Posted tagged ‘reader expectations’

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?