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Domus: Redesign

Founded and edited by the Milanese architect Gio Ponti, the first issue of the monthly magazine Domus came out on 15 January 1928. Over the course of its over eighty year long history, the magazine changed regularly to reflect the demands and interest of the times, while the aim of Domus has always been the creation of a privileged insight into the style of a particular age. Following the several redesigns (Ettore Sottsass, Alan Fletcher, Simon Esterson), onlab created the new magazine starting with its April 2008 issue.

With this spring issue, the magazine completes the metamorphosis inaugurated exactly one year ago. Now it can be savoured in all its totally refurbished, creative, interlocking and more fluid graphic guise.

Flavio Albanese


In its formal appearance Domus’s new image is at last on a par with the goal set a year ago for its contents: to be a magazine on the same wavelength as the Zeitgeist, which no longer accepts disciplines and knowledge packed in watertight compartments. Just as the informal city ousted the orderly grid of 19th-century symmetries, the knowledge and the knowing-how that have abandoned their ‘grand narrative’ are expressed through decreasing self-enclosed codes that are more and more permeable and open to hybridisation. As always, the art and design world – noblesse oblige – has picked up and metabolised this all-embracing cultural crossover, at no less than twice the speed and awareness of all other sectors of social life.

Domus aspires to capture and spread this awareness in advance, with the timeliness and communicative impact to be expected from a contemporary journal of art, architecture and design. Domus’s new graphic design thus immediately states its intent: readers are left in no shadow of doubt as they are struck by the magazine’s full transparent balance of form and content, interior and exterior. Its on-target mix and match of ideas and hints, emotional explorations and experiences perfectly mirrors the sensitivity and aesthetics of this third millennium’s global society.



Sharp typography and layout increase orientation and readability. Rigorous picture selection and editing make stories more appealing, to inform and to inspire the reader. A magazine that respects its readers is clearly readable, critical, understandable, yet challenging. The character of a magazine is the character of its makers. The creation of a magazine is a collaborative process. Everybody involved is a co-author of the content. Even though digital tools are central to the production of a magazine, both the creative process and the user’s experience are very analogue. It is the dialog between all the people involved in the editorial and creative process that creates the story. It is a matter of trust, responsibility and vigour.

Two fonts have been introduced: Gill Oroso, exclusively designed by onlab, and Relevant, the new font designed by binnenland.


Gill Oroso is based on a font (Gill Sans Display Extra) that has been created in the same year Domus was published for the first time.



Contents are organised according to intertextual and intervisual relations rather than according to a fixed chapter structure. Each issue works with a basic motif and its variations to create a distinct jazz-like rhythm and flow.

The content of domus becomes a flow of ideas that runs across all the pages. In each issue, we build the score of a composition of content in order to create a harmonic whole.”

Flavio Albanese, Domus 913, Editorial

A set of columns channels the vastness of reality into the cultivated eccentricity of the magazine. Columns link the roof to the base. Constituting the basic layout element, a variety of columns has been chosen in reference to the dynamic of a story in order to create a suitable or even unsuitable rhythm.

Each article extends horizontally over multiple columns, sometimes even continuing on the following page.

The content has remained divided into three main areas: the streams – news briefs found in the first pages of the magazine; the highlights – those parts of the text highlighted by underscoring, boxes, etc.; and the main stories – the actual articles that form the issue content.




Columns help to divide content and publicity



Issue No. 913

The first Domus issue redesigned by onlab


Image vs. text





Visual leads introduce a story, while cut pages offer a playful structure, hiding content and revealing it after turning the page, providing additional content such as both quotes and architectural plans, sketches, details or construction phases.




A section showcasing a selection of articles published in past Domus’ issues



Cover and wrapping principle

Being one of the decisive elements, onlab paid particular attention to the cover: every cover is considered an art piece being kept free from text. It has been defined that no architecture is shown on the cover either. Since in Italy all magazines are required cellophane wrapping, onlab used the wrapping as a means to create a compelling effect: wrapping and cover were both designed and printed as a composition.The cover is still more intimately constructed with its “outer” cover, because the overlapping of their two images produces a third. As a rule, the cover picture corresponds to a statement. In general it is what best describes the vision behind the choices within the magazine. In this way the image that comes across loud and clear is shaded into a multilayered story. What appears well defined turns out to be only a fragment of another image: a part, albeit important, which shows however that it possesses no univocal meaning. It is only a fragment of a statement with different points of view, that doubles and multiplies to become part of a confused, enigmatic image, charged with mystery and the unspoken.The image vanishes, however, with the act of unwrapping the magazine, with the removal and disposal of its outer cover. In a sense, the cover likewise interprets this aspiration to pass from structure to flow: from a fixed, clear and defined image to a more iridescent, changeable one that is open to interpretation.

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