Archive for the ‘design’ Category

Self-referential covers 3: the recursive John Bull

April 10, 2015
John Bull 1946 March 2 first edition in colour with a cover by Clixby Watson

John Bull 1946 March 2 – first edition in colour with a cover by Clixby Watson

This John Bull cover marked the 1946 relaunch of what was one of the biggest-selling magazines with a fresh editorial approach led by a full colour cover. Since its launch, John Bull had always been a monochrome weekly magazine, with advertising on the cover since the 1920s and throughout the war. It dated back to 1906 as the brainchild of the swindling MP Horation Bottomley. It may well have been the biggest-selling magazine until the great success of the BBC’s Radio Times in the early 1930s.

The cover was by Clixby Watson, one of the most sought-after illustrators of the era (and the only Clixby I’ve ever come across). Watson had illustrated Woman magazine since the 1930s along with many other magazines. As well as promoting the magazine, the image promotes the idea of actually buying magazines at a news-stand.

Scenes of buying magazines – on the street or at railway station stalls – was a regular theme on magazine covers in the first half of the 20th century.  Publishers promoted the retail buying and distribution chain – a link that is being lost today as even the biggest news chains focus on other goods and even charge publishers extra for new launches. The publishers have reacted by adopting the historical US model of focusing on subscriptions, or moving online.

In theory, the illustration is repeated ad infinitum in each cover – it is a recursive, self-referential cover. The composition of the image is very good, as is the the sense of light. Watson uses the angles and diagonals in the image – and the pointing pipe – to focus on the stall holder and everyone is engrossed by the sight of the magazine. Note that ink and paper were still rationed at this stage – and would be until 1952 – so the appearance of a new colour magazine will have made a splash.  The publisher was Odhams (later IPC/Time UK).

This 1946 holiday season cover from John Bull forecasts a web fate for the slumbering  gent

This 1946 holiday season cover from John Bull forecasts a wet fate for the slumbering gent

The second John Bull cover here is a twist on the self-referential theme. The cover of the issue that has fallen from the hands of the sleeping holidaymaker predicts the fate that lies in store for him – the tide is coming in and he will soon be up to his waist in seawater. Though at least his hat looks safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there are at least three types of self-referential cover:

  1. recursive – featuring the cover itself within itself: John Bull colour relaunch above and Woman’s Own colour relaunch in 1937. It’s interesting that these fiercely rival publishers – Odhams and George Newnes – should both use the same idea to mark relaunches;
  2. self-referential to other issues of the same title: Woman’s Own 1931 and 1935. What would be the criteria for the choice of cover? Obviously, you would want to to be strong visually, both the main image and the masthead in particular, but also a significant issue – perhaps a bestseller;
  3. self-referential with a twist, John Bull at the seaside, above.

 

Monroe brings glamour to Blighty price on eBay

April 6, 2015
1956 copy of Blighty with Marilyn Monroe cover

1956 copy of Blighty with Marilyn Monroe cover

A Marilyn Monroe cover sprinkled some stardust on the price of this 1956 copy of Blighty when it was sold on eBay recently.

Copies of Blighty – which was originally a free magazine for the troops in the First World War and then resurrected for WWII – are usually more likely to fetch £5 than £50, but this issue fetched a whacking £70.88 plus £1.40 postage on eBay. And, there were 31 bids from 6 bidders.

After World War Two, Blighty carried on being published, turning itself into ‘the national humorous weekly’ and then a popular men’s weekly. It later renamed itself Parade and became more explicit, ending up on the top shelf.

A rare colour cover by Arthur Ferrier to help Blighty magazine celebrate VE Day in 1945

A rare colour cover by Arthur Ferrier to help Blighty magazine celebrate VE Day in 1945

The covers were at first whole-page cartoons by the prolific Arthur Ferrier, but mono photographs of young starlets such as Joan Collins or Sabrina replaced these at the end of 1953 and then colour became a regular feature during 1954. Ferrier’s cartoons moved to page 3. One Ferrier cover for Blighty that did well on eBay marked the end of WWII and fetched £48.99 plus £3.99 postage (13 bids by 4 bidders). This was unusual for the time in being colour.

Here is a 1944 British Pathe film of Ferrier drawing a strip for his Sally cartoon in the News of the World based a live model, theatre actress Eileen Bennett.

