Archive for the ‘1980s’ Category

One for Madonna fans

February 13, 2018
Madonna strip cartoon of her life 1986

Madonna strip cartoon of her life: The Story So Far

Hotspot-5 has 156 Madonna issues up on ebay at prices ranging from £4.95 to £24.95.

One of the earliest issues dates back to January 1986. It’s issue 2 of Look-In, the weekly TV magazine for teenagers, which carried a cartoon strip of Madonna’s life called ‘The Story So Far’.

In response to queries, I’ve done several Madonna posts, including identifying the first Madonna magazine cover (and it’s not Smash Hits or i-D).

Madonna front cover Esquire magazine 1994

Madonna on the cover of Esquire magazine in September 1994, dressed up to meet Norman Mailer!

Hotspot-5’s Madonna issues.

 


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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Guardian drops Berliner failure for tabloid in redesign

January 15, 2018
Guardian redesign 2018

Today’s relaunched Guardian comes in 3 sections. Sport returns to the back page – led by Liverpool’s thrilling victory over Manchester City. The 2012 redesign had  Man City beating Wigan above its masthead. The paper was the Manchester Guardian until 1959 and moved to London in 1964

The Guardian downsizes today, switching from the Berliner format to tabloid. It’s the end of an experiment that began 12 years ago with a massive £80m investment, and has been forced on the paper to save money. Being the only British paper to use the Berliner format,  it had to build new print halls in London and Manchester with specially commissioned presses.

The weekday paper now has three sections:

  • main section: news, politics, international affairs and financial news with sport starting on the back page;
  • a new, pullout opinion section called the Journal. This will carry the columnists, long reads, obituaries, letters and the cryptic crossword;
  • G2, the features-based section.
Promotional video for the new look by the Guardian 

The Guardian claims a great design history, based on its breaking new ground in 1988 with an approach developed by David Hillman, a Pentagram founder who made his name on Nova in the 1960s. It had already dropped the ‘hang and drop’ approach favoured by the other Fleet Street broadsheets in favour of modular layouts. The other broadsheets’  focus was on getting as many stories and words on a page as possible. The Guardian wanted to differentiate itself for readers.

The 1960s newspaper design guru Allen Hutt gave way to Harry Evans and then Hillman introduced a grid system with lots of white space around the headlines at the Guardian. Alongside the white space, most striking element on the front page was the dual font title, with the ‘The’ in ITC Garamond Italic and the butted-up ‘Guardian’ in Helvetica Black. Nothing new for a magazine, but a first for a British newspaper.

The design industry liked it; the reaction in much of Fleet Street was: ‘art holes’! There was also a lot of negative reaction internally at the Guardian as fewer stories were carried and copy length was cut.

These internal complaints from editors were exacerbated when the paper’s second section dropped from a broadsheet to a tabloid in 1992 – at a stroke, story lengths had to be cut by a third. That is not an obvious effect, but is the result of a number of factors: headline sizes stayed the same; pictures stayed the same size or even got bigger; each tabloid page needed as much margin space around the edges as each broadsheet page; more ‘signposting’ to features in the rest of the paper.

It has been a similar tale with every redesign since for all the papers since: more white space; bigger pictures; fewer stories, fewer words.

September 2005 saw the move under editor Alan Rusbridger and designer Mark Porter to the Berliner mid-size format – along with the need to buy a new set of expensive printing presses that were unique in Britain. The switch took three years and the paper described itself as a ‘factory’. In January 2012 the paper design and format was changed again ‘to reflect changes in news consumption’.

Today marks the Guardian giving up on its expensive Berliner experiment and following the Independent and Times down the tabloid route they took in 2003. Of course, the quality papers don’t like the ‘tabloid’ label, because it is associated with the more downmarket Sun, Mirror, Mail and Express, which adopted the format decades ago.

The other change alongside design is that the print agenda is now dictated by online data and readerships. What the likes of the Guardian don’t appear to appreciate as they quote digital readerships is that the online audience is heavily influenced by non-paying US readers. The news agenda becomes more US-influenced, moving the paper away from the home audience all the time.

