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Inspired by the past

Ninetyfive years of novum


Founded in Berlin under the name Gebrauchsgraphik in 1924, novum is one of the world’s leading design magazines. Each month, the international issue (English/German) presents outstanding work from the fields of graphic design, illustration, typography, packaging, and corporate design. novum also introduces new talent and explores current trends.

To celebrate its 95th birthday, novum’s editorial staff asked six renowned designers and agencies to create cover designs for the July 2019 anniversary issue: Marko Ilić (New York City), Fons Hickmann (Berlin), Holger Windfuhr (Frankfurt am Main), Hansje van Halem (Enschede), Yarza Twins (London) – and Q. The only requirement: Select a title page design from previous decades as a source of inspiration.

Left: the inspiration from 1925, right: our remix


In search of an inspiring artwork, we studied the comprehensive novum archive with a joyful sense of discovery. Ultimately, after a fascinating journey into the past century of communication art, we selected and reinterpreted a 1925 Gebrauchsgraphik title design by Tommi Parzinger (1903–1981) that depicts an artist painting type on a black cat.

After Hitler came to power, German graphic and ceramics designer Tommi Parzinger – gay and a creative libertine – saw which way the wind was blowing and emigrated to New York. He had been there before after winning a prize (a trip to the USA) in a poster competition. On Madison Avenue, the artist established “Parzinger Originals”, the best interior design store on the east coast, a hotspot for the rich and famous, serving clients such as the Rockefeller, Ford, and Dupont families – and even Marilyn Monroe. Each year, Parzinger created a new furniture and design collection. (The archive of the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museums includes some of his great drawings and photographs.) During our research, we contacted friends and relatives of Parzinger’s long-term partner, Donald Cameron. They described Tommi Parzinger as a cultured, diligent, and stylisticly confident dandy whose creative talent seemed never to run dry. When he delivered his Gebrauchsgraphik cover, he was already an esteemed poster designer in Germany, despite being in his early twenties.


Against Parzingers illustration we juxtaposed a photographed still life which stands on the same kitsch level as the original. (By the way: The cat figure is a pet’s urn.) Taking a passepartout into consideration which was going to frame all new title pages and provide as carrier for text information, our cover was reduced to the max to ensure long range effect from the magazine shelf. In the center of our visualization stand two potteries – a black glossy tomcat and a white artist with a brush. The dominant red and blue colors were joined by a green in the lower corner – as cross reference to today’s RGB system. Just as in the Parzinger artwork, the animal was superscribed with type – however, we’ve chosen imperfect letters to contrast the idealized scenery.

We have been very grateful for the positive feedback received from the editorial crew as well as being lined up with five highly admired collegues!