11 on 11: A Chat With Coverjunkie Jaap Biemans

Jaap Biemans of Coverjunkie.comWorking as an editorial designer, I’m constantly impressed (and influenced) by my industry peers. Nowhere is that more true than sifting through the magazines (and covers) at the local magazine stand. Problem is, there is not a stand in town that has the volume that I—as an admitted “Coverjunkie”—wants or needs to consume. Thankfully, that’s where Jaap Biemans and his creation Coverjunkie.com comes in. As a permanent member of my internet browser “bookmarks bar,” Coverjunkie.com has been digging up covers from all over the world for the last few years. More recently, Jaap designed and produced a 96-page Coverjunkie magazine jam-packed with many of the best covers of 2011 and interviews with industry greats such as Arem DuplessisRichard TurleyMatt WilleyRodrigo SanchezFrancesco FranchiRobert Newman and legend George Lois. Jaap seems to be having so much fun interviewing these days I thought it’d be fun to flip the script and dish a few questions his way. His answers may (or may not) surprise you.
- – - -
1. Hi Jaap! Thanks for taking a few minutes to sit down and answer a few questions. First off, lets get started with the basics: Mouse or pen tablet? Mac or PC? Indesign or Quark? Batman or Spiderman?
Ha! Well, I use a mouse, choose Mac over PC and think Spiderman is king. Here in Holland we also have Cowboy Henk though—who definitely rocks over both Spiderman or Batman.
2. You’ve got the hottest magazine around right now—it’s been getting play all over the place. How does it feel for your pet project to be getting so much international love?
It’s been such an ace feeling. I see it popping up everywhere. Just last week somebody ordered 10 all the way from Australia. You have to understand that Coverjunkie is not a marketing tool from a mag or publisher—it’s independent, ad free and made entirely out of love. The fact people pick it up makes all the long nights and crazy hours worthwhile.
3. So with the success of this ‘zine, do you see yourself doing it again next year?
Two months ago I would have said, “Oh no, it really messes up my social life big time. No thanks!” But then a week ago I’d probably say, “Well, maybe. But I need to see some beach first.” Today it’s more like, ”When I find a sponsor—hell yeah!”
4. How did you get started with Coverjunkie? Where did the idea for the website come from?
I love print and wanted to show that. I was getting sick of the “print is dead” statement—that’s so 2009. I believe in print, in the iPad and in the web all together—there’s no “instead.” I understand that it’s hard out there, but when I hear that bullshit statement I get nasty.
I’m a designer of magazines myself and it gives me a good feeling to design covers each week. I was blogging in Dutch about it and received a really great response. So one day after a lecture (about covers of course), Robbert Zantinge came up to me and said, “You’re a real cover junkie.” The name was born and I ran with it from there.
5. Your site has become a place for young editorial designers to gain exposure on a international level. Was that the intention—or was it more of a happy accident?
It was a very happy accident. Designers from all around the world just started sending me their stuff. Of course, I did have to start selecting it a bit, but I love to show good work and I love to credit the guys designing it. There really is so much credit deserved! Coverjunkie is a perfect mix between high-end artsy mags, hotshot (big brand) titles and small independents. They come from everywhere—Peru, Italy, India, Australia, the US—and it makes it so much more interesting.
6. In your opinion, who’s doing the most ace work these days? Who’s consistently “wowing” you each month (or week)?
Well, it’s real easy to create one great cover a year. But you really need talent to create ten or twelve great ones a year! Not too many people can design ten or more fab ones. I know guys like Richard Turley and Arem Duplessis are killing it each week. I love the clear approach from Richard Turley in particular. And I love how Arem Duplessis asks big name artists to be part of his covers—epic stuff. It must be so much fun to work with that team.
More people that “wow” me consistently are Noma Bar, Daniel Bognar from Suddeutsche ZeitungRodrigo Sánchez from Metropoli, and Clara Montagut from Spanish Esquire. Other mags that are killing it are IL from Italy, Port from the UK, Zeit from Germany,  Collect from Australia and the always weird Humo from Belgium.
I’m really curious to see if New York Mag can bounce back after the departure of Chris Dixon. I check Wired each month—they always have a killer feature. The bitch of all this name dropping is that I am guaranteed to forget some good ones. Plus, you can’t forget the old days! I regularly buy old Interview mags on Ebay—you know the old Warhol ones out of the 70′s? They carry such a great vibe. I love to read the articles from those days, they’re so ace.
7. I couldn’t agree more. Now I’ve been noticing you use this term “ace” a lot. Where’s that from? Is that a European thing?
Haha… no, I just love the sound of the word. To be honest, I punch it way more often on my keyboard than I say it out loud. It’s too difficult to use in Dutch often.
8. I love that you have so much international flavor on your site, but give it to me straight: who’s doing the better editorial work these days—Europe or the U.S.?
The international flavor of Coverjunkie gives me a great feeling. But on your question I definitely would have to say the U.S. And honestly, I think that’s pretty remarkable. I did an internship in New York during my years at the Academy of Fine Arts and hated—absolutely hated—the U.S. magazine designs. They were so old fashioned. But that has really turned around completely. I do also have to emphasize the Italian mags like IL, Italian Wired and Italian Rolling Stone. They have so much detail, and I’ve really fell in love with those the last year or so. The worst design out there right now is the Netherlands. There’s too much copy-and-paste going on here. And there’s really no need for that because we have such a great tradition in magazine design.
9. I keep seeing some restaurant you’ve been taking pictures of like crazy the last few months on Instagram. What’s the scoop? Do they sell hamburgers?
No way! Did you follow that a bit? It was an amazing project—one of the largest and most fulfilling projects I’ve done in my life. It was a 10 day pop-up restaurant called “Radio Royaal” I helped with during the Dutch Design Week here in the Netherlands. We started it with four friends, (all heavy duty restaurant guys) in one of the most coolio locations imaginable—an old Philips factory in Eindhoven (photos here). We bought these ace Friso Kramer chairs and tables, hired a fab chef and created the whole vibe during the process. It ended up being a huge success and sold out the last eight of ten evenings. We even got a big ten-page feature in Elle Decor magazine with this project! It’s going to re-open this April and right now we’re working on developing the big space underneath the restaurant to be a cool exposition space. My role has been designing the identity—from the big neon signs, to the little stickers on the packages, to the lettering on the roof. Heck, during the Design Week I even played the barista! I rock a mean espresso.
10. So lets say you’re putting together an editorial design “dream team” to save the print industry from the clutches of the web. Who’s on your roster?
Point guard: Arem Duplessis
Shooting guard: Francesco Franchi
Small forward: Daniel Bognar
Power forward: Richard Turley
Center: George Lois (Man, I would love to see him designing covers these days)
But here’s an another idea… what about this team: Chuck KerrMatt WilleyChris DixonMike Koedinger… there’s just too many good ones out there! Or what about creating an all-Dutch team? We should make our own “magazine world championships.” I know I’d take Sabine VerschuerenLuis Mendo, Hans Wolf and the guys from O.K. Periodicals. Oh boy, are there some great ones…
11. So I know you live in Amsterdam—and being a sheltered American I gotta ask: Is it true what they say? Does everyone over there just smoke pot all day? Is that where all this European creativity is coming from?
Hahaha… that’s funny. No, there’s no need for weed. Marijuana really isn’t an issue for people over here because it’s legal and easy to buy. I think many people don’t smoke weed when there’s no thrill about getting it (doing something illegal). Inspiration is all about a clear head if you ask me.   …and some good, strong espresso.

Leave a Comment