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.

Condé Nast Traveler goes 1920’s (and still looks better than most other magazines)

February 25, 2008

Condé Nast Traveler looks very 20’s noirish on the cover… love the pale yellow logo on the blue sky, and the crop of the photo, with just enough of the sea and umbrellas showing. I can totally picture Jack Nicholson circa Chinatown standing on that balcony in his suit sweating his ass off. The layout doesn’t even have to try, it’s straightforward, simple to scan and doesn’t try to overwhelm you with how clever it thinks it is (see Wired’s latest cover for an example of trying too hard).

There’s also some great looking front of book stuff in here. The contributors pages look very elegant, nice consistency with the contents pages and other up front content. There’s a lot here to read, and little attempt made to dumb anything down, but plenty to scan and take in if you don’t have time to get into it. I love how you’re going through page after page of pretty dense copy and info, then suddenly you’re hit with a full-page of swimsuits and another of handbags like they’re saying “Wait! It’s not as serious as it looks!”
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The feature well contains really rich, beautiful looking photography, and carries on that 20’s-ish theme from the cover. I wish I knew how to color correct like that. I also think it’s really cool how they create a completely custom layout for each feature story, so you jump from the cover story and its noir theme to a piece on San Francisco with its own completely separate look and type treatment.
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And finally, I thought this illustrative infographic was really well put together. It really stands out from the fantastic vector-based graphics Condé Nast and John Grimwade in particular are famous for.

GQ Eric Bana cover reminds me I am fat, ugly

February 25, 2008

New american GQ arrived in the mail this weekend. Eric Bana looks good on the cover… is there some weird photoshop going on where his shirt tucks into his pants or is it just the shirt material? Maybe it looks weird because I can’t see any buttons on his shirt. The coverline ‘Eric Bana * Killer Good Looks’ wouldn’t make me want to go read the story on him if I wasn’t already a fan. What is that coverline saying? Down at the bottom of the page there’s a box with a 8pt pink border around it that looks a little clumsy, and a very small white caption looking box below that… I really like the cover photography, but the mixture of text and boxes on the cover layout looks clumsy I think, there’s nothing I look at first, nothing I immediately want to turn to.

The GQ contents page is fairly standard, easy to miss when when you eventually get there after 80 pages of ads.

I really like the look of the front of book stuff, none of it too long, easy to scan, looks interesting and cool. Nice mixture of fluffy content. I love The Sartorialist page, I can’t get enough of his blog since a friend introduced me to it. There’s a nice mixture of illustration, graphics sprinkled throughout the front of book and secondary editorial pieces, which I think is a good idea in a magazine like this, it helps identify the editorial from the photo/fashion heavy ad content.
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Eric Bana spread… the photography is beautiful of course, but I’m not digging the rubik’s cube illustration… the photography is strong, couldn’t it have stood on its own without the addition of an illustrated headline? The following spread (not pictured) is almost entirely text, with a few small photos and a continuation of the rubik’s cube theme as a drop cap.

Personally, this is why I think GQ is the world’s biggest men’s magazine. I freakin’ love this piece… taking young guys off the street (ok, not off the street and yes they’re all better than average looking) and dressing them in clothes that suit their body type and confort level – and includes a look at them before and after. What’s awesome about this is that there’s very little to read but what is there is actually very helpful, for example choosing the correct length of shirt to wear untucked, and can be seen in the before and after shots. The whole piece is so simple and so effective.
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National Geographic – awesome

February 23, 2008

Two National Geographics came in the mail this week, both just incredible to look at. I remember spending hours when I was a kid flipping through old copies just staring at photos of places I’d never heard of and had no idea if I’d ever go to them. I really need to make an effort to collect these so my daughter can experience the same. I’d also like to collect back issues, at least from the past few years.