A contemporary Marilyn Monroe cover will lift the price of most magazines, she being sought after by film and celebrity enthusiasts, and she is an icon for the gay community – an aspect encouraged by Elton John’s ‘Candle in the Wind’.

 

Self-referential magazine covers 2: Woman’s Own

April 5, 2015
This is the cover for the relaunch of Woman's Own in 1937 as a colour weekly. Note this is a true self referential cover because the woman is holding a copy of the magazine she appears on!

This is the cover for the relaunch of Woman’s Own in 1937 as a colour weekly

Woman’s Own seems to have particularly fond of self-referential covers. It was published by George Newnes, yet its great rival Odhams never seems to have use the technique for Woman.

Although the cover describes it as ‘No 1′, this issue actually marked a relaunch of the five-year old woman’s weekly in the face of rival publishing group Odhams opening a new colour gravure printing plant in Watford in 1937. It was from this plant that Odhams launched Woman magazine. The two women’s weeklies are still published today, though both are now controlled by the same company: first IPC when Odhams and Newness merged in the 1960s, and now the UK arm of US group Time Inc.

This is a fully self-referential cover because the woman is holding a copy of the magazine she appears on!

Here are three more self-referential covers, all second world war issues, from 1941, 1943 and 1945. The second is like the one above in that the woman is again holding the cover on which she appears. Wartime covers on women’s magazines were unusual in that many of them depicted men, usually in uniform.

This photographic cover from 1941 shows the model reading another issue of Woman's Own

This photographic cover from March 1941 shows the model reading another issue of Woman’s Own – from December 1940

 

 

Another fully self-referential cover from Woman's Own in 1943

Another fully self-referential cover from Woman’s Own in 1943

 

 

Womans Own cover from 1945

Woman’s Own cover from March 1945. The issue she is holding looks like one from the start of February

 

 

The self-referential magazine cover

April 1, 2015
The Penny Magazine shows itself being sold from what looks like a railway station stall in 1904

The Penny Magazine shows itself being sold from what looks like a railway station stall in 1904

Self-referential magazine cover covers are a not-so-subtle form of marketing and are pretty rare, but they do crop up, seemingly more often on weekly magazines than monthlies. It’s a brand marketing strategy, though that is not likely to have been a term on anyone’s lips at the time.

This is the earliest one I’ve noticed, from 1904. It plugs not only itself but its sister magazine from publishers Cassell, the monthly Cassell Magazine, which cost 6d. This strategy of having a cheap weekly and upmarket monthly was common for publishers in the Victorian and Edwardian era. The Penny Magazine had been founded in 1898 as the New Penny Magazine, shortening the name in 1903 and continuing until 1925. The story-based sister monthly was published under various titles from 1853 to 1932. Other magazines shown or partly visible are three titles for children,  Chums (1892-1934), Quiver (1861-1926) and Little Folks, and Cassell’s Saturday Journal (1883-1924) again all from Cassell.

The black-and-white cover illustration with its red spot colour is not a particularly good example, but then most of these penny weeklies were pretty cheap. It is signed by E Lander. The quality of some of them improved as sales grew for those titles from the likes of Newnes and Harmsworth that were able to achieve very high sales.

The drawing portrays a railway bookstall of the kind run by WH Smith and Wyman & Sons. No actual cover is shown on the stall, just the magazines’ titles. The uniformed lad with his sales tray looks like he may be selling maps and guides. Note that the Penny Magazine describes itself as being for travellers and commuters – ‘for rail, road, river or sea’.

Cassell is a name that dates back to 1848, when the company was founded by John Cassell. The magazines were an offshoot of the book publishing and were probably regarded as a way of developing writers and promoting established names. Cassell ceased being an independent publisher in 1999 – a decade of concentration in book publishing – when it was bought up by Orion Publishing Group, itself owned by the French group Lagardère. Today, Cassell is an illustrated imprint of Octopus Publishing.

£10 to New York and the inflight magazine

March 17, 2015
Freddie Laker's Skylines magazine cover from 1981

Freddie Laker’s Skylines magazine cover from 1981

One of the most popular online stories yesterday morning was Jane Wild’s story about Ryanair working towards £10 transatlantic flights.

