Archive for the ‘bad magazine design’ category

Lance Armstrong Says Outside Magazine Cover Is “Lame Bullshit” – via Austinist.

June 17, 2010

So apparently Outside magazine Photoshopped something onto Lance Armstrong’s t-shirt which he got angry at…via Oops. Thanks Aaron for the link.

Maxim January 2009, ‘Young Hot Hollywood Special Issue’

January 11, 2009

MAXIM January 2009 cover

I picked Maxim up this evening in Walmart – what better way to spend a Saturday evening? This magazine takes me straight back to men’s mag mid-90’s in the UK. It feels slightly weird buying a magazine with Hilary Duff on the cover – isn’t she only twelve years old or something? Now, kudos to Maxim, they’re not pretending to be anything other than a magazine full of hot chicks for men. There’s no crap about how to dress, how to be sensitive to anyone’s needs, how to knit, nothing. In fact the only cover-line not directly referring to women says “THE BEST 99 BEERS ON EARTH”. Straight to the point.

Vanity Fair no. 582 is awesome and not awesome

January 8, 2009

Vanity Fair February 2009 cover

I bought the new issue of Vanity Fair with Cate Blanchett on the cover. Love the cover photography and type treatment, it all looks incredible as usual. She was shot as by usual Annie Leibovitz.

VF cover detail

I love the typographic details in Vanity Fair, it’s really nailed their signature style. The repro on the cover is really good, but after looking at the photo for a minute I can’t help feeling it looks slightly fuzzy – but not to any degree that really matters, and if it is, it’s more likely caused by print processes than a camera problem I think.

Abandon hope all ye who enter here

December 28, 2008

So everyone is always talking about the death of print and what, how, when the next format will become readily available and easy to use etc etc. I personally don’t believe print is going anywhere for a long time. What I’d really like to see is more thought being put into quality control and production, both in editorial and design. This particular organization however, seems to want completely the opposite:

And look at this one, where this guy actually shows us some samples of published work. Talk about lowering the bar.

Some stuff from October 2008’s Fast Company

October 10, 2008

I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture of the cover, it makes me feel awkward and embaressed in the same way I do when I see or hear Sarah Palin talk. Hard to look at, but impossible to look away either. lke a horrible car accident. Go track it down and take a look for yourself. Anyway, there were a couple of other things inside I thought worth pointing out…

This page is so cool, it’s sick. I LOVE this and I’m going to copy it at the very first opportunity I get. I realize it’s nothing particularly special really, but damn I just think it’s kick-ass! Low budget, easy to execute solutions are always killer. Ok, that’s not true at all, but in this case, it is.

Here’s one of those mini-toc pages that seem to be competing for the Most Abstract Design Regardless of Content or Purpose Award.

On this spread, can you tell at first glance which is an ad and which is editorial?

And finally, so I’m not coming across as Debbie Downer all the time, I include this simply because it looks cool:

Zink magazine discovers Photoshop

March 5, 2008

I stumbled across this magazine while in the bookstore the other day. The horrible gradient and graphic treatment of the number 72 in the coverline ’72 Arousing Looks’ was enough to make me stop and look. Zink’s cover declares itself to be ‘the element of style’ whatever that means. Unfortunately if you’re looking for a style category to put the layout in, it would probably be ‘Church newsletter designer found Photoshop’.

The contents page (‘TABLE OF CONTENTS’ in case you weren’t sure), is a double-page of fairly traditional formatting, and looks like it lists almost everything in the magazine.

There’s some interesting photography in the front of book stuff, and when I first flicked through the pages I liked the overall feel of the use of white space and big bold type. It felt refreshing and kinda skateboard/alternative music magazine-like. I even had a brief flashback to RayGun and Blah Blah Blah, until I realised that the shoddy typography and badly cropped photos in this magazine were just that – shoddy and badly cropped (David Carson has a style at least, and it works because the editorial staff around him know his style and vice-versa). There are a few spreads focusing on product, which are among the worst offenders. Take the full-page shot of the shoe below, why is it cropped like that? Where’s the bottom of it? Or the page called ‘YOU KNOW YOU WANT THEM’, what’s with the ugly black boxes of text, and boring as all get-out use of images? I don’t think I’d want any of the stuff on that page just because of the way the page looks… there’s nothing of interest, nothing looks good or is in any way compelling enough to read about. And it’s not the fault of the photography, it’s the dreary layout. And then there are the styled, set-up product pages (‘TAILOR MADE’, below). This kind of product photography is being done by a lot of magazines right now, and nine times out of ten it’s being done way better than this. They should take a look at British GQ or this photographer’s work. The stylist and the art director really need to work together, try to find something unique about the way you’re going to approach something that is now very commonly used. There’s more to this than being able to balance a few products on top of each other. Make sure you have someone on staff who can color correct these images. And please, don’t run type over the products!
fob.jpg fob2.jpg product-2.jpg product.jpg

There’s obviously a lot of photography in this magazine, and the level of color-correction and re-touching varies wildly. One problem I’ve encountered in the past is that art directors who rely on the photographer to color-correct final images before print almost always fail to mention to the photographer that the final file must be color-correct in CMYK, not RGB, which results in the art director changing the file to CMYK themselves. This inevitably results in a huge loss of contrast, blacks go muddy and the press-operator has a harder time producing good color when printing. Combine that with a photographer or art director loves to blow the hell out of every image with whatever filter they can get their hands on and what you’re left with is a mess. And again, as in the samples below, little to no thought has been given to cropping the images. Look at the first two samples below, both are double-page spreads of one image, one model, and both run the spine directly across her face. And just so I don’t sound like I’m a complete downer, there are also some nice looking shots in here, see below.
spineface.jpg spineface2.jpg fash.jpg

Ok so yes, I am a downer, but I find it a total bummer when I see a magazine with such obvious potential and investment that is so poorly put together. If readers expectations are so low that they accept what they see here, then how can they be made to see the value in a publication that is actually professionally produced?

Saveur magazine not well-done

March 4, 2008

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.

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 ….