Archive for the ‘design’ Category

Great to see Real Review’s a winner

December 3, 2016
Front cover of the first issue of Real Review magazine, summer 2016

Front cover of the first issue of Real Review magazine, summer 2016

I picked up a first issue of Real Review a while back from the Magculture shop. It’s a lovely magazine because it’s so portable and readable. So congratulations to them for winning the launch of the year award from Stack Magazines. There are many great-looking independent magazines around at the moment, but too often the emphasis is on looking good rather than encouraging people to read them.

I was discussing Real Review with Jeremy Leslie, who was saying there is a return to thin, glossy paper and lighter formats, and he mentioned Real Review in his Radio 4 talk last week. I liked it because of the way it folded up and could be put in your pocket for reading on the Tube or bus. It’s slightly wider than A4 to cater for four columns and a similar height.

A magazine that used to be like that is the RSA Journal. Ten times a year it would land on the door mat, I’d put in in my pocket and go off to work. Then, it was relaunched as a quarterly coffee table magazine and redesigned by Esterson/Lackersteen. Nothing wrong with the redesign, but it was no longer fit for my purpose and so it went pretty much unread.

Last week I flew out to Budapest and it was copies of the Economist and the Spectator that slipped into my bag. It’s usually that format for me to dip into on the move.

Getting back to Real Review, it’s architecture focused, but stretches the pitch into other areas: the meaning of home, for example. And it’s designed to be folded, as you can see from the cover above. And my copy has been read – the stain is from a pint of stout at the Jerusalem Tavern in Clerkenwell while I was waiting for a pal!

Real Review, first issue: spread of pages 19 and 22

Real Review, first issue: spread of pages 19 and 22

The foldability offers some intriguing layout possibilities. The spread here is of pages 19 and 22 folded so the text reads across – it’s difficult to explain without a copy, but the intervening pages disappear into the gutter!

Real Review magazine: pages 51 and 54 folded to make a spread of juxtaposed images

Real Review: pages 51 and 54 folded to make a spread of juxtaposed images

This spread shows the potential for some Stefan-Lorant-style juxtapositions by folding the pages. It’s something the Real Review editors have tried to do and on just a single spread, and possible occasions might be rare, but with all the fantastic architectural photography around it’s worth trying in this format. If Stefan Lorant is not a familiar name, take a look at Lilliput and his brilliant book 101 Best Picture Comparisons from Lilliput: Or Chamberlain and the Beautiful Llama – more pages from the juxtapositions book can be seen at Fulltable.

 

Mother’s Friend and the engraver John Swain

November 1, 2016
Mother's Friend magazine with a John Swain cover engraving from November 1888

Mother’s Friend magazine with a John Swain cover engraving from November 1888

The Mother’s Friend ran for almost 50 years from 1848 and was one of several magazines launched for mothers in the mid-Victorian era. Note the prominent cover credit for the editor, Mrs GS Reaney, who was also a prolific book author for Hodder and Stoughton, with titles such as For my Children’s Sake: A Christmas story for mothers.

The particular issue, dated November 1888, has a cover engraving signed by John Swain, one of the most skilled craftsmen of his day.

John Swain's signature in 1888

John Swain’s signature in 1888

Swain (1829-98) was a wood engraver who worked for a considerable time on Punch, where he was a favourite engraver of John Leech. The artists’s caricatures where interpreted by the engravers, who carved a representation of the image into wood. On a weekly such as Punch, large images were made up of several blocks, which were clamped together for printing.

The John Swain engraving of sleeping children shows his skill

The John Swain engraving of sleeping children shows his skill

An engraver could specialise in certain subjects, such as sea, sky or people. Swain was popular with Leech for his ability to carve dainty feet and hands, a skill that can be seen in this cover.

As well as Mother’s Friend and Punch, Swain made engravings for Once a Week and the Illustrated London News, along with many books. As a young man, he formed a partnership with  John Rimbault, one of a family of celebrated engravers, and worked on The Engineer. He formed a company in 1857, which later became John Swain and Son at 58 Farringdon Street and later at Columbia House, 80-89 Shoe Lane.

