The Economist magazine milks its past covers

May 9, 2018
The Economist: Cover Story postcard collection

The Economist: Cover Story postcard collection

The Economist has been around for a long time, since 1843. For most of that time its cover looked like an academic journal, which in many ways it was. The strategy only changed in 1959 when the weekly magazine’s title was put in a red box with the name reversed out in white. This ‘red top’ approach is today associated with tabloid newspapers such as the Mirror and Sun, but back then it was the brainchild of  Reynolds Stone, one of leading designers of the era, who had been appointed a Royal Designer for Industry in 1956 for his work on lettering.

Out went a text-only approach with a list of contents in favour of a line   illustration of a leading figure in politics or business with selling cover lines. Stone’s title idea survives to this day, although the typography has been tweaked to suit changing printing techniques. The monochrome line drawings were replaced by colour illustrations and photographs in the 1960s.

But Economist covers are never simple. Like New Scientist, they have to work hard to sell the complex ideas the writers discuss inside.

Bill Emmett, the editor in 1991, explained the news magazine’s approach in an editorial introducing a redesign:

‘There are few things more boring than long articles by editors about how their redesigns are going to produce a sharper, more modern, publication, brightening readers’ lives and furthering world peace … Good design, like good writing, should blend into the background; it should be the servant of editors and readers alike, not their master.’

Who can argue with that, from a magazine that continues to sell like the web had never been invented? But so many have forgotten it. All magazines and newspaper – the likes of the Guardian in particular – should take note, no matter how many design awards they win.

The Economist cover T-shirt: the end of Margaret Thatcher

Economist cover T-shirt: the end of Thatcher

And the strength of the Economist as a global brand has led it to launch merchandising. Of particular notes is Cover Story, a set of 100 postcards telling the story of the magazine’s cover designs. There’s a page showing many of the covers and you can order Economist cover T-shirts, totes and mugs.

News magazines profiled


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

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Comics, cartoonists and surrealists – this week’s good reads

May 2, 2018
The TLS on comics and graphic novels. Minnie the Minx Beano cover

The TLS on comics and graphic novels

Martin Rowson seems to have become the voice of Britain’s newspaper cartoonists – and he doesn’t let his comrades down with ‘Afflicting the comfortable’, an article in The Times Literary Supplement. It’s the highlight of last week’s ‘Cartoon times’ issue.

Rowson is supported by Lucy Dallas’s ‘Groo! Yeuch! The Beano at 80’, Kassia St Clair on graphics and politics, and Eric Bulson reviewing six books about comics and their spin-offs, including CUP’s Cambridge Companion to the Graphic Novel.

Desmond Morris: The Lives of the Surrealists. Thames & Hudson

Desmond Morris on the surrealists he knew

Next in my reading pile is The Lives of the Surrealists from Thames & Hudson. Desmond Morris – he of Zoo Time and Naked Ape fame – turns out to have been a surrealist painter himself and portrays the likes of Magritte, Moore and Miro through personal anecdote.

The book has some lovely lines. I particularly liked the chapter on Roland Penrose – who bankrolled the movement, founded the ICA and lived with Lee Miller. Other surrealists condemned him for selling out and joining the establishment when he accepted a knighthood in 1966. His reaction? ‘They can call me a Sir-realist.’


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

Artists, their signatures and monograms

April 12, 2018
Alfred Leete's monogram

Alfred Leete’s monogram

Alfred Leete, creator of the Your Country Needs You poster of Kitchener, had a distinctive signature for his work, as did one of his artistic contemporaries, Lawson Wood, the creator of the Gran’pop chimpanzee character. Both were famous illustrators and in both cases, the signature evolved over time.

Richard 'Dicky' Doyle's monogram on Punch

Richard ‘Dicky’ Doyle’s monogram from Punch

Other illustrators and cartoonists used a monogram, a graphic device made up of their initials. A great example of this was the Punch illustrator Richard Doyle. He used a reversed R to share the upright of the D, with a bird on top to symbolise his nickname, Dicky Doyle. Monograms seem to have become less popular in the 20th century, but Simon House has a spread of Victorian examples in his book, The Dictionary of 19th Century British Book Illustrators.