Robert Harling, the long-serving editor of House & Garden and typographical adviser to the Sunday Times railed against the Continental modular magazine design approaches in the Times Literary Supplement with an article entitled ‘Poor old words’ (1972). His redesign of the cover for Wisden’s Cricketers’ Almanack in 1938, with its Ravilious engraving of Victorian cricketers, is a typographic classic. For Harling, the likes of Hillman’s Nova was dominated by ‘pictures and type-patterns subduing the words on every page’. The approach was ‘a menace to the freedom of the printed word’.

A features spread in the Berliner format Observer. It could have come from a magazine 30 years ago. The picture is the size of a tabloid page

A features spread in the Berliner format Observer. It could have come from a magazine 30 years ago. The picture is the size of a tabloid page and the text only occupies a quarter of the page area

Yet that approach became mainstream in magazines and Hillman brought it to the Guardian in a process of magazinisation. Photo-reduce many newspaper spreads today and they appear strikingly similar to the sort of designs in the 1960s in Town and Nova (which had been heavily influenced by Continental design, particularly Germany’s Twen). ‘Poor old words’ said Harling. Poor old readers too.

The Guardian‘s sister paper, the Observer, will go tabloid on Sunday. The switch was seen as step too far for the two papers in 2005, with staff fearing that changing to tabloid would damage the paper’s character. Those fears have been swept aside now as the need to save several million pounds a year bites.

The redesign features a new font, Guardian Headline by Commercial Type, the foundry that created Guardian Egyptian for the Berliner redesign. The main text font stays the same, no surprise given how much the 2005 relaunch cost.

And cutting costs is what has driven the changes. Expect to see lots of mentions of ‘150 million’ readers each month, but at the end of the day, most of these are browsers and bear no comparison in revenue or commitment to the value of a print reader. Money – getting enough of it is the big problem for the press.

British newspaper profiles


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


 

 

Beano: a cheery cover for grey days

January 12, 2018
Beano magazine was launched in 1934 by Nalgo, the trade union, to raise funds for members widows and orphans. Did it inspire the comic title?

Beano magazine was launched in 1934 by Nalgo, the trade union, to raise funds for members widows and orphans. Did it inspire the comic title?

Here’s a cheery cover for a rainy day (and I’m off to a funeral today for Tom Pride, a Times journalist I first worked with in 1980).

Beano comes from B ‘n’ O, the abbreviation for  Nalgo’s benevolent and orphan fund (B&O).  Nalgo – the National Association of Local Government Officers trade union – was founded in 1905 and is today part of Unison. It appears to have been produced in Scarborough, described as the ‘conference town’ because of the number of big meetings held there, such as political party annual conferences.

The NCTJ used to hold training courses there – on one of them, I met Tom Baker, the would-be monk and former Doctor Who star; the Yorkshire boxer Richard Dunn, who took on Muhammad Ali in 1976; and Brian Glover, the wrestler, teacher and actor best known for his role in Kes. All in the same hotel bar. What a night that was!

Winter's Pie, an edition of Printers' Pie, magazine cover from 1913. The cover is by John Hassall

Winter’s Pie, an edition of Printers’ Pie, magazine cover from 1913. The cover is by John Hassall

Producing special magazines to raise funds for charitable purposes was a popular strategy right into the Eighties. These included Printers’ Pie, where the funds went to printing charities, Christmas Pie, ‘All profits to King George’s Jubilee Trust’ in 1939, and Blighty, which raised money for the troops in both world wars. The most famous writers and illustrators would provide work for these and volunteer printers would produce them on Fleet Street presses.

The Nalgo Beano cover appeared in 1934, four years before DC Thomson launched the famous  Beano comic on 30 July 1938 in Dundee. And, of course, its most famous strip – The Bash Street Kids – was about the perils of a group of public service workers – teachers and janitors – in a state school.

The Oxford Dictionary relates the word ‘beano’ – a rowdy celebration – to the printing industry, going back to 1888:

CT Jacobi, Printers’ Vocab. 7 Beano, a slang abbreviation for ‘beanfeast’, which is, however, usually termed ‘goose’ or wayzgoose by compositors.