 


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

 

 


 

The week in magazines

October 9, 2016
town_1962nov_monroe_660.jpg

Town magazine ran a cover and several pages of the Monroe photos by  George Barris in 1963

It’s been a interesting week for magazines. There was the death of George Barris, the US photojournalist whose pictures of  Marilyn Monroe in her final weeks were published in Town magazine in the 1960s. A decade later, the Sunday Times Magazine made a cover of the ‘last pictures’; and again after that. And again in 2005.

sunday_times_1973_10oct1_monroe440 sunday_times_1982_9sep5_monroe660 sunday_times_2005_6jun12_monroe660

Then there was the mega spat at the venerable Burlington magazine, which saw the editor resign, along with her deputy, after just a year in the chair following a staff rebellion against her changes.

Over at Teddington, the Heseltine’s family plaything Haymarket sold Autosport, F1 Racing and Autosport News, along with the rest of its motorsport division to US group Motorsport Network. Not a big deal, but another example of the hollowing-out of British magazine publishing.

Farther north, in Scotland in fact, today’s Sunday Mail reminds us of the power of magazines to hold up newspapers. The paper is offering readers a free copy of The Scots Magazine – ‘the world’s best-selling Scottish-interest publication, covering topics from the contemporary to the historical’. It’s a similar story in Ireland, with the Irish Mail on Sunday spearheading a revamp with a new supplement:

JUST LOOK WHAT YOU GET! Today we are adding our new Irish Mail on Sunday MAGAZINE to the package of delights you pick up with your favourite newspaper. Already Ireland’s best-value Sunday newspaper, from today it’s getting even better AND bigger with the MAGAZINE, our superb new bumper celebrity, culture, home & garden magazine.
Every week, we’ll have an in-depth look at – and interviews with – the celebrities from at home and abroad… including the new SHRINK WRAP, where we get inside the head of a well known personality every week. Today, take your pick from Sarah Jessica Parker, new RTÉ star Seána Kerslake from Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope and international singing sensation Sophie Ellis Bextor.
Ireland’s top columnist, FIONA LOONEY’s weekly take on the world… from her kitchen sink!

And ancient jokes from Punch kick off the final episode in ITV’s costume drama series Victoria this evening. Prince Albert (Tom Hughes) reads aloud two jokes to the queen, the second of which is: ‘Who is the greatest chicken-killer in Shakespeare’s plays? Macbeth, because he did murder most foul.’ To which Victoria (played by Dr Who’s former sidekick, Jenna Coleman) replies: ‘We are not amused.’ This follows the trend in ITV’s Downton, which was forever mentioning The Lady in connection with advertising for domestic staff.

gym_class_2016_15_last

Gym Class, the magazine about  magazines, last issue

Finally, the latest – and last! – issue of Gym Class, the magazine about magazines, is out. I have to confess an interest here, having written the pieces about the rules of cover design (on the cover) and a visual about the price of vintage magazines.

The latest – and last – Gym Class is out. And it Rocks!

October 9, 2016
The 15th issue of Gym Class is the last, by Steven Gregor September 2016

The 15th issue of Gym Class is the last

The 15th issue of Gym Class, the magazine about magazines, is out and it will be the last. As the issue says:

Magazines have their moments.
Gym Class has had its.
And it was great!

However, founder Steven Gregor is working on a new project for 2017, and is determined that it won’t be a one-man show.

Gregor tells It’s Nice That that North America has been the biggest single market for Gym Class, mostly as online sales, with the latest issue getting into Barnes & Noble bookshops.

The rules of cover design in Gym Class

The rules of cover design in Gym Class

The cover feature, The Rules of Cover Design, was by yours truly, taking in the unwritten habits that dictate the way magazines look (though independent magazines like Gym Class are forever looking to subvert them!).

Other features include:

  • dealing with self-doubt;
  • the ten commandments of independent publishing
  • Japanese magazine publishing
  • photographer Christopher Anderson
  • Andrew Diprose of Wired Magazine

As Gregor himself says, ‘You Rock!’

