Sunday, January 13

For the Love of Magazines - #1

Once a month, brightly colored piles of paper bound together invade my home. Some are beautiful pieces of design, some are most definitely not. What they all have in common however, is the ability to make me want to put down whatever I'm working on to open up the pages and read them. Seriously, it doesn't matter if I'm grading student work, creating a new design for a client or cooking dinner; the magazine wins out almost every time. Am I addicted to them? Perhaps. Could I live without them? I'd like to think so but deep down inside I know I can't. So why are magazines so special?

Unlike other sources of media, magazines are the one thing I can read at my own pace and time. Television (not counting Tivo or DVR) is a must-watch-it-now medium as is radio, well must-listen. Web reading can be similar in that while the content may still be there tomorrow, it's likely now buried underneath something else. And newspapers you ask? Ever try to read one while snuggled under a blanket on the couch with a cup of tea in one hand? I rest my case. Magazines are perfect. They come regularly so therefore never end like a book, information inside is constantly changing though I can still find my favorite departments every month and the artistic look can vary not only from month to month but from page to page.

My household receives a plethora of magazines. As a design professional and educator, I receive Print, Communication Arts, HOW, CMYK, Archive and Metropolis magazines. As a Mac geek, I receive MacWorld and as someone who likes general interest reading as well, I receive Shape and Real Simple. Other magazines that come into this house include Smithsonian and American Heritage. (Please note: I already admitted I am addicted to them.)

I like each and every one for different reasons. By far my favorite when it comes to design is Real Simple. It's a large format magazine about making life simpler and more functional ("life made easier" is the tag line) and is printed on a beautiful paper that makes just touching the magazine pleasurable. The editorial content is geared to middle class readers who want the touch of the elegant and upscale without having to spend celebrity-sized budgets. The information is practical and interesting. I'm surprised and eager to find out what it includes when I receive it. Everything from good exercises for belly bulge to unique and functional ways of better organizing your office to packing more efficiently when traveling by air. It makes me want to read it. Every single page of it. The photography is gorgeous and elegant yet obtainable which makes me, as the general consumer, not feel like an outsider looking through it as some fashion magazines tend to do. Full color images are married with with white text to create non-intrusive captioning. Articles lead with interesting photo shoots that catch my eye as I flip through. The type is clean, sophisticated, well leaded and well kerned (And I'm damn picky when it comes to kerning). Every page has more than adequate white space to keep it from feeling cluttered and the system used for denoting departments is quite clear making it an easy task to find what I'm looking for. The color palette is clean and sophisticated and supports the upscale feeling of the magazine well, often complimenting a corresponding photograph. The color palette is also limited so it never makes me feel like I'm browsing through a rainbow. In addition to the above, the magazine has a very clear grid system making the ease of readability high. It's not a stuffy magazine though. It's comfortable feeling, kind of like how a good friend's conversation would look and feel. Kudos to their design staff on such a beautiful and successful magazine.

As for the other magazines, I could rank them in order of design preference, content preference, ease of use, etc. but I think it does them a disservice as they are each unique. As I say often, design is subjective and I am but one designer. What I can say about them is objectively they work. I have no trouble reading them, no trouble working my way through the magazine and no trouble accessing the information I want. I feel the magazines I listed above also communicate well to their intended audience. The design magazines communicate to designers and Smithsonian and American Heritage communicate to history and science buffs respectively. Regardless of the magazine type, the key is sell it. If the magazine draws your attention and compels you to buy it, the job is done.

So the question then becomes why do you buy it? Is it the subject matter? The look? The features? The art? Your reasons may vary as much as the variety of magazines available, but think about it. I've already named my favorite magazine and the reasons why. Take a look at your favorite magazine. Not just look through it though, really look AT it. Look at the type, the imagery, the departments, the cover, the table of contents, the features, etc. Why do you like it so much? Analyze it more than "it looks cool" or "I read it for the articles".


Anonymous said...

Well Prof. Bosler- First off I'm happy to see that out of the many magazines to stuff your mailbox Archive is one of them. I've yet to subscribe, but still love it, and still (like a fool) purchase it at its shelf price on occasion.

However there's a new kid on the block that I'm eager to get you hooked on. It's called Good Magazine and it is currently only on its eighth issue.
What do I like about it?
A Lot.

I noticed the paper quality immediately and it's not that typical high gloss but smooth and matte, and I love the way the colors look and feel on it.

The articles are all thought provoking and are generally in support of a "good" cause, as well as the ads that separate them. How crazy is that? Their ads aren't all about the commericial- but about the environment in most cases. This magazine makes you feel good about supporting the contents within it. They also completely obliterate cost as a possible con for not subscribing, allowing you to give the twenty dollar subscription cost to a nonprofit of your choice.

I love the imagery they utilize that incorporates both hand drawn, and computer illustrations as well as photography. Good uses the imagery to keep you charged from page to page. In order to put things into perspective Good also breaks information down into graphs and is not just ruled by articles alone.

Furthermore I enjoy the person section that is a mere one spread changing with each issue to highlight an individual of interest. It gives a mini profile adjacent to an aerial shot of momentos that are numbered and explained. It's unique and quick, but still feels personal.