Such cheap flights from Europe to the Americas have long been a dream – most famously espoused by Freddie Laker with Skytrain in the 1980s. So popular were Laker’s flights that the US embassy in London had processed 300,000 non-immigrant visas by April 1981 – and was expecting a total of 1m for the year. This meant there would be as many Britons going to the US as US citizens holidaying in Britain – and the rise was attributed to Laker by the US consul. Yet, as Wild points out, no airline has managed to run a transatlantic service offering rock-bottom fares and turn a profit. Some went bust trying, including Sir Freddie’s Skytrain in 1982.

And for every airline, there is usually an airline magazine. The 1981 Skylines cover shown here summarises the typical contents for such magazines, then and now:

  • Dustin Hoffman – a dust of celebrity sparkle;
  • Wine without tears – encouraging readers to dip into the duty free and buy more drinks;
  • The Laker story (and the cover) – it’s marketing material after all;
  • Money wars – business and finance for the executive travellers they are keen to attract;
  • About your flight – answering the questions and pushing other services
  • Short story – for those who want to switch off.

But the 1980s was the era of deregulation, and by 1985, the US airline People Express and Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic were following Laker in taking the transatlantic fight to British Airways. And just as BA has been the airline to beat on that route, for the past 40 years BA’s High Life has been the inflight magazine – and for much of that time the contract magazine – to beat (I remember ‘whoops’ in the office when the InterCity magazine I was editing for British Rail beat High Life in the National Readership Survey).

Cover of BOAC's inflight magazine Welcome Aboard in 1970

Cover of BOAC’s inflight magazine Welcome Aboard in 1970

Before BA and High Life, there was BOAC and its Welcome Aboard, where the covers focused on encouraging exotic international travel and used relaxing poster covers devoid of cover lines. These days, High Life magazine ‘gets in front of over three million people every year, who spend an average of 36 minutes reading it’, says its customer publisher, Cedar. And it has spun off lots of add-ons, becoming more than a magazine, with a travel website, iPad app, social media content and inflight entertainment package.

High Life inflight magazine cover from November 2012

High Life inflight magazine cover from November 2012

Cedar also boasts that High Life uses ‘some of the best editors, writers and photographers in the world, including Michael Palin, John Simpson and Rankin’. And that’s certainly true of many customer magazines. InterCity was launched by former Nova and Observer Magazine editor Peter Crookston and former GQ editor Paul Keers took over when I left.

Magazines such as High Life and InterCity were key to the development of the customer magazine industry in the early 1980s, led by contract publishers such as BBC/Redwood and Cedar.

The first issue cover for Carlos, an inflight magazine for Virgin in 2003

The first issue cover for Carlos, an inflight magazine for Virgin in 2003

These days, inflight magazines for the budget airlines tend to be functional, with tit-bitty city profiles and short lifestyle features for their short-haul flights.

One magazine that set out to break the mould was the illustration-led  Carlos for Virgin Airlines. This thought of itself as more of a fanzine than an inflight magazine. It was loved by other editors and designers and won awards for its launch and design from the BSME for publisher John Brown. However, like earlier creative titles such as Town and Nova, it failed to make commercial sense for the airline, lasting just three years and six issues. It was replaced by Travel Notes in 2006. The Atelier Tally blog has a post of covers and details.

 

Illustration in the Great War

December 31, 2014
Illustrated drop capital from a page in Home Chat, one of the best-selling women's weeklies

Illustrated drop capital from Home Chat

Pick up any weekly magazine from the first 2o years of the last century and you’ll find it packed full of line illustrations produced by black-and-white artists. Most of the drawings were small but there were usually several on most pages.

These were gradually replaced by photographs – though these were decorated by hand-drawn ‘frames’ for many years – but also magazines simply dropped many of these illustrative elements.

These images from Home Chat, a cheaply produced women’s weekly from Northcliffe’s Amalgamated Press, show what I mean.

Home Chat was one of the best-selling women’s weeklies. It was founded in 1895 with a page size between A5 and A4 and lasted until 1959, when there was a high level of disruption in weekly magazines because of a loss of audience to television – and a loss of advertising to the ITV companies.

A 'letter parrot' from Home Chat for children

A ‘letter parrot’

This parrot made up of the letters of the word was used on the four central pages, which were aimed at children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A page from Home Chat of photographs in decorative, hand-drawn picture frames

A page of photographs in decorative, hand-drawn picture frames

A page of photographs displayed in hand-drawn picture frame in the art nouveau style.