If you see an issue buy it – they’re running out wherever I look.

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

Tremulous author frustrated in finding Poyner’s verdict

July 22, 2016
Seafoxes band

The Seafoxes playing at Jamboree tonight – musical distraction from my worries

Aaaarrrggghhh. As I wrote last night, I went out to find a copy of August’s Creative Review to read Rick Poyner’s view on A History of British Magazine Design after a restless night. But the world is against me. No copies in yet at the newsagents in Borough High Street or WH Smith and around London Bridge.

So on I go past Tower Bridge to the Design Museum. Oh Woe. The museum has finally moved. You’d think Kensington needed another museum like a hole in the head. It’ll be sorely missed by me.

History of British Magazine Design in Creative Review

First heavyweight criticism of A History of British Magazine Design in Creative Review

So, on to Tate Modern. Guaranteed to find Creative Review there. But no. All the July copies are sold out too – as they were every else (you get the impression that Creative Review might have pulled back on its newsstand distribution too far).

But is wasn’t all bad, I ended up signing copies of British Magazine Design on sale at the Tate Modern bookshop with Amy and Richard, who were very helpful in trying to track down a copy of Creative Review. Rush down there now!

So my panic over Prof Poyner’s criticism continues … but a night at Jamboree to see the Seafoxes launch their new EP should at least take my mind off things!

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

Tremulous author awaits verdict on his book

July 22, 2016
History of British Magazine Design in Creative Review

First heavyweight criticism of A History of British Magazine Design in Creative Review

Having started writing A History of British Magazine Design seven years ago and seen it published in May, you want people to tell you what they think of it (ie, how good it is!). And many friends and acquaintances have.

Then you wait to see if it will be reviewed. And wait… because it takes a couple of months before anything appears, apart from some newsy online items. Since then, there’s just been the Amazon ranking to watch – it bounces between about 25,000 and 350,000 (from the look of it, depending on a single copy being sold!). Now, a neighbour tells me, the first considered review has arrived, in August’s Creative Review, a special issue on starting out in the creative industry.

The review, ‘Britain in print’, is by critic and writer Rick Poynor, who made his name on Blueprint, was founding editor of Eye and is now visiting professor at the Royal College of Art. A true heavyweight in design commentary.

I look at an image of the review on the website. It’s a spread – that has to be good news? Gulp. Will he delve into the holes I know exist, or bombard me with others? Will he focus on the virtues or the vices? I’ve got butterflies. I knew I should have done more on the RCA and its Ark journal! And there are no Eye pages, but there are some from Blueprint, honest Rick!

But the JPEG text is too small to read and the article continues on to a third page. Now I’ve descended into panic … I’ll have to get a copy in the morning.

The Strand magazine and its iconic cover

May 31, 2016
Strand magazine front cover design from March 1891 by George Charles Haité

Strand magazine front cover from March 1891 by George Charles Haité

The Strand is one of the world’s most collected magazines, both in Britain and the US. The reason for its fame to this day lies undoubtedly in the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle featuring the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. If you want to buy a set of the 75 issues that carried the Sherlock Holmes stories, you can expect to pay £55,000!

The magazine started with a cover date of January 1891, but, as happens today, was available a week or two before that date. It was a goldmine for its publisher, George Newnes, selling about 300,000 copies a month for the next 40 years in Britain and another 100,000 in the US until 1916. From the start, it was published in America with much the same content, but a month later, with its own editor, James Walter Smith. It was a trendsetting title, with an illustration on every page, a dedicated puzzles page and publishing not only Conan Doyle but also E.W. Hornung, H.G. Wells, E. Nesbit, Rudyard Kipling,  O. Henry, and P. G. Wodehouse. The cover stated ‘edited by Geo. Newnes’ until 1914, but the power behind the editorial throne was Herbert Greenhough Smith, the literary editor, who worked on the magazine from 1891 to 1930. The magazine’s offices were in Burleigh Street off The Strand in London.

