Archive for February 2008

Blue is the color of 2008?

February 29, 2008

Pantone, and now apparently everyone else, is reporting that Iris Blue is going to be the color of 2008. Let me get my two cents in by saying that I think it’s going to be orange.

Portfolio magazine makes me hungry, temporarily forget how fat I am

February 29, 2008

The cover of February’s Portfolio magazine has an enormous, disgusting and incredibly tasty looking burger covering almost the entire cover. The cover story (‘How Fat Won’) is a really interesting piece on american fast food and the attitude of the fast food manufacturers toward the consumer. I love that the cover story used more shots of the burger, the burger ingredients and fries and grease stains as a drop cap! And I’m worried at how much I want to taste that burger.
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Moving back to the front of the book, there are 4 contents pages. There’s nice use of white space, compelling photography, clear labeling and easy to read fonts. The first three pages are used for features, columns and some other sections labelled ‘Culture Inc.’ and ‘In Play’. The fourth is a website contents page, whose layout is significantly different from the first three, which makes me wonder what is the benefit of making this page look so different from the print content pages? Is it so the reader doesn’t immediately assume that they are reading a fourth page of print content? Or is it because they don’t promote as much of the site’s content because it’s going to update and change so much throughout the print mag’s month-long shelf-life?
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Also, the contributor’s section is placed between two left and right hand half-page vertical ads… and are given a very generous amount of space considering how little actual information there is there. But definitely a unique idea for this type of page.

There are a lot of infographics in here (yes, I’d include the Britney Spears double-spread as an infographic – it’s just text-driven and relies on photography instead of vector-graphics), and they don’t seem to have one particular style they’ve settled on, unlike other Condé Naste publications such as Traveler. But that doesn’t take away from the look of the magazine in the slightest, in fact it seems to add a fun, lighter feeling as you flick through, and makes you stop more than once to find out what you’re looking at. Unfortunately there are a couple of occassions where an advertisement on the opposite page to a graphically driven layout or infographic is very similar in use of white space or floating elements and completely detracts from what would otherwise have been a very interesting page (see the ‘Calendar’ page below as an example, or the ‘Back Story’ page). I face similar problems with every issue of our magazine as we don’t place the ads here in-house and frequently don’t know what the ads look like until we see bluelines. We’re working on changing this slowly, but the big fight isn’t going to be changing our process, it’s going to be convincing the advertisers to change the way their ads look.
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PASTE magazine getting into the groove

February 28, 2008

Another magazine swiped from a co-worker before they arrive at the office…. Paste’s covers have always made me pick it up, but I rarely actually buy the magazine myself. I appreciate they’re trying to really build their own strong identity and I think it’s working on their covers, but I think perhaps they’d do themselves a service by making their interior templates look a little less Rolling Stone, especially in their choice of fonts and colors and the use of keylines of varying widths and colors all over the pages. But back to the cover, many times I don’t think they’ve made their logo contrast enough with whatever is on the cover to stand out on the newsstand or even be readable, and seem to remember several covers that use an abundance of browns, dark reds and yellows, that just completely dissappear when surrounded by other magazines. This issue is different… a simple iconic image, dark background with white-ish type on the coverlines and banner on a dark background, and a lot of space make this the most dramatic and eye-catching cover I’ve seen from them yet, I really hope they continue down this road. Looking in the top left corner, there’s one of these ‘*’ things which I’ve used myself in the past and am equally guilty of abusing without even thinking about what it actually does, which I think in the case of Paste’s cover is nothing. Designers seem to love slapping on plus signs, stars, flashes and all kinds of crap which I don’t think they’re really thinking about, they’re just sheeping their layouts in order to try to keep up with what’s ‘current’. But I digress, this Paste cover is awesome overall, and they should pat themselves on the back for producing it.

I mentioned above the interior layout and template, but they also make use of some charts and infographics, some of which work, some which don’t… and they also have one of those website contents pages which seems rather wasteful here considering how little they seem to have on the page itself.
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The contributors page highlights some issues with hyphenation and justification. There’s some stretching of words causing some ugly white space between letters to fill an awkward column width which looks like it could have been easily fixed with a little deft editing or simply justifying left, but maybe this page, like the table of contents is one of those pages that’s knocked out at the end of the production cycle, one of the last things to be done, which is a problem I’m trying to address at my own magazine too!

