Archive for April 2008

SFX Magazine available free in other galaxies

April 24, 2008

This is silly.

Blender almost does it for me

April 23, 2008

Blender’s May 2008 issue has Alicia Keys on the cover, no doubt selflessly serving up invaluable nuggets of wisdom and advice for readers in the manner to which pop stars are accustomed. I really like the cover actually. The photo is great obviously, while fairly straightforward. Thankfully, apart from the cover story, the coverlines aren’t taking themselves very seriously, and the sell is made with the sheer number of names listed on there – Madonna, Mariah, Keith Richards, John Mayer, Kid Rock, Alicia Keys – and the other stories like ‘The Outrageous Money of Rock’s Secret Millionaires’. There’s obviously a lot of stuff in here to read. I’m also really digging the transparent type on ‘Alicia’ and the blue arrow on the right of the cover – it’s a small, almost invisible touch but it changes the dynamic of the cover completely. Picture it in 100% solid color, you’d be left with a much more traditional, late 90’s/early 00’s looking man’s mag type design. The transparency adds just a touch of… quality?

Beautiful first contents page, if a little hard to read. More use of transparency in the pull-quote box, and a nice resistance to cropping the image to make her fill the entire page. Also, a reference to the magazine’s website in a single line at the bottom of the page. Not mind-blowing, but effective overall. Like I said, the only thing bugging me is the slightly too small body-copy font, and the cramped feeling from that copy being pushed up to the edge of the picture frame and so close to the spine. I’d liked to have seen a similar treatment here to the one on PC Magazine’s toc page where they have a visual guide to the placement of stories listed on the cover. They do have an artist index on the second toc page (not shown) which is useful, but not as immediately obvious.

I like the letters page, even though it’s a really simple layout with not much going on, the white space and photo of the cover story spread from the previous issue look really good. For some reason I always really like when there is a picture of a magazine page used as opposed to a digital snapshot of the page placed like a regular photo – it just always looks better (and probably makes your layout look better too). I just blew your mind there right?

Front of the book stuff is generally good looking, thought there’s a bit of a lack of structure to it which I find odd. What I mean is, on the pages with multiple short stories the layout looks a little like everything is just floating around, and there’s no real draw for the eye with maybe one or more really cool or prominent items per page. But that’s not to say they look bad at all. I guess the content dictates that they don’t have the advantage of the majority of most other (non-music) magazines that can spruce these pages up with a bunch of awesome looking products.

There’s some nice photography in the secondary features, two of which come before the cover story. The Kid Rock piece is a regular monthly feature formatted as a diary where the subject apparently calls the Blender office every day for a week to update them on their movements. The opening spread is pretty sweet, I like the spontaneity of the photo on the right, it’s obviously just a quiet moment caught on camera. The Keith Richards Q&a image is awesome, I wonder if it’s possible to take a picture of that guy that isn’t amazing to look at. I like the use of the ‘In 1967,’ as a drop cap type graphic. A couple of pages on and we reach the cover story. It’s nice enough, again nothing mind-blowing, but note the small size of the deck and non-descript placement. On the following secondary feature on the band Tokio Hotel, a similar sized deck is used again, and combined with a small, again non-descript header, it’s not immediately obvious you’ve actually reached a completely new feature, it looks so similar to the secondary pages of all the previous ones. It’s a minor quibble really, and if you’re reading the whole magazine and paying attention it probably wouldn’t even be an issue. There’s exactly the same issue with the John Mayer story following almost immediately on from the Tokio Hotel piece.

Details: The Beige Toyota Camry of Men’s Magazines.