In an article to mark the 100th issue (April 1899), ‘A chat about its history‘ by Newnes, he says that it was originally to be called the Burleigh Street Magazine, but this was too long, so the Strand Magazine was chosen.

Its first cover design by George Charles Haité – like that of Richard Doyle’s for Punch – was long-lasting and is an icon of illustration. One of its early Haité covers (displayed on an iPad) was used for the jacket of Revolutions from Grub Street, a history of magazine publishing from Oxford University Press by Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt. But that iconic Strand cover is not as constant as you might think, as we’ll see. This post explores why the Strand cover looked the way it did and how it tried to change with the times.

George Haité – the Strand cover artist

Portrait of George Charles Haite at the National Portrait Gallery

Photograph of George Charles Haite taken about 1885 (held by the National Portrait Gallery)

George Charles Haité (1855-1924) was a decorative artist, designer, painter, illustrator and writer and lecturer on art.

His father, George Haité (1825-1871), was a fabric designer, many of whose works are in the V&A Museum, alongside hundreds by his son, who often signed himself GC Haité. Hundreds of GC’s designs were donated by his daughter, and are stamped with his address: Ormaby Lodge, The Avenue, Bedford Park, in West London.

GC was the first president of the London Sketch Club in 1898, set up at premises in  Chelsea for graphic artists and featuring leading black-and-white artists artists such as Tom Browne, Phil May, Alfred Leete, Edmund Dulac, John Hassall, Heath Robinson and HM Bateman. The National Portrait Gallery holds two portraits of GC, showing the walrus moustache that dominated his face.

Haiti’s view down The Strand

Haité’s iconic illustration shows the view looking east along The Strand towards the church of St Mary-le-Strand. Then, as now, The Strand runs from Charing Cross to Temple Bar – two London landmarks that have also given their names to magazines. Temple Bar was a gate placed where The Strand ends and Fleet St begins, at the boundary between Westminster and the City of London. The Wren-designed gateway became a bottleneck for traffic and so was removed in 1878. It now stands in Paternoster Square, by St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Strand was regarded as a fashionable thoroughfare, linking the City of London and St Paul’s with Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall – the financial, religious and political establishments at the heart of the British Empire. At its east end, it became the media hub of Fleet Street – the fourth estate – and at its west end was Trafalgar Square.

Strand Magazine from March 1891

Strand Magazine front cover of March 1891

The Strand and Burleigh Street - the view as it is today

The Strand and Burleigh Street – the view as it is today with ornate street lamps lit. Just past the traffic lights on the right is Lancaster Place, leading south to Waterloo bridge

Haité’s view is pretty accurate, as the photograph above shows. The image was drawn from the bottom of Burleigh Street, where the offices of Tit-Bits and Strand publisher George Newnes were located. There are several details worth noting:

Sixpenny coin - the price of a copy of the Strand in 1891 Burleigh Street sign on the cover of Strand magazine in 1891 Hoarding points to the George Newnes offices in Burleigh Street
Price of an issue Street sign
Strand magazine title hanging from telegraph wires No 359, the building at the corner of Burleigh St and The Strand
The title lettering is hung from telegraph wires across the street The number 359, The Strand address of the property on the corner Board points towards 12 Burleigh St. There would have been no such hoarding

Street vendor on the Strand cover is selling copies of Tit-Bits magazine

Also note the two newspaper sellers, one dashing across the road, the nearer one on the pavement selling copies of Tit-Bits – you can make out the title on the copy under his arm. This, of course, is a reference to the weekly magazine that established Newnes’ name in 1881, was the first example of the mass media and became the progenitor of today’s tabloid press.

Most of the pedestrians are men and the back of the stout gentleman on the left looks as if it could have been a true portrayal, but who could it be? George Newnes, the magazine’s founder? The artist himself looks too scrawny in the many sketches of him by fellow artists (though one of the NPG portraits shows that Haité’s figure filled out later!).

