"A gyrfalcon is the north wrapped in feathers and made into a bird. It is the largest of all falcons, and found around the globe in the bald and shivering head of the far-northern hemisphere."
on april 3 2010, apple computer launched the first ipad, a digital computer tablet that confounded all previous attempts at a similar device, by selling in unprecedented quantities. other companies who wished to be seen in this market sector have released similar devices, on the whole offering similar capabilities. along with amazon's kindle series, the tablet invasion was at one time seen as a major competitor to the printed word. no longer, we were told, would it be necessary to line the sitting room walls with bookshelves and magazine racks. retailers such as w h smith would soon have need of redesigning their sales space, for no longer would we purchase printed magazines in the quantities that had hitherto been the case.
as previewed by wired magazine, the appetites of the very near future would be sated by a plethora of interactive digital publications that would transform the way we read our monthly magazines. there would be no longer any need to carry an extra bag of glossy paper to read on the train, the bus, the ferry or the aeroplane. all would be contained on our tablets or even phones in glorious, interactive pixellation.
some of that has undoubtedly come true. many of amazon's books are available in digital format for immediate download, providing yet more instant gratification even that of the occasionally impulsive spend. but print has not disappeared from view with the alacrity proposed by the tablet makers. admittedly, much of their proselytising was at the behest of a rush for lucrative market share; the conversion to digital was never going to be as fast or as total as their marketing departments would have us believe.
bluntly put, many of us still prefer ink on paper, for convenience, for tactility and because several decades of reading the printed word on paper were never likely to be wiped out overnight.
however, given the inexorable rise of the ipad and its peers, it would be a brave man who committed valuable resources to launching a new print publication, albeit one that appears only twice per year. and though cycling has undoubtedly increased its world market share in recent years, it still remains a niche activity; not all of its new adherents share the obsession of that one man.
rapha's simon mottram.
you may recall that rapha has been down this road before, or at very least, a road of similar ilk. as mr mottram testifies in his introduction to the first issue of mondial, rapha's new publication available as of today (17 july), they first offered us rouleur at the co-instigation of former editor guy andrews in 2006, before selling it in 2012. you would wonder then, why it has been deemed necessary to apparently repeat the process only three years later? the answer, according to rapha is "We believe it's time for our sport to show more confidence and ambition, and take another leap forward. Road cycling is the greatest sport in the world but it's so much more than that."
that latter statement may be the real key to mondial's future success. when was the last time you opened your cycle magazine to be met with advertisements for paul smith, timothy everest, vitra furniture, usm furniture, and a feature on birds of prey? i asked rapha's jack saunders, the magazine's principal designer what was his inspiration when designing the magazine?
"From the outset of the design process we were acutely aware that we were more likely to create something unique and quintessentially Rapha by looking back over ten years of the design and content we have produced ourselves. Early catalogues and posters through to the most recent expressions of our brand in-store and online provided a rich pool of creative work to reference and reinvent in Mondial. It is much easier to see the design cues of a 1970s Gazzetta Dello Sport or Miroir-Sprint - two titles synonymous with the sport of Road cycling - in Mondial, as these publications have also been an influence on the aesthetic of our brand."
it is also indicative of rapha's acute understanding of not only its own position in the world of road cycling, but that of its fans, customers and adherents that the pink cover features no illustrations but simply textual references to the magazine's contents.
"Black text on pink paper is a direct homage to the front cover of the Gazetta Della Sport, the Italian newspaper responsible for the creation of the Giro d'Italia in 1909. Famed for its pink paper, the Gazzetta, with its strong connection to the sport of road racing, has always been an influence on the overall design of our brand. Also, as a members' magazine which is sold online and shipped directly to our customers, we would not appear on news stands. This gave us the opportunity to break away from conventional considerations, which was namely to omit imagery and place the masthead in the centre of the page as a means of giving Mondial a distinctive identity."
the contents of mondial are many and varied. lest you fear that this will simply be rouleur mark two, let me disavow you of that misapprehension immediately. the making of a jersey, the origins of the rapha continental, a gallery of superb ben ingham photography in which the bicyle is almost conspicuous by its absence, an interview with architect jan gehl and timm kolln's portraits of the legs of the peloton. the avowed intent of mondial is 'to bring a cycling viewpoint to broader cultural subjects and to help expand the sport's reference points.'
that may seem high faluttin' to the point of pretentiousness, but i might refer you to my earlier point that, for all its increased popularity, cycling remains a niche activity. unless we (or someone on our behalf) grab the opportunity to make cycling more relevant to those not possessed of our own velocipedinal obsessions, it could just as easily sink back ino the mire as quickly as it has risen. mondial magazine is very unlikely to achieve this all on its own, particularly in view of its twice yearly publication schedule, but then rouleur started out with only four issues per year...
however, what mondial brings to the table over and above its philosophy and content is a commitment to the finer nuances of style, photography and typography, the latter resulting in the commissioning of a bespoke typeface with which to headline its pages. jack saunders very kindly set thewashingmachinepost in this typeface that i might use as an example (see above). what prompted the apparent need for a new typeface when so many are already available from the world's digital foundries?
"The custom font displays heavy influence from typefaces found in La Gazzetta circa 1970s. We worked with Colophon Foundry to develop the Mondial masthead and headline typeface. Our brand fonts, Trade Gothic and Adobe Caslon have always served us well, but we feltĘthat there was space to do something new for Mondial; editorially we wanted to bring more character to the pages.
"The final font is a dense condensed typeface with lots of quirky characteristics. It has an almost woodblock style with slightly rounded edges. Again, as with the other design cues in the Mondial, there is an Italian influence. Lots of our research was directed at the Gazzetta and some old Italian type specimen books that we have in the studio.
"We think the end result gives the magazine a distinct and bold identity."
it would be a tad sycophantic to say that the appearance of mondial is just what the world of road cycling needed to bolster its new-found fame (i've been advised by three, previously non-cycling friends this week alone that they have purchased or intend to acquire a road bike by month's end). however, mondial's apparent desire to encompass the world beyond strava, srm power meters and sportwool is a bold move. we may soon be wondering why nobody had thought of this before.
and for those who need to know, yes, it does have that wonderful rouleur aroma.
the first issue of mondial is on sale from today (friday 17 june) price £10 (159 pages). rapha club members will already have received their copies in advance as part of their membership benefits. mondial is not available in high street retailers.
friday 17 july 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................