I like that this magazine feels like a warm handshake.
Major props.

They even responded to an email I sent them. Wow.


Anonymous said...

Since Team Panther seems to prevail, I am going to agree with my partner and say its a good thing to follow Archive. Although we can't put it as a tax write off due to the fact we are mere students, I purchase it off the shelf as well. Either way, I have found it to be a great resource and an area of inspiration when I require a slight pick me up in design.

As of late, I have been drawn to Spin. My intentions to pick up this zine is mainly for the articles on musicians I like. The usually have a lot of up and coming artists and others to check out.

Since this is for a design class, I should mention the design about it. Generally there is a smooth and clean layout to the front cover, there is no searching for its contents and the imagery is generally clean. Within the zine, the departments, features, editors letter and staff pages are organized well, easy to read, and plenty of hierarchy.

The photos are great, and much like you (the bos) had mention previously, white type is non distracting and clean when place within the image.

For the most part, the layout is follows the same three and four column grid, with the occasional two ( mostly reserved for the cover articles )

The only real negative I can give to this magazine is their choice in ad placement and ads in general. The majority of the ads are relatively pleasing, but every so often you encounter a terrible ad that just ruins the rest of the mag...Shame on the designer of those ads, they should have gone to Kutztown.


aldyn said...

what a coincidence! while at borders a few days ago, beth and i came across "real simple" and were attracted to it, but after looking at a few others, we put it back. through the night, we kept coming back to it--or atleast i did. the simple (duh) design and layouts of the pages made the magazine easy to read and follow. i would keep paging through it skimming the articles...especially the ones about organizing stuff around the home--something i could use a little assistance in D:

one of the magazines whose design caught my interest was the one beth grabbed, "4c". some of the text was a little hard to read, and the overall layout was more free than that of most magazines, but other than that, it was very eyecatching and the photography was great. (i'll let her talk more about it, though)

i'm not currently subscribed to any magazine at the moment, but rather i like walking up and down the the periodical aisles scanning for something eyecatching or picking out magazines that describe how i feel at the moment. i'm drawn to magazines with beautiful photos, and creative typography. ones with modern furniture designs, bright illustrations, or wacky fashion shoots.

ps: huge glossy photo pages are nice sometimes, but there's a part of me that loves those oddly shapes magazines with matte paper. you know, they might be square or wider than they are taller, and the paper is nice and smooth almost like light bristol.

pps: i'll admit, reading the gossip in stuff like people and us magazine are guilty pleasures of mine--that is if i can even find the articles through all the screaming yellow text, ads, and perfume samples.


Anonymous said...

I'm not gonna lie, I'm kind of addicted to cool paper. Thus, both Real Simple & Good magazines appeal to me, simply on that basis. Matte paper is nice, heavy paper is nice... While looking for mags to bring in to class, I picked up Wired and instantly knew I would have to buy it--the texture of the cover stock was just irresistible. (However, I was quite disappointed to find that the inside pages were regular magazine pages.) Whenever I look through a rack of magazines, the paper used for the cover often draws me in more than the cover imagery or titles of articles.

I also enjoy larger format magazines like Rolling Stone, and (again) Real Simple. There's more space to be uncluttered, or to have huge awesome photos (my second love, next to paper).

Whenever I get around to signing up, the next magazine I'm looking forward to subscribing to is ESPN: The Magazine. If you know me, you know I have little to no interest in sports in general, but this magazine always seems to top my list as far as creativity of design in the feature articles, cohesiveness/creativity of departments, and awesome photography. And it's large format, and it's printed on matte paper...


Anonymous said...

My loyalty definitely lies with Rolling Stone... I'm too lazy to subscribe so I buy it at its ridiculous retail price every week. The design is gorgeous, especially the holographic covers that graced the three anniversary editions. They know how to catch the reader's eye. The photography is always unique and memorable- I'm sure that not too many males are going to quickly forget the image of Jessica Simpson in boyshorts, vacuuming, with "Housewife of the Year" plastered on the cover.

The articles are interesting too- one of my guilty pleasures is reading about how 80s has-beens are making their comeback tour. I also enjoy the fact that the authors of the articles don't hold anything back- if they smoked pot with Tom Petty, they're probably going to tell you about it, and in detail. They definitely live by the mantra "Honesty is the best policy," which is quite refreshing.

Their ongoing election coverage is always accompanied by gorgeous illustrations. Whether it's a cash eating pig or a caricature of the Republican candidates, it's always humorous and executed very well.

And I even enjoy the ads.


Anonymous said...

I'm not very big into this whole reading thing but I have six of these comments to post over the semester, so for now I will accept reading as a concept. My style for reading magazines is more of a flipping through strategy until I see something that really grabs my attention.

One of the only magazines I look at on any regular basis is ESPN Mag. The first thing that drew me to it was the subject matter but the design and the content is what really made me keep reading it.

The design in the magazine is something I have never seen in other magazines and the large format makes the visual spreads almost overpowering at times.

My favorite part of the mag is the Sports Guy column. This department is a monthly sports/news/pop culture column with some comedy thrown in. It is a page and a half long so for someone like me who hates to read doesn't get bored or distracted.