April 22, 2008

Do Ashton Kutcher covers sell magazines? While everyone else is putting Robert Downey Jr on their cover (instead of Jeff Bridges, but more on that later), Details decided to go with Mr Demi Moore for their May 2008 cover. It’s nice to see a black cover for a change, as all of Details’ covers seem to blend into one another, although I find the heavy photoshopping around the eyes distracting. I guess I wonder if he’s a good choice for the cover because really, there’s nothing on the cover that makes me want to read this issue. It’s got the usual men’s mag crap (Did You Have Sex at Work Today?, The Gay Baby Boom, 10 Must-Have Summer Essentials), but nothing new or interesting. If Kutcher is on the cover, why not have coverlines on his new show where he’s setting up the papparazi and others (like the rubbish with Paris Hilton meeting that guy in the robes)? Otherwise, why is he there? Are they trying to be classy? Classy is great if you’re also interesting. A big IF.

It’s interesting that they decided to make him look beaten up for the interior shots (and they go into his childhood somewhat in the story, which may be one of the reasons why), and I bet the photography was great right up to the moment when they put his face directly into the spine. Good job guys. I was trying to decide whether or not this was deliberate, like maybe they were trying to hammer home the underdog theme they seem to be trying to get across, but … it looks dumb.

Moving on… the contents pages do little to make me excited, but a little farther on there are some really interesting and well-designed singlepage product/up-front type stuff. Even if I’m really having a hard time finding anything interesting to read, I think these pages LOOK great. They make me want to try to read them (and in some cases you really have to try, there’s a thin, san-serif font used a lot in here which is kinda hard to read over the murky, grayish paper and beige or earth colored backgrounds). The product photography looks all original to the magazine, and is ok, hardly inspiring. But the designer’s use of white space and breaking up the grid with dashed lines and small graphics, as well as a multitude of mostly good, smaller images combined with not too much type (just too small sometimes) really save the whole front of book.

This made me stop and look (‘cos I couldn’t figure out where they’d got a picture of me naked from the waist up).

One thing that strikes me about the photography in Details is the studio-lit feel of everything, even stuff that’s been obviously shot outdoors. It’s not bad, but I personally find it a little too sterile. Having said that, I love this shot by Nicholas Prior of a kid in a basement. The office blowjob photo is just kinda meh. Neither here nor there.

Still, I just can’t get over the sense of blah that I get from this magazine. It’s like the magazine equivalent of listening to a recording of office background noise – immediately recognizable, completely inoffensive, and easy to ignore. It’s a single 35 year old who lives in an apartment on his own, has a black leather couch, plasma screen, a frameless black and white photo of Manhattan and drives a Nissan 350Z. It’s a dentist’s waiting room. It’s middle-aged guys everywhere copying George Clooney’s haircut circa 1997. It’s beige. Know what I mean?

Some interesting links…

April 18, 2008

I’m at the airport, getting the plane to Chicago. Picked up Men’s Vogue and Texas Monthly, will write about them later. I thought I’d post these links to some cool stuff as it’s been about a week since I posted anything (or received any abusive/mildly threatening/derogatory comments – wtf? Pick it up guys!)

George Lois’ Esquire Covers to Go on Display at MoMA

NY Times laying off a bunch of staff

Bon Appétit and Starbucks – never again

Newspapers of the future!! (Not really but still cool.)

Radar is funny, masters slick grungy look

April 8, 2008

Got the April issue of Radar. Never bought an issue before but I loved the cover of this one and had to pick it up. Poor Tom Cruise? I dunno.

The contents pages are pretty standard, not much going on there, but easy to read and uncluttered, which is a bonus, as well benefitting the ad opposite. Nice photography, and it’s a nice change not to have the magazine broken up into a million different too clever for their own good named sections. The masthead is cool, takes up the entire page but looks completely different.

The loook of the front of book content is really clean, and from a distance really plain, but once you get in there, as well as a lot of content, there’s a lot of detail in the use of graphics and pull-quotes. Some of it is functional, like the key on the sidebar about former political candidates, other stuff is more decorative, cool looking designer fluff, but there’s never too much of that. I like the use of colored copy and the different sized type, that combined with the illutration and kind of randomness of some of the pics – especially the celeb headshots (and wtf, Spencer Pratt…what?) – is never too messy, it always manages to hit just the right balance of coolness. It helps that there actually appears to be stuff to read here, and not just editorial turds being dressed up by the designer. Plus, love the timeline on gayface!