So, a trade union – Nalgo – was the inspiration for the Beano comic. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it!

 


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

 

 

 


 

Britain’s princes – cross-dressing in Marie Claire magazine

October 26, 2017
The royal twee: Prince Charles as urban ethnic nomad by Joe Casely-Hayford. In the bottom right the heir to the throne is out to lunch in Franco Moschino

The royal twee: Prince Charles as urban ethnic nomad by Joe Casely-Hayford. In the bottom right the heir to the throne is out to lunch in Franco Moschino

September 1988 saw the arrival of a new magazine, IPC’s interpretation of a French title that dated back to the 1930s, Marie Claire (I know Wikipedia says it came to the UK 1941, but that just shows how unreliable it is!) It was a breath of fresh air under the editorship of Glenda Bailey. She was seen as an unlikely choice, but talked her way into the job and made a great fist of it, bringing in investigative pieces alongside the fashion. Bailey has since joined the long list of British editors to cross the Atlantic, heading up Harper’s Bazaar since 2001.

 

Hallo tailor: Prince Andrew as ship's matey in Byblos. Right, Charles at home in Moschino

Hallo tailor: Prince Andrew as ship’s matey in Byblos. Right, Charles at home in Moschino

It’s worth getting out these old copies of Marie Claire for articles such as ‘Royal makeover: The princes’ new clothes’. It wasn’t an original idea, Nova ran a piece in 1968 that had French fashion designer André Courrèges giving the Queen a makeover (it caused a storm at the time!). Marie Claire went a step further in tackling Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward – and … well just look at the cross-dressing pictures!

Boys will be boys. Prince Andrew in English Eccentrics. Edward in Rifat Ozbek and John Flett

Boys will be boys. Prince Andrew in English Eccentrics. Left, Edward in Rifat Ozbek and John Flett

Here’s what Marie Claire said at the time:

If the Royal family has become nothing more than a collection of clothes-horses, we know who to blame, don’t we? The Princess of Wales (5ft 10in, pencil slim) transformed herself from little-girl-lost into Miss United Kingdom as if she’d been anticipating the event since birth. The Duchess of York (5ft 8in, rolling gait) exacerbated the situation by contrast: she caught the public imagination as the All England land girl. Even the Princess Royal (5ft 7in, very ordinary) has suddenly acquired an incongruous interest in fashion.

The Princes, however, have been cruelly denied the opportunity to follow in the wake of their womenfolk. Protocol decrees that these unfortunate patricians should appear publicly in sub-Next and privately in the limited shades of country compost. Sympathetic to their predicament, Marie Claire asked designers Joe Casely-Hayford, Franco Moschino, Rifat Ozbek, John Flett, English Eccentrics and Byblos to give Princes Charles, Andrew and Edward the same equality of opportunity as their female counterparts.

Knowing that this would be a difficult creative task, we did not ask them to design for the actual Royal physique, nor did we specify whether the ensembles were for state occasions or intimate At Homes, but our philanthropy may result in a new age of elegance for the Royal male. Windsor change?


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

 

 


 

David Deutsch’s quantum computing

March 14, 2017

Acorn User form October 1986 with the Spider curve-plotting program

A discussion of quantum computing is not what many people expect from a blog about magazines, but then they forget that magazines have a habit of going anywhere and discussing anything.

Back in 1986, I commissioned an article for Acorn User magazine, which was later dubbed ‘Spider Power’, from David Johnson-Davies and David Deutsch. The blurb on the contents page read: ‘The Davids present their Spider curve-plotting program to plot almost any equation.’

The Spider was an incredible BASIC program that really did do what it said it would. It was my favourite program – even over the breakthrough fractal routines and Mandelbrot listings we ran. You could type in an equation – even a mix of cartesian – x and y – and radial – r and θ – and still it would print the equation. Raise x to the power of θ, y to the power of r, whatever you typed in, the Spider plotter went away and did it.

