Saveur magazine not well-done

OK, I bought Saveur today hoping to see some kick-ass food photography and layouts but was disappointed by what I found. The opening contents page is beautiful, it has a page width column of text introducing the whole issue (devoted to butter, yet no mention of Marlon Brando), and a traditional table of contents style layout below it.
savcov.jpg savtoc.jpg

Then we move on to the front of book content and things start to get dicey. It’s not the magazine looks bad – it doesn’t – but rather that it feels like there was one template made for a front of book section and it just got used for everything. I’m all about consistency but I also believe in mixing things up a bit while maintaining consistency, to keep everything fresh, but here it feels kind of stale and less art directed, more production department. The mixture of almost elegant photography and mish-mash of fonts leaves me feeling a little confused. For example, the opener of the ‘Fare’ section is a full page photo of a traditional feast bread in the shape of a staff. The photo itself is ok, but it has to compete with the thick font used for the section header running across it in yellow, as well as an ugly block of text with equally ugly red-boxed drop cap and badly hyphenated body-copy. There’s so little text on here and what is there is so distractingly ugly that it brings the whole page to a crashing halt. On its own, and reduced in size to not compete with ‘Fare’, the photo would have been a striking opening to this section but instead it’s merely blah. Infuriatingly, it’s also been placed opposite a full-page ad with a striking resemblance layout wise to the ‘Fare’ photo opener. Is this deliberate? Am I going crazy, or does this just look bad and detract even more from the editorial? I know placement is important to advertisers, but Jebus!

Here’s some more of the templated look I mention above… some of it is kind of hard to figure out where to look first. The photography here also seems to be somewhat middle of the road. It’s not bad, but after being spoiled by the likes of Gourmet and bon appétit, you can’t help feeling somewhat let down by some of the images in here. They feel like just a little more work on the lighting, some more time on the color correction, and they’d have worked. But right now they neither make want to eat the food or spend much time looking at it.
savfob.jpg savfoodphoto.jpg savfoodphoto2.jpg

There’s also a lot of stuff crammed into the spine (like the Russia layout above), or spread across the spine, further muddling an already busy and wishy-washy layout. The opening spread to the whole butter feature well is completely underwhelming. The spine pulls the headline into the fold, as well as the deck which is made amost unreadable unless you pull the magazine tight on either side to open it right up. The mixture of photography on this spread again does nothing to compel or interest, and huge variations in quality of lighting, and little variation in composition of photography makes the whole page just blah. Turning over to the next spread, we’re greeted with a full-page picture of a cow opposite a full-page of text. Again, you can see what they were trying to do with a quirky cow photo, but none of the ingredients are right – cropping, composition, layout, colors, are all just there, nothing leaps out and grabs you, and nothing makes you want to read on. Even the bodycopy font is boring, badly hyphenated and awkwardly spaced, it looks slightly too large. The headline, deck and drop cap/intro paragraph are all competeing with one another to be the most bland, and the page as a whole comes across as dull.
savbutteropener.jpg savfeat2.jpg

Finally, I wanted to show this spread as a perfect example of a missed opportunity. It’s a spread on ’30 Great Butters’, and cotains a photo of each in its wrapper, almost all consistently shot, and each accompanied by 40 or so words describing its taste and origin. Graphically it’s almost interesting, but there’s something so…half-assed about the intro copy on the top left and the justifed blurbs below each image. I feel like I’m just being mean now, but it feels like this page could have had so much visual impact and have been made a lot more interesting to spend some time looking at. Shorter blurbs to accompany each image would be a start, and maybe a more imaginative arrangement of the butter packs themselves, while still remaining individually recognisable for shoppers.

Explore posts in the same categories: bad magazine design, color choice, contents pages, Covers, design, Food, Magazines, Photography, Production, Why is it like this?

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4 Comments on “Saveur magazine not well-done”

  1. DDD Says:

    Just for the record, as the former associate art director, I would comment that what you are looking at is not the “design” of the magazine, but the broken horrendous Frankenstein-like redesign. I’ve documented it at the link above. We were regularly nominated for design awards back in the day….the magazine, if you ask me, is now a parody of its former self.

  2. Thanks for the comment, very interesting read (please click ‘DDD’s name to read the whole story!)

  3. DDD Says:

    Here’s another link which includes a look at our former feature design….

    • C nicchitta Says:

      very interesting — was given a copy of saveur recently (2010) — and was stunned at how bad it was — at all levels, writing, story ideas, layout. I’m a freelance editor and someone who loves to cook but only occasionally get around to reading food mags & had not followed what had happened to this one. Happy to have found these links, as it explains everything. Sad story.

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