I like this spread on ‘4 to Watch’, but something also bothers me about it. It seems like it needs to go through another couple of design revisions, there are some drop caps hanging over the line of copy below them, the stat boxes at the start of each entry are really drab looking, and as these are presumably lesser-known artists, I’d like to have seen a little more emphasis on their names, and maybe some album art too (who knows, they may not have album art available). Finally, I think this page highlights the weaknesses of some of their regular templated font choices, particularly the one used on the top left for ‘4 to Watch’. The word ‘to’ just looks weird, and kind of ugly compared to the really clean, helvetica-ish font used immediately below, or the more western looking font immediately above (‘Scrapbook’).

For all my criticsm however, I have to say this next piece blew me away. It’s an illustrated ‘Field Guide to Animal Bands’, by the ‘Paste Faunomusicology Society’, and has four illustrative/infographic spreads that require you to turn the magazine sideways to read. Each is broken up into a category – ‘Jungle’, ‘Insects, birds & rodents’, ‘Aquatic’, and ‘Extinct’, and contains an illustration of a type of animal which is labelled and representative of a band talked about in a blurb at the bottom of the page. I think the illustration is a mixture of ink, watercolor and photoshop enhancement, but combined with the old-fashioned field guide look of the layout, is just incredible to look at. There’s actually a lot of illustration used throughout the magazine, and all of it is really nice, it’s good to see a magazine which uses multiple illustrators to such good effect. See the four spreads below, click to make larger (sorry for the picture quality!). The illustrator’s name is Jeremy Holmes.
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How many subscriptions cards are in a magazine?

February 27, 2008

I cleaned my desk today… I started collecting these subs cards from whatever magazines I had on my desk about a week ago. Look how many there are! I wonder what the cost per issue is to insert these? Probably depends on the type of insertion. I redesigned ours recently after realizing we were using the same ones from 4 years ago, since way before our redesign. I’ve asked for the response rate for those, I’ll update this post as soon as I do.

Wallpaper magazine is ENORMOUS

February 27, 2008

Another huge issue of Wallpaper. I swiped this from a co-worker this morning.

I’m not going to go into detail, but I really liked this contributors page…

…and this secondary contents page for the fashion section of the magazine…

They also have some really nice, simple product layouts…
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I also liked the look of this page…

…and the photography used in this spread…

Finally, I really liked the last page of editorial in the magazine. A really simple, graphic use of photography and text…

FOLIO: The magazine for magaz… zzz … zzz … zzz

February 26, 2008

Note to FOLIO magazine’s distributor: Next time could you print a warning and wrap this in brown paper so that my eyes don’t commit suicide when I look at the cover? Could this magazine about MAGAZINES look any worse? I’m sure it could, but not much. Two guys in suits? Wow, my world just turned upside down. Such a shame, because there is interesting stuff in here for anyone involved in or interested in magazines ….

Intersection magazine’s amazing retro styling

February 26, 2008

Got my hands on a copy of the winter 2007 Intersection magazine. I’ve always flicked through it in the bookstore but never been quite taken enough by the content to buy a copy, but a co-worker showed me this issue, and I think I’m going to have to start getting it regularly. The first thing I’m struck by is the photography and product/fashion styling… there’s an amazing 60’s/early 70’s vibe to the photography, from the composition of the shots, the lighting right down to the color correction, it all reminds me of stuff my parents had lying around the house when I was a kid. Even the models look from that era, and the clothing and hairstyles seem to be modern interpretations of the same. I think that this effect is enhanced even more by many of the products in this issue, which are either conceptual or in the early stages of production, and so still have that future-retro look which vehicle designers seem to love to incorporate into their designs (and which NEVER look as cool once they actually reach production).
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There’s also some more run of the mill type product photography, which is still excellent and very nicely lit, and some nicely used manufacturer supllied photography (at least I’m guessing it’s from the manufacturer).
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I think it’s great that they give so much space up for the photography. The layout itself is very consistent and simple throughout the magazine, although I’m not keen on the serif font used for body copy, and the narrow gap between columns which make the text seem somewhat cramped, even though there’s actually a lot of white space used here. Also the lack of indents on new paragraphs and use of small headers on pages with multiple stories makes moving from one review to the next, or even one paragraph to the next a little difficult if you take your eyes off the page for a second.

I’m slightly baffled as to who their target audience is… is it the young and affluent? Or gadget and technology enthusiasts? It has a very stylized look, it’s very too cool for school looking, but the editorial in the product reviews reads like any other magazine. Regardless, it’s a pleasure to look at, and pretty interesting to read too.