One example it plotted was a a set of circles arranged at regular intervals. Don’t ask me to remember the equation. But get hold of a copy of Acorn User from October 1986, issue 51, on eBay and you can see it all there. Type the listing into a BBC Micro emulator and you can run it too.

It was worth buying a £400 BBC Micro just to run this program. There was nothing like it on a £3000 Apple Mac. You’d have had to go to a minicomputer. The only problem was the time it would take – days, weeks even. I gave up on several plots. Even with a second processor attached (which probably tripled the processing speed).

David Deutsch quantum computing

David Deutsch – ‘father’ of quantum computing

But what about quantum computing? Well, the Davids behind the program were the MD of Acornsoft and a researcher at Oxford University.  David Deutsch, the latter David, was tricky to get hold of because he never got up till 3pm (typical student I remember thinking!). When you did get hold of him, you learnt of his theoretical world of computing using the states of atoms for computation and data storage. Given the billions of atoms in a grain of sand, the possibilities are incredible.

Deutsch had recently published his landmark paper on the topic –  ‘Quantum theory, the Church-Turing principle and the universal quantum computer’ – and today he’s regarded as the father of quantum computing. The only problem with such machines, I’m sure someone told me at the time, was that they might disappear because they had moved into another dimension (unlikely, but theoretically possible).

All this has been sparked by The Economist‘s quantum computing  technology quarterly (QC in TQ). The TQ is entitled ‘Here, there and everywhere’ and I read it on a a plane from from Sydney to Hong Kong. The theme of the articles is that the technology is at the stage where it is about to be commercially exploited.

But keep hold of that 1986 Acorn User magazine because it gives an insight into the thinking of one of the greatest minds of this century. When Dr Deutsch wins a Nobel is probably the time to sell it.

‘First’ Madonna magazine cover sells for £180

March 5, 2017
Madonna cover from i-D dated March/April 1984

Madonna on the cover of i-D dated March/April 1984

A copy of the March/April issue of i-D from 1984 has sold on eBay for £179.99. It was marketed as ‘MADONNA’s 1st magazine cover’ and the listing went on:

This is the super collectable and rare Madonna issue. It was her VERY FIRST magazine cover. Spotted in a club in Paris, and photographed by Mark Lebon when she arrived in London. There’s no interview as such, a couple of quotes, including these snippets: ‘I moved to New York because my father wouldn’t let me date boys… I was 17 when I saw my first…’

But this ‘first cover’ claim seems dubious when No 1 magazine had her on its cover dated February 4.

The first Madonna magazine cover - No 1 from 4 February 1984

Madonna magazine cover – No 1 from 4 February 1984

And Smash Hits followed 12 days later. This magazine also sells well across the world, fetching £28 in the UK and $49 recently in Australia. In addition, a collection of 31 Madonna magazines described as ‘all mint’ and ‘some very rare’ from 1984 to 2017 sold in Oz for $407, attracting 13 bids. The lot included the 1984 i-D., as well as Playboy, Face and Tatler Madonna issues.

A different look for the cover of Smash Hits, also in February 1984

Smash Hits, dated 16 February 1984

The March/April issue of i-D may well have been on sale in February, because monthlies usually come out towards the end of the month preceding the cover date, but as early as  the 4th, No 1‘s cover date, seems unlikely.

Even so, the Madonna i-D magazine seller, Vintage Magazines, has listed another copy on eBay – but upped the price to £250!

Despite Madonna’s popularity in the music press, the first reference I can find to her in newspapers is in ‘Eurythmics singer brings his studio’, a feature by Todd Webb in the
16 August 1984 Daily Oklahoman, an American paper. The profile of Dave Stewart mentions that:

his travelling notebooks – cassettes containing miles of taped songs, song fragments and melody lines – have yielded three songs for the new Tom Petty album, a new song in the making for Madonna, and plans to ‘experiment in the studio’ with [Lou] Reed

No doubt, Madonna experts will be able to identify the track – and this press cutting is undoubtedly one many fans aspire to as well. Just a few months later, The New York Times of 6 January was talking of how:

No phenomenon illustrates more pointedly how pop music history seems to run in cycles than the overnight success of the 24-year-old pop siren known as Madonna. The month before Christmas, Madonna’s second album, Like a Virgin sold more than two million copies (‘Madonna’s siren song’ by Stephen Holden)

It takes another six months before Britain’s mainstream press picks up on a phenomenon that swept its pop magazines before anywhere else. Surprisingly, it was The Times that leapt in, though with a highbrow angle about women’s liberation:

The United Nations decade for women reached its climax here with Playboy and Penthouse rushing to beat each other to the newsstands with nude pictures of pop star Madonna. For those who do not follow the pop scene closely, I should explain that Madonna is not a successor to the Singing Nun but the very latest sex symbol. Her stage costume consists of lacy underwear, bare navel, micro-skirt and crucifix. (‘Liberated – with frills attached’ by John O’Sullivan, 13 July 1985)

(I should explain that the Singing Nun was Jeanine Deckers, a Belgian nun – with the stage name Sister Smile – who beat the Beatles to No 1 in 1963 with Domenique, but became addicted to drink and drugs and died in 1985.)

A month after its decade for women article, The Times was quoting Madonna’s press team in a piece about pop and film soundtracks, saying ‘she’s the hottest crossover dream to burn up the charts since Elvis’. From nowhere to Elvis in a year, not bad going – and then she hitched up with actor Sean Penn and the anti-Madonna ‘flirt rock’ reaction kicked in.


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

 

 


 

On this day in magazines: Private Eye celebrates in 1981

February 13, 2017
Lord Goodman jumps out of a giant birthday cake on Private Eye's 500th issue cover in February 1981

Lord Goodman jumps out of a giant birthday cake on Private Eye’s 500th issue cover of 13 February 1981

Private Eye registered a sales figure last week at just over a quarter of a million copies an issue for the second half of 2016. Under editor Ian Hislop, it claims the high ground as the best-selling news and current affairs magazine.

The circulation per copy breaks down as 105,077 through newsagents, 142,833 subscriptions, 2,214 bulk sales and just 22 copies free. It total, that’s three million copies a year from its fortnightly mix of satire and investigative journalism. While the newspapers keep jacking up their prices – arguing readers will pay for quality reporting – but lose sales, the Eye holds its price at £1.80 and buyers and subscribers keep coming.

The cover above is from 13 February 1981, when the Eye was celebrating its 500th issue with a Willy Rushton cartoon. Out of the giant birthday cake festooned with writs jumps Lord Goodman – an early ally of Private Eye. Rupert Murdoch can be seen waiting on then editor Richard Ingrams in the top left and Gnitty, the magazine’s mascot Crusader, is also seated at a table. Around them are foes, friends and characters from the magazine.

A punning advert from Letraset for Private Eye's celebratory issue

A punning advert from Letraset for Private Eye’s celebratory 1981 issue

Although the magazine had survived many legal battles, such as the 1976 onslaught from James ‘Goldenballs’ Goldsmith who issued 60 writs against the Eye and its distributors in one month, many more were to come, including those with Robert Maxwell and his Not Private Eye. In 1990, Private Eye was threatened with closure when Sonia Sutcliffe was awarded £600,000 in libel damages. Hislop said that if this was justice he was ‘a banana’. The sum was reduced to £60,000 on appeal.

Inside the anniversary issue are many supportive advertisers, including Letraset, the makers of dry transfer lettering, a revolutionary British invention in its day, but now a French-owned brand mainly selling marker pens.

Private Eye‘s title was an early success for Letraset – the typographer Matthew Carter did the design, which saw its first outing on 18 May 1962 and is still in use today.


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


On this day in magazines: Now! Talbot! 1980

February 8, 2017
Now! magazine from February 8, 1980

Now! magazine from February 8, 1980

Today out of my archive comes Now!, a magazine launched by the business tycoon Sir James Goldsmith – ‘Goldenballs’ as he was known to Private Eye – as a right-wing news weekly. Ridiculing the Queen is rarely a good idea for newspapers and magazines – even Kelvin McKenzie could not get away with it at the height of his powers as editor of The Sun. And Now! had a powerful enemy on its back – Private Eye.