Within the first issue

Modern-day street lamps in The strandThe first issue of the Strand carried a 10-page article about the famous thoroughfare and its surrounds with several sketches by Haité. One showed the view north from The Strand to 12 Burleigh St, where both the Strand and Tit-Bits were published. Crossing over the Strand from Burleigh St takes you straight into the Savoy hotel. Again, the sketch can be compared with the view today – and a 1940s illustration of the same building from when it was occupied by Queen magazine, a title that dates back to 1861. Compare the street lamps in Haité’s Burleigh St sketch below with the lit lamps in the modern-day Strand photograph – they look very similar.

Haité's view of Burleigh St from the Strand showing the Tit-Bits office with its massive rooftop sign on the right

Haite’s sketch of Burleigh St from the Strand showing the Tit-Bits office with its huge rooftop sign on the right

Former Tit-Bits and Strand office at 12 Burleigh St in 2015

The former Tit-Bits and Strand office at 12 Burleigh St, without the rooftop sign. Exeter St runs to the right

The glossy monthly Queen occupied the old Tit-Bits office in 1947

Queen occupied the old Tit-Bits office in 1947. Another former occupant was Health & Strength in 1910

The article notes that the street took its name from Lord Burleigh, a leading statesmen in the time of Elizabeth I, who lived on the site of the Tit-Bits office at the corner of Burleigh St and Exeter St (today best known for the American-style restaurant, Joe Allen’s). Exeter St takes its name from Burleigh’s son, the Earl of Exeter.

It goes on to explain that many street names on the south side of The Strand came from the nobles on whose former riverside palaces the area was developed, including George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham. He lived at York House, where today you find the Adelphi and the Adam brothers architecture around the Royal Society of Arts. The Palace of the Savoy has engraved itself in the area as the name of the world famous hotel (where taxis drive in on the right-hand side of the road as a welcome to American guests). People associated with The Strand and its surrounds include Dr Johnson and Sir Walter Scott, who both banked at nearby Coutts; the painter William Etty, Samuel Pepys and Peter the Great have all resided in Buckingham St; Evelyn and Tatler founder Steele both lived in Villiers St (though ‘it is now the haunt of anything rather than genius’). Northumberland House, the last of the palaces, had only been demolished in 1874.

In the same way that Tit-Bits was the most popular weekly, the Strand soon became the best-selling monthly, built on the massive popularity of the ‘consulting detective’, Sherlock Holmes. However, as we shall see, Haité’s cover faced challenges in adopting to the times.

The Strand magazine: Haité’s cover evolves

The Strand followed an established publishing strategy in that it was designed to be bound into volumes twice a year. Each issue consisted of an outer wrapper to protect the contents, which consisted of a run of advertising followed by the editorial content and then more advertising. Twice a year, the six issues would be collated by stripping away the wrapper and advertising and binding the editorial into volumes along with titles pages, a frontispiece and index pages that came with the final issue for each volume. That is why the editorial pages are numbered to follow on from each other between issues, reverting back to 1 for the start of each new volume. The publisher would also offer complete bound volumes in various finishes, from cloth to leather, depending on the buyer’s purse. So Haité’s covers would have been thrown away, though the standard Newnes binding showed the illustration on the front of the volume.

The magazine became an institution, and Smith will have been reluctant to tamper with such a successful formula. Readers – particularly regular buyers – are creatures of habit. (As editor of Acorn User, a computer magazine, in the 1980s, I remember receiving letters of complaints when the lettering on the spine was accidentally printed black, rather than the usual red because it ‘ruined’ the look of the magazines on a shelf! And Fleet Street legend has it that woe betide any editor who moves the crossword in a daily paper.)

However, various factors forced changes on the cover design.

Newnes offices at 7-12 Southampton Street from 1896

Newnes offices in Southampton St. The man on the left is looking into the Tit-Bits window

First, Newnes expanded, launching more magazines and so had to move out of the Burleigh St office. The company didn’t go far – just two streets west along the Strand into 7-12 Southampton Street. (By 1925, Newnes expanded again into Tower House next door, where the company stayed until it merged into IPC in the 1960s and moved across the river into King’s Reach.)

So the street name was altered on the Strand cover to match the new address and the number 359 taken off the building wall. In addition, the company’s new name and address was printed along the bottom of the cover. This addition was the start of a slippery slope.