Leete’s and Wood’s signatures are easy to make out, whereas Doyle’s is a rebus. However, some cartoonists’ signatures seem perverse in their illegibility – Gilbert Wilkinson being a prime example with his covers for Passing Show and Illustrated weekly magazines.

To help get my head round them all, I’ve started a page of signatures and monograms on Magforum with 100 examples. Another illegible example is East on a Health & Efficiency cover – pointers as to what it says or in identifying some others would be appreciated!

east monogram from 1928 Health and Efficiency

Illegible signature for part of ‘East’


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

Delayed Gratification – what a magazine!

March 23, 2018
Delayed Gratification: the first issue with its Shepard Fairey c

Delayed Gratification: the first issue with its Shepard Fairey cover

Delayed Gratification. What a magazine. Last night, its editors gave a great talk at the London College of Communication about its latest issue with contributions from investigative journalist Heather BrookeJames Montague and Locke actress Kirsty Dillon.

For those with longer teeth, Brooke will be known for her NUJ courses and her book, Your Right to Know about the Freedom of Information Act, but her great claim to fame is the MPs’ expenses expose with the Telegraph. Montague has had astounding access to places such as North Korea as a football writer (though how he can describe Icelanders as ‘reserved’ is a mystery in my experience). Dillon gave her experience on the extent of the knowledge among British actresses of Weinstein’s excesses (can it really be true that Judi Dench had his name as a tattoo on her bottom?).

Has there been any magazine as innovative as Delayed Gratification in the past 50 years with its quarterly look back at the news, groundbreaking infographics and great illustration and photography? Town? Private Eye? Nova? Cosmopolitan? Loaded? Grazia? Monocle? The answer does not matter; it’s up there with them.

When it first appeared I doubted Delayed Gratification could survive. It was an independent magazine and, although its roster of Time Out veterans was a good sign, that was no guarantee. It was one of four titles I identified as pointing to the future of magazines in my book covering covering the past 170 years of British magazine design. Since January 2011, it has kept to its last and thrived.

I named Delayed Gratification as the only magazine I subscribed to in a 2016 interview for Magculture. A subscription to Stack, a birthday present from my son, the UX designer Max Quinn, is the only exception since.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 


 

How to sell cycling and triathlon magazines

March 18, 2018
Triathlon magazine cover from April 2018

220 Triathlon magazine cover from April 2018. Published by Immediate Media (Bauer)

Jeff writes:

Hi, I have a ton of Triathlon (2000-2015) and Cycling (2000 to the present day). They are about to go in the recycling because I need the space. Do you have any ideas or know anybody interested?

Some suggestions:

Ebay is the obvious place. Put them up as several bundles grouped by year. The going rate in bulk for the monthly 220 Triathlon seems to be about £1 a copy + post/free pickup. Cycling Weekly is bit less. They probably fit nicely in A4 photocopy paper boxes. Make sure the box weight and size is within a postal price band.

Contact one of the traders on my Collecting Magazines page, or identify an eBay trader who specialises in cycling magazines.

Cycling Weekly magazine cover from 10 August 2017

Cycling Weekly magazine cover from 10 August 2017. Published by Time Inc UK

Or give them to an impecunious teenager with the time to list them on Ebay. They have a one in four selling rate in the past 3 months. The ideal price seems to be £4.99 each for Triathlon, inc postage (£1 cheaper for Cycling). Selling price range has been 99p+post to £8.50 inclusive for a single copy. There are also lots of people around who do such selling for others and share the proceeds. Ask around.

Post a note and put the word around at the sports centre where you train. Ask the staff as well.

Give them to a charity shop. They collect them at depots and sell them on Ebay.

These blog entries give tips on selling also:

Car magazine collectors
What’s a magazine worth? -1
What’s a magazine worth? -2


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design


 

 

Slimming magazine is a work of art

March 15, 2018
Verner Panton's yellow kitchen in the Sunday Times Home supplement (4 March 2018, pp20-21)

Verner Panton’s yellow kitchen photographed by Querin Leppert for the Sunday Times Home supplement (4 March 2018, pp20-21)

The Home supplement of the Sunday Times ran an interview on March 4 with Carin Panton, daughter of the danish designer Verner Panton. ‘Red, yellow and pink and blue’ showed photographs by Querin Leppert of the colour-themed rooms Panton had designed for a house in Bavaria.