Private Eye ridicules the launch of Goldsmith's Now! (9 September 1979)

Private Eye ridicules Goldsmith’s Now! (9 September 1979)

Private Eye and Goldsmith had fought vicious legal battles and from the outset the Eye ridiculed Now! , though never using its proper title, instead dubbing it ‘Talbot!’.

Before the first issue came out on September 14, 1979, the Eye ran a page ridiculing the magazine and its journalists under a reversed-out headline in Now!‘s title type, saying WHO?. A subdeck asked ‘Up what part of whom are these seedy looking hacks gazing in admiration?’ The first paragraph read:

You won’t recognise any of these people(except possibly John Lander, who used to be on News at Ten years ago). Others are better known in the bars and betting shops of Soho. But all of them have one thing in common. They are all anxious about the future. That’s why they’ve all decided to invest in the James Goldsmith Pension Fund of Funds.

Private Eye celebrates the last Now! magazine (5 May 1981)

Private Eye celebrates the last Now! magazine (5 May 1981)

It goes on to set out the reasons of all the hacks in sycophantic terms. One of the editors has a speech bubble saying: ‘If you know a better hole, look up it!’ (A reference to the Bruce Bairnsfather cartoon character Old Bill, whose most famous cartoon has the grumpy First World War soldier stuck in a water-filled shell hole and saying to a colleague, ‘If you knows of a better ‘ole, go to it!’)

Such was the Eye‘s venom that as well as frequent articles, it even ran a regular strip cartoon, called Focus on Fact – Talbot!, ridiculing Goldsmith and the magazine. When Now! folded with a final issue dated 24 April 1981, Private Eye ran a celebratory cover ‘Talbot memorial issue. A nation mourns’ (5 May).

 


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

 


This month in magazines: holographic cover

February 6, 2017
Newton hologram on the cover of New Scientist in 1988

Newton hologram on the cover of New Scientist in 1988

Front covers don’t come much rarer than this one from 4 February 1988. A bust of Newton is looking at itself in a hologram that is embossed on the front cover of IPC’s New Scientist.

The hologram discs were originated by Advanced Holographics and Markem Systems. The covers were then printed as usual with a space left for the disc. At Malvern Press, the covers were then stamped with the holographic foil disc using a ‘hologram registration unit’.

There was a lot of interest in the technology at the time. A couple of years earlier, Venture, a magazine run by Redwood Publishing had stuck a hologram on its cover. Later in 1988, National Geographic did a whole cover hologram (December issue) and it had done a smaller hologram cover in March 1984 and November 1985.

Last year, Another magazine did a Karl Lagerfeld hologram for its 150th issue. Like lenticular covers, the concept is expensive and gimmicky.

The Jonathan Ross Collection lists 12 magazine covers with holograms.


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

 

 

 


Magazines in the movies: Playboy in Steven Seagal’s Under Siege

December 28, 2016
playboy_1989_7jul_880.jpg

Playboy magazine, July 1989, as seen in the film Under Siege

A few weeks ago, it was James Bond reading a copy of Playboy magazine. Tonight, it’s a sailor goggling over a copy with a Playboy bunny in Under Siege. The crew of the US battleship Missouri are anticipating the arrival of the July 1989 Playboy playmate of the month, Jordan Tate. In fact, the playmate that month was Erika Eleniak, who actually plays the Jordan Tate role in the 1992 film. She ‘wears’ a captain’s dress uniform, something that she also does in the movie, when she jumps out of a giant cake in front of Steven Seagal, playing the ship’s cook, Casey Ryback.

Eleniak also had a role in Baywatch, a TV series that later produced another popular magazine pin-up, Pamela Anderson.

It’s far and away the best Seagal film, and was followed three years later by Under Siege 2: Dark Territory, which takes place on a train. Watch out for the cameo role for an Apple Newton. This was the US computer company’s first attempt at an iPad-type device, though called a personal digital assistant in the jargon of the time. It featured handwriting recognition and was built around a British-designed ARM chip, the processor powering just about every Apple product 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