Jessica McGowan is a graphic designer who is based in Berlin. Other than being a freelance graphic designer and art director, she also publishes the photography magazine Primary Paper, in collaboration with the stylist, Coquito Cassibba. We talked with Jessica about her works and their magazine, Primary Paper.
I’m an independent Graphic Designer and Art Director. I grew up in Sydney, Australia, but moved to New York in 2012, where I worked for six years before moving to Berlin, where I am currently based.
Primary Paper has been one of my biggest projects for the past couple of years. I also work independently on a range of projects—mostly brand identities or art direction—as well as freelancing in-house at bigger brands. For example, I’m currently freelancing at a music technology company in Berlin called Ableton.
Primary Paper is an independent magazine curated and edited by myself and stylist Coquito Cassibba. Each issue we look at trends that are happening in fashion and art photography at the time and then brief a selection of contributors to respond to that theme. For example, our last issue was based around the idea of ‘Age’. We realised a lot of photographers, and even brands, were no longer focusing on the ‘young’ or the ‘youthful’. There was a real shift in the diversity of subjects and casting which was incredibly refreshing and something we wanted to explore and celebrate in the issue.
Our upcoming issue, which will launch in December of this year, is on the theme of ‘Environment’. Again, an incredibly relevant—but also quite political—topic in current art and culture.
So Primary actually came about a couple of years ago, I was creating a series of moodboards—sometimes for fun, sometimes for work—which explored colour combinations and palettes. These moodboards were mostly monochromatic, and brought together really varied photography styles but were tied together by a single colour/tone. Coquito had seen these and was inspired to start a magazine exploring this idea. So she approached me to collaborate. Both coming from the photography world—but with different skillsets—it was a really good fit.
Our first issue explored the concept of ‘Colour’, each story was monochromatic in its own way. As we’ve continue to evolve the magazine the ideas and themes have also evolved beyond colour and to relevant themes of the moment.
The design direction of the magazine was originally very focused on this ‘Colour’ concept. Each issue I try to create a palette that is specific to that issue and aligns with the photography. The palette of the first issue really focused on the primary colours and felt very bold and saturated as a lot of the photography was rich in colour. While the more recent issues, the photography has a more muted tone so our palette is a lot earthier - nice olives, peaches, light blues.
Overall the graphic design is fairly toned back, allowing the photography to be the focus. But I do love to layer in a lot of pops of solid colour for fun.
Coquito and I usually start with the issue’s theme and brainstorm around that, to begin with. We then put together a brief and a list of contributors we feel align well with the theme and approach them. As we’ve gotten a little more known we have also been lucky enough to have some amazing photographers approach us wanting to contribute.
From there, we discuss story ideas with the contributors and then they go and shoot. The fun part is definitely seeing how the story comes together and then collaborating with them on the final edit and layout.