Soon, a cover line was added across the top, promoting another Newnes magazine or the contents of an issue, such as:

  • ‘Now Ready, THE PICTURE MAGAZINE. Companion to THE STRAND MAGAZINE’ (Aug 1893).
  • ‘Xmas Double No. 294 ILLUSTRATIONS. 208 PAGES. 1/-‘ (Dec 1895);
  • Rodney Stone: CONAN DOYLE’S magnificent New Story, Commences in this Number’ (Jan 1896).
  • ‘Pictures on the Human Skin. See Page 428. EASTER EGGS. See Page 373. FLOODS. See Page 441’ (April 1897).

On the Christmas 1896 cover, a cover line was set below the title: ‘The most profusely illustrated magazine in the world’. Christmas issues were dated December and, at one shilling, were double the usual price. Christmas 1897 saw another innovation: advertising appeared on the cover. On the brickwork above the street sign, a small hoarding appeared: ‘Hall’s Wine. See Page XI’ (the advertising pages carried Roman numerals, distinguishing them from editorial).  Another innovation for this issue was that the price and issue details – 208 pages, 323 illustrations – were made more prominent by being carried in a box below the title.

The hoardings carried on, sometimes referring to an advertising page within the issue or sometimes as a standalone. Fry’s Cocoa took this position throughout 1899 until 1925, when it was replaced by Oxo.

In addition to the extra content and illustrations, the cover for the December 1903 Christmas issue was in lavish colour.

George Newnes himself died in 1910, but the company carried on under his name. The Strand cover hoarding of ‘Edited by Geo. Newnes’ continued until 1913 when it was replaced by the issue date and used for information such as subscription prices.

Technology catches up with Haité’s cover in 1914, when motor cars replace the horse-drawn hackney carriages of the Victorian era.

This was also a great time of experimentation in terms of cover promotion. The boxes come in various shapes and sizes and a second colour, spot red, is used to pick out the highlights.

Sherlock Holmes on the Strand’s cover

Strand magazine of September 1914 puts Sherlock Holmes on the cover

Strand magazine of September 1914 puts Holmes on the cover

Even as the boxes had got bigger and the covers become more littered with marketing material, Haité’s illustration was still the dominant image. That changes with the September 1914 issue – which will have appeared in newsagents just after the war broke out – when Sherlock Holmes (who else!) breaks the mould. Not only does the cover line at the top expound the start of a new Conan Doyle serial, ‘The Valley of Fear’, but the detective himself is portrayed musing over a coded letter while he smokes a pipe. Much of the traditional illustration is obliterated by the coloured oval image.

Although Smith published many famous writers and stories in the Strand, Sherlock Holmes held the most pulling power and the editor clearly felt the need to promote the character as much as possible. The relationship between Holmes and the Strand begins with ‘A Scandal in Bohemia’ in July 1891, the sixth issue of the magazine. The story was illustrated by the artist Sidney Paget whose images have set the tone for the look of Holmes ever since; he even introduced the deerstalker hat to the character. However, Conan Doyle killed off Holmes in a fight with his nemesis, the criminal mastermind Moriarty, in ‘The Final Problem’ after two years in the magazine. The character did not return until the spectacular ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ in 1901. At Conan Doyle’s insistence, Paget also returned as the illustrator. After that, stories appeared regularly until 1927. In all, there were four novels and 56 short stories over 75 issues.

The Strand in the Great War and 1920s

For the rest of the war, the strategy of ever more prominent boxes continues. The lower hoarding is used to encourage readers to make use of a scheme to support the troops: ‘You can end this magazine Post Free to the troops’; and ‘The best magazine to send to out soldiers and sailors. It goes post free’. The magazine is not free however, and the price rises, first to 7d and then 8d by October 1917. Also at this time, a more striking version of the cover appears with a deep blue sky.

The Strand magazine of May 1922 with a colour cover and a Covent Garden flower seller

The Strand magazine of May 1922 with a Covent Garden flower seller

In 1922, a more colourful illustration is introduced with a prominent flower seller, presumably from the Covent Garden flower market at the top of Southampton Street.

