, doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. But here and now we got to deal with an endless number of messages day by day, decide faster, become more intuitive – therefore we urgently need good design that guides us. Nowadays design has to be much more concentrated and focused. Time itself became more superficial – things that don’t seem comprehensible at first glance, are a pure waste of money. And that’s also true for every kind of company: being “loud” isn’t enough any longer to be heard – sustainable communication and elaborate strategies are becoming more and more important. Especially in economically hard times they’re helping to safe money, preserve the environment and stabilize the common sense for values.
Can you name some of your most productive apps on the iPad that you use for work?
Same here: Our team acquired a great competence within the paper and print sector over the years – in this regard there’s not much to gain through apps. But we actually are thinking about a reasonable combination of these completely opposed fields. Anyway the project is still at the beginning and given that we want to create a premium product, it will keep us busy for quite some time. We simply don’t want to release something halfhearted, just because everybody is throwing his or her stuff on the market right now. If it’s coming out, it won’t be a plain gadget but something of true value.
Have you got a ‘hidden gem’ type iPad app that more people should know about?
…sorry, I can’t help you with that stuff.
What was the biggest obstacle that you’ve had to master in your career?
Maybe no personal obstacle, but novum definitely had its ups and downs in the past. It’s again a matter of our main focus: The print media has seen a massive decline during the Internet hype of the 90ies that of course affected us as well. People started almost hysterically to put their products online one-to-one – mostly with poor success. In so doing they wasted their biggest trump: know how and costly researched information! A bad mistake in my opinion because most people simply don’t cherish free things that much. Around that time in 2001 I took over the editorship – not an easy situation as you can imagine. Together we came to the conclusion that print is hardly able to compete with the Internet regarding speed and depth. But print has its own strengths. And something that is true for every competitive situation is the fact that there’s no point to badmouth or imitate your opponent. We had to concentrate on our own strength and offer the reader something special that he can’t purchase online. It worked out and we were able to achieve a 50% rise of our sales from 2004 to 2011! Print is apparently still alive and relevant – a fact that is as well underlined every two years by our Creative Paper Conference. ❚