In pride of place on the spread was the yellow dining room and kitchen. I thought the poster on the wall was a straight blow-up of a cover from Slimming magazine, then published by Emap. An odd, but ironic, choice I thought.

Sylvie Fleury's Slim a soup artwork based on a Slimming magazine front cover form October 1993

Sylvie Fleury’s ‘Slim a soup’ artwork based on a Slimming magazine front cover form October 1993

In fact, it’s an artwork by Sylvie Fleury, a Swiss pop artist. The photographic poster in the Panton house kitchen is called Slim a soup and is based on the October 1993 cover of Slimming. It comes complete with a WH Smith price label stuck on the title, so it was probably bought at an airport overseas.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design


 

NME magazine bites the dust

March 12, 2018
Barney Bubbles redesigned New Musical Express for the punk era

Barney Bubbles redesigned New Musical Express for the punk era

NME is to close. The 66-year-old old music magazine will no longer appear as a free weekly but will remain as an online brand. The owners, Time Inc UK, describe the decision as an ‘initiative’ that will ‘expand its digital-first strategy’.

NME was one of the first two mainstream consumer magazines at IPC to launch a website, the other being Uploaded.com for Loaded, in 1995.

New Musical Express was launched in 1952 and was selling 300,000 copies a week from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s. It saw off its ‘inkie’ rivals as the tabloid music papers – Melody Maker (the grande dame of the sector, lasting from 1926 to 2000), Record Mirror, Disc and Sounds – lost out to the colour A4 magazines such as No 1, Smash Hits and The Face.

NME celebrated 60 years in print in 2012 with bands and musicians holding past copies on the cover. Sex Pistol John Lydon is on this version

NME celebrated 60 years in print in 2012 with eight different covers of the September 26 issue showing bands and musicians holding past copies. Sex Pistol John Lydon is on this version

The title was abbreviated to NME for the issue of 2 December 1978. A few weeks before, Barney Bubbles had redesigned New Musical Express with a colour punk cover, but the publishers (then IPC) had feared too much change, and not wanted to used the NME moniker on that issue (7 October 1978)

It followed the trend to become a full-colour magazine, though it has outlived the A4 magazines that led that trend.

Time Inc is itself in the throes of change, having been bought up by a private equity group, a fate that IPC, then Britain’s biggest publisher, suffered before it was brought up by Time Inc to become the UK arm of the US company.

History of music magazines at Magforum.com


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design


 

Magazine titles: what’s in a name?

February 20, 2018
Title from the first issue of men's monthly Loaded-in 1994: for men who should know better

Title from the first issue of men’s monthly Loaded in 1994: for men who should know better

My mention of Private Eye editor Ian Hislop included his editorial philosophy on the satirical magazine. He sees his job as to:

Make jokes about what people know and then tell them things they don’t know.

Simplifying an editorial strategy to a few words is a great skill. Today, companies have their ‘mission statements’ but magazines have been coining these for centuries. What is the magazine about? What is it about a magazine that is different from its rivals?

A Tit-Bits cover from 1955

A Tit-Bits cover from 1955

For James Brown’s Loaded, it was ‘For men who should know better’; for the science fiction weekly Scoops in 1934, ‘Stories of the wonder-world of tomorrow’; FHM‘s mantra coined by Mike Soutar was ‘Funny, sexy useful’.

George Newnes came up with the not-so-pithy title Tit-Bits from all the Most Interesting Books, Periodicals and Contributors in the World for his pioneering weekly magazine in 1881, which was soon shortened to Tit-Bits.

Sometimes, the title goes a long way to saying it all: Answers to Correspondents, Men Only, Motor, Woman, Razzle. But even in these cases, differentiation is needed from rivals.