There’s also this interview spread which uses a 5 column grid incliuding the sidebar, opposite a really sweet looking full-page photo. I’m surprised the copy reads so easily across 5 columns, the large dropcap helps anchor the interview as absolutely the main piece you need to read, which helps seeing as the sidebar was placed on the far left of the spread.

Finally, the feature stories are cool looking, following basically the same template as the rest of the mag. The photography is good, and the tpye treatment on the Will Arnett opening spread is really good. I’ve seen that broken up deck joined by arrows thing used in a few different magazines just this month, I’ll see if I can find them and post ’em here too. Oh, and check out the photo on the veery last spread posted here – totally awesome, best photo I’ve seen all year! Okay, maybe not, but it’s close.

A couple of quickies.

April 7, 2008

Too tired to write anything coherent today, but here’s a couple of things I wanted to point out.

Got the Esquire UK April edition, looks exactly like the last issue (very cool).

Intersection’s Spring 2008 issue has a big black box on the cover. A black box. I can just imagine the reaction I’d get to suggesting something like that here. Looks good nonetheless.

Seed’s April issue has this totally far out infographic of that issues contents structure on their contents page.

Now I’m off to…

Kickass, simple type treatment

April 7, 2008

Ok, this is a movie poster, not magazine design related, but I liked the vision-test style type treatment so much I had to post it here to share (with both of you – ha).

The Word’s fifth birthday issue

April 4, 2008

Nick Cave is on the cover of The Word (March 2008), looking completely insane. There’s a nice looking feature inside on him as well, thought the photography was really nice (the pictures were taken by Muir Vidler).
wordcov.jpg wordcave.jpg

I almost went straight past the contents page, it’s right there on the first inside page after the inside front cover. It doesn’t actually list much of the content, and has to also incorporate the letter from the editor as well as a graphic pointer the biggest subscriptions page I’ve ever seen, a double-page spread (although to be fair it’s probably because of the promo they’ve got going on to give away a CD with each subscription).
wordtoc.jpg wordsubs.jpg

As it’s the fifth birthday issue they also include a full page pic of their office and incredibly small staff… pretty amazing considering how much there is in the magazine. Anyway, I just thought it was interesting to see, and I’m glad their office is almost as messy as mine.

p.s: As I was in the middle of writing this post, the WordPress dashboard interface went crazy and changed completely in front of my eyes. It was incredibly annoying and took a few logins and outs to even get it to load properly after that, and trying to insert images just became an even bigger pain in the ass… which is why the above image is larger than the others: because I have no idea what I’m doing again. YAY, another learning curve.

More on Photoshop.

April 4, 2008

This is funny. And most likely correct.

Clean, simple layouts in PC Magazine

April 4, 2008

Was flicking through PC Magazine after swiping it from a co-workers desk. Like many other publications at this time of year, they’re touting it as ‘The Green Issue’ on the cover.

The contents pages are straightforward and easy to read, one detail I think is really cool is an image of the cover on the bottom right of the contents page, with arrows indicating on which page you can find each cover-line story. Not all the stories listed on the cover are as easy to fnd in the actual toc copy, so displaying it like this saves the reader the frustration of figuring out where a cover story within a regular department might be. The second contents page has a sidebar containing content from, I’m surprised more hasn’t been made of this. It’s basically just a box with a few lines of copy and a picture of a computer, nothing really calling attention to it.
pcmagtoc1.jpg pcmagtoc.jpg

The product reviews in here are very clean and simple, as is the layout throughout the magazine. I especially like the way they call attention to particluar features by either calling out a portion of the product in a close-up (see below), or by making a note in red, ‘handwritten’, with an arrow pointing to the feature (also below). It’s really simple and effective without being distracting or over-designed. The product photography is all clean, evenly lit. Hard to tell if it’s manufacturer supplied or they actually shoot it all themselves.
pcmagprodmain.jpg pcmag-imagecallout.jpg pcmagnotescallout.jpg