Playbox titlepiece from Home Chat

Playbox titlepiece from Home Chat

And finally, the decorative title piece for the children’s Playbox section. This issue is from 1914, when the scouts were still a relatively new organisation, having been founded just seven years earlier when Boer War hero Robert Baden-Powell held a camp on Brownsea Island in Poole with just 20 boys. The movement was supported by one of the biggest magazine and newspaper magnets of the era, C. Arthur Pearson, who helped ‘BP’ popularise the movement with Scouting for Boys, a magazine published a year later in six fortnightly parts. Pearson provided staff and printing presses. The magazine was collated into a book and became one of the best-selling titles of the 20th century.

At the seige of Mafeking in the Boer War, BP had recruited and trained boys as postmen, messengers and later to carry the wounded. This freed up the men to fight and the scouts performed a similar role in Britain during the First World War.

The scouts later returned the favour after Pearson went blind by helping to promote Braille during the war.

The telephone wires are also significant because phones were still relatively rare – there were about 500,000 in the country for a population of about 46 million and the Post Office had only taken over the national system two years before. Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe), Home Chat‘s owner, was a technology enthusiast who used his personal wealth and publications to promote inventions such as the telephone.

Felix Dennis and Eric Gill – two soulmates

November 23, 2014
The Game from 1922 with Eric Gill illustration

One of the many Gill items being sold by the Felix Dennis estate – a copy of ‘The Game’ magazine from 1922 with an Eric Gill biblical illustration on the cover – part of lot 146 (estimate £700-£900)

It hardly seems any time since Felix Dennis popped his clogs – in fact it was June – but already the estate of the once-jailed joint editor of underground magazine Oz, Mac User and Maxim owner, and multimillionaire publisher is being sold off.

Sotheby’s is auctioning Dennis’s collection of Eric Gill sculptures and drawings on 9 December as part of its English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations sale.

And it is an extensive collection numbering about a hundred lots, many of several items, gathered by someone who regarded himself as an unlikely collector of art. The lots include many examples of drawn and carved lettering, while a youthful Dennis himself had stormed out of Harrow School of Art saying he shouldn’t have to waste time learning to draw letters when he could simply use Letraset.

Gill led a reprehensible private life, exposed by Fiona McCarthy’s 1989 Faber biography of the sculptor, wood engraver, illustrator and typographer. So perhaps there was something of kindred-spiritship there with the rebellious Dennis. Fergus Byrne is working on an authorised biography of Dennis, to be published by Ebury. The blurb runs:

His early rebellious days started with dropping out of grammar school, playing in a rock ‘n’ roll band, and being imprisoned (with Richard Neville and Jim Anderson) for charges of obscenity relating to a priapic Rupert Bear in the ‘schoolkids’ issue of the magazine Oz. The launch of Kung-Fu magazine, created when Dennis spotted a queue at a Leicester Square cinema for a Bruce Lee film, changed his fortunes. An industrious and self-destructive era then followed. He moved to America, added the magazines MacUser and Maxim to his portfolio, but also discovered crack, hookers and S&M. When his lifestyle led him to hospital, he gave up the drugs overnight and took to writing poetry. He acquired a mansion in Warwickshire, bought a much loved home in Mustique from rock star David Bowie, gave generously to charities, planted the largest broadleaf forest in Britain, and published several volumes of verse promoted by very well received readings nationwide.

Byrne wrote a 2013 profile of Dennis after the latter’s treatment for throat cancer. He quotes Dennis talking about his treatment and giving up smoking:

“So I’d been smoking, God knows, thirty, forty or fifty a day for forty-nine and a half years and then just stopped, just like I gave up narcotics.” He amused the lady in the radiotherapy department with the explanation that he gave up through fear. “Terror is the best patch” he told her and she proceeded to make a sign with just that quote to hang in the radiotherapy waiting room.

There’s a Felix Dennis tribute website and Eric Gill has his own society.

Eric Gill's engraved wood carving for The Four Gospels published by Golden Cockerell Press

Eric Gill’s engraved wood carving for The Four Gospels published by Golden Cockerell Press – Sotheby’s lot 198 (estimate £3000-£5000)

 

Who is Woman cover illustrator Lovat?