Alfred Harmsworth's Home Chat from 1895

Harmsworth’s Home Chat from 1895

Think of the woman’s weekly Home Chat. The name dates back to an Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe) launch in 1895.  Would House Chat have been as good? Or Home Talk? Or Fireside Chat?

Probably not, and certainly Home Chat lasted until 1959, when it became a victim of new technology in the form of television. The word ‘chat’ was resurrected for the weekly Chat by ITV/IPC in 1985, though by that time the word ‘home’ was a no-no for a woman’s magazine.

A rival to Home Chat was Home Notes (1895-1958) from C. Arthur Pearson. This carried a line of poetry on its cover: ‘The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,’ by the US poet William Ross Wallace. This summed up the influence of the mother, but today it has sinister connotations.

Charing Cross magazine took its name from a famous place in London -1900-first-issue-magazine-cover

Charing Cross magazine took its name from a famous place in London in 1900

Many Victorian publishers took their titles from fashionable places in the world’s greatest city. Examples include Cornhill, Pall Mall, The Strand, Charing Cross.

In doing so, they spread the fame of these thoroughfares and places even farther around the world, in a way that song lyrics would do in the 20th century (Ferry Across the Mersey, Wichita Lineman, Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa) and TV does today (Jersey Shore, The Only Way is Essex).

Many magazine titles have changed the meaning of words, or at least influenced our perception of them, such Punch, Eagle and Delayed Gratification.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design


 

Type portrait of the royal family on a Monotype in 1937

February 16, 2018
Type portrait of the royal family composed on a Monotype machine. Published in Newspaper World magazine in 1937

Type portrait of the royal family composed on a Monotype machine. Published in Newspaper World magazine in 1937

Moiré fringing is probably going to ruin this image, but it’s a type portrait of George VI with the royal family, ‘set up and composed on the Monotype [hot metal typesetting] machine by Battley Brothers Ltd, of Clapham Park’. The image was published in Newspaper World & Advertising Review, dated 15 May 1937. I associate such images with typewriters and computer printers, so it was a surprise to come across one from 80 years ago.

The skin tones on Princess Elizabeth in the type portrait are made up of the letters 'e' and 'f', with the § symbol used for darker tones

The skin tones on Princess Elizabeth in the type portrait are made up of the italic letters ‘e’ and ‘f’, with the § symbol and ‘g’ used for darker tones

The portrait was printed half-page size in Newspaper World,  and it’s possible to make out many of characters used. The skin tones on Princess Elizabeth, for example, are made up of the letters ‘e’ and ‘f’, with the § symbol used for darker tones. That year – 1937 – marked the new king’s coronation after the abdication of King Edward VIII after the Wallis Simpson affair.

george vi royal family portrait. margaret. elizabeth. 1937

George VI royal family portrait with princesses Margaret, left, and Elizabeth, in 1937. This is probably the shot used for the type portrait

Newspaper World was published by Benn Brothers from Bouverie House off Fleet Street.


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design

 

 

 


 

£149 for an Argos catalogue

February 14, 2018
Argos catalogue No 6 from autumn 1976 sold on eBay for £149

Argos catalogue No 6 from 1976 sold on eBay for £149

How did I miss this? An Argos catalogue from 1976. And it sold for a whacking £149 before Christmas.

As the eBay seller, Halcyontoys, noted:

From the mists of time comes this original and highly collectable Argos catalogue. Released for the autumn/winter 1976/77 season, it runs to 200 pages and is a fascinating ‘window’ into the lifestyles and technologies prevalent at the time.

From record decks to teas-maids and Evel Knievel toys – they’re all here in garish 1970s colour!

The catalogue has some age-related signs of wear, mainly handling/stress marks to the cover and some discolourisation to the back page. However, it remains in good condition and all 198 internal pages are present and correct with no annotations or creasing.

A very enjoyable, rare and historic publication.

Read and weep all ye who missed it.

The cameras spread from Argos catalogue No 6 from 1976 sold on eBay for £149

The cameras spread from Argos catalogue No 6

 


To see almost 500 magazine covers and pages, look out for my book, A History of British Magazine Design, from the Victoria & Albert Museum, the world’s leading museum of art and design