In publishing, there’s a lot to be said for making images big. (You may have noticed we subscribe to that philosophy around here.) But no matter how big and beautiful a digital image gets, it’s still just an evanescent group of pixels. As designer Tom Crabtree tells Co.Design, “as we consume more and more visual culture online, we’re certainly discovering what’s out there, but not experiencing it in a physical or permanent way.”
He created a large-format art magazine called Loose Leaf Editions to address this problem: each “issue” is a giant, file-folder-like envelope containing unbound pages (with pre-punched holes) full of gorgeous images and layouts. It even ships with pushpins so you can tack your tearsheets right to the wall, sans tearing.
Crabtree, who also serves as Loose Leaf Editions’ editor-in-chief, calls his creation “a hybrid of periodical, poster, collectible archive and personal art gallery.” Curating the launch issue — which contains contributions by Andrew Zuckerman, Dave Eggers, Mark Giglio, and others — came naturally: “In running a graphic design studio I get to work with a other creative folks, so I always have an eye out for new sources of inspiration and collaboration,” he says. “While some of the works in Loose Leaf are large scale reproductions of existing works, over half of the works were created specifically for the edition and will most likely not be published again.”
Crabtree calls it a periodical, poster, and personal art gallery.
But while Crabtree is himself a designer and proud, he says that he “wanted to be very careful not to make this just another “graphic design for other graphic designers” project.” To that end he kept his design flourishes to a minimum and let the art speak for itself. “I want Loose Leaf to appeal to a broader audience, so the first edition samples from photography, illustration, craft, and fashion,” he explains. “Now that the format is set, the content can continually shift. Future editions may feature architecture, graphics, or even written content.” For the second edition, tentatively shipping in late October, Crabtree plans to curate around a landscape-based theme.
So is Loose Leaf Editions (which costs $80 per issue) just another atavistically arty response to the forward march of time and tech? After all, aren’t tablet computers supposed to make digital images and content wonderfully tactile again? “There’s no doubt that digital publishing on touch screen devices is changing the way we consume and interact with information and content, and that’s great,” he says. “But an object like Loose Leaf really doesn’t have to compete with the iPad since it’s fundamentally a different experience and has a different purpose. Call me old fashioned, but print does have some redeeming features, two of which are permanence and physicality. We spend so much time discovering artists work online and hitting the “bookmark” button, but never really experience a connection to the work in a more physical way. In a sense, Loose Leaf is bookmarking in a permanent way.” In other words, use those pushpins.