November 21, 2014
Woman magazine from Odhams just three-and-a-half months before the outbreak of World War 2 with an illustration by 'Lovat'

Woman magazine from Odhams just three-and-a-half months before the outbreak of World War 2 with an illustration by ‘Lovat’

A classic cover here for a pre-war Woman magazine from Odhams – and, unusually for this title, the cover artists has signed the image, ‘Lovat’ (15 April 1939).

I immediately thought of Claud Lovat Fraser, who did illustrations for books and the theatre, but he died in 1921.

Woman had only launched in 1937, setting out to rival George Newnes’ Woman’s Own with its own colour gravure presses. At this time, Woman stuck to illustrated covers while Woman’s Own had used photography from its launch in 1932. The early Woman’s Own covers used a second or third spot colour but it ran photographic covers printed gravure that used spot colours in a very sophisticated way to given the impression of full-colour from as early was 1935. Ahead of the Woman launch, in early 1937 it started printing photographic colours in full colour.

Both magazines were printed in Watford, Herts, Odhams having built an Art Deco press hall there in 1937 after Sun Engraving had turned down a takeover. Sun was Britain’s biggest printer and Woman’s Own was one of its customers, along with Vogue and Picture Post to name but two. The Odhams plant is still there, though a big chunk of the site was sold off for an Asda store 25 years ago. Of the Sun plant, nothing is left but a clock!

So who was this Lovat? Any ideas?

Magazine titles and typography

November 20, 2014

Typography is an art and more and more people are creating their own typefaces and fonts. Nowadays, type and magazine titles tend to be created on computer screens but right into the 1990s, drawing unique lettering and fonts by hand was the standard way of doing things.

It might have been cheaper to rely on Letraset rub-down lettering or manipulating photoset typefaces, but nothing could beat the typographer’s pen for originality.

Until the 1960s and the dominance of photography for magazine covers, illustrators would often draw the lettering for each issue as part of the overall design. Many magazines did have an artist’s lettering set as a standard title however.

Take a look at theses online videos by typographer Davey Farey – whose work includes designing the Times, the Maxim masthead and Blackadder credits – to get a feel for the way it’s done.

The three titles here from Drawing date from 1915 and 1916.  At first glance, they may look the same, but take a closer look and you’ll soon start to see the differences. The top one is damaged.

 

Drawing title, June 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, June 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, October 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, October 1915

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, February 1916

Hand-drawn title for Drawing magazine, February 1916

Should cartoonists credit their sources?

November 12, 2014
Steve Bell sends up David Cameron's immigration strategy in the Guardian (21 October p29)

Steve Bell sends up David Cameron’s immigration strategy in the Guardian (21 October p29)

To address the question posed by the headline, in the cases discussed here, my answer is Yes. So, congratulations to Steve Bell, the Guardian‘s political cartoonist, for crediting Alfred Leete in this cartoon last month.

This image is, of course, a parody of Leete’s famed Your Country Needs You magazine cover for London Opinion at the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. It’s the most influential magazine cover yet seen and is copied or parodied, knowingly and unknowingly, an untold number of times each day all over the world.

All too often, cartoonists demonstrate their lack of knowledge, or meanness of spirit, by not crediting their direct rip-offs. So brickbats to Peter Brookes of the Times in August for his Leete parody below. No doubt he would defend the borrowing, but why not credit the source? As Bell demonstrates, it is easily done. There’s a double brickbat here in the centenary of the start of the Great War. For Leete joined the Artists’ Rifles and went to the front at the age of 33. Furthermore, his image became the famous recruiting poster and has been credited with being the face of Lord Kitchener’s volunteer recruitment campaign. Leete later gave the artwork to the Imperial War Museum, where it can be seen to this day.

Peter Brookes political cartoon in the style of Alfred Leete from the Times (August 5)

Peter Brookes political cartoon in the style of Alfred Leete from the Times (August 5)

The Times cartoonist of today established his name with a cover for Oz, of all places, back in the 1971. Brookes copied a cover by Peter Driben for US title Beauty Parade (February 1949) for the Oz ‘Young love’ cover (issue 37, September 1971). For that one, he signed himself ‘Peter Hack-Brookes’.

Peter Hack-Brookes cover for Oz from September 1971 - a copy from a US magazine cover from 1949

Peter Hack-Brookes cover for Oz from September 1971 – a copy from a US magazine cover by Peter Driben from 1949


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