The title design has been altered and the telegraph wires made less prominent. The price of a copy is now one shilling, and sixpence more for Christmas specials, and Smith has added the Jeeves stories of P.G. Wodehouse to the Strand‘s long list of popular features.

For the next six years, the flower seller is the standard cover, with strong promotional boxes. For the heavyweight series, such as Holmes and the Bulldog Drummond stories of ‘Sapper’ (H.C. Mcneill), one-off covers are commissioned, with the flower seller cover shown in an inset box.

October 1930 Strand magazine has a thoroughly modern flapper on the cover

October 1930 Strand magazine has a modern woman on the cover

In 1929, the traditional-looking flower seller is dropped, like the horse-drawn carriages before her, for a more up-to-date image – a thoroughly modern woman. Women dominate the crowds and modern buses dominate the streets. The title design has been simplified again, and the telegraph wires removed. The advertising on the side of the nearest of the buses promotes the Humorist, at the time a weekly humorous magazine in the Newnes stable. Oxo has replaced Fry’s on the advertising hoarding at the top of the 1930 cover shown here.

The boxes at the top and below promote an article by the prominent Conservative politician Lord Birkenhead, and the start of a new novel by P.G. Wodehouse over seven parts. By this time, the US edition has closed and so serialisation of ‘Big Money’ starts at about the same time in the weekly US title Colliers.

The last years of the Strand

This Strand cover design from February 1942 is based on a reworking of the Haité illustration

This Strand cover design from February 1942 is based on a reworking of the Haité illustration

In 1930, two events occurred after which the Strand could never be the same again: on 7 July Conan Doyle died of a heart attack at the age of 71; and at the age of 75, Smith stepped down from the editorship after the December issue. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories underpinned the success of the Strand magazine, but Smith had encouraged him to write more broadly and he developed other characters, including Professor Challenger. Conan Doyle was also prolific with his non-fiction, with articles on spiritualism, fairies and sport, and he wrote extensively about World War I. In total, Smith published almost 300 contributions by Doyle in the Strand, including 120 stories, nine serialised novels, and dozens of poems and interviews. For 36 years, Conan Doyle wrote exclusively for the Strand, forming a partnership with Smith that is unrivalled in the history of magazines.

Yet the age of Sherlock Holmes was now over, and the magazine’s most famous writer was dead. Deprived of Smith’s sure touch, the Strand went into decline, with four editors in the next 20 years:

Jan 1931 to Sep 41: Reeves Shaw
Oct 1941 to May-1942: R.J. Minney
Jun 1942 to Sep 1946: Reginald Pound
Oct 1946 to Mar 1950: MacDonald Hastings.

Wartime paper rationing forced the magazine to adopt a smaller page size in October 1941. Various artists were commissioned to create covers and frontispieces, including Edward Ardizzone, Robin Jacques and Julian Trevelyan. The covers often made reference to the Haité cover design.

The last issue of the Strand, March, 1950 under editor MacDonald Hastings

The last issue, March 1950

Despite the quality of the illustrators used, changes to the Strand‘s traditional format and cover seemed to lose its old character and it failed to develop a new one. Sales were down to about 100,000 copies a month and the company published 54 other magazines: with a weekly circulation of 1.5 million copies, Woman’s Own was now the biggest moneymaker on the news-stands. The Strand ceased publication in March 1950, the title being folded into another Newnes monthly, Men Only.

MacDonald Hastings, a former war correspondent who went on to become a  TV reporter and roving correspondent for the Eagle comic, was its last editor. The US news weekly Time reported Hastings bemoaning the changing times that had brought the magazine down:

Where are the Conan Doyles today, and where are the readers who want them anyway? What people want today is imaginative reporting; the day of fiction has gone.

Such was the hold that the Strand had on the nation’s psyche that its demise was attacked by the Economist in an editorial:

A publishing house is a business enterprise whose projects must be financially sound, but it is also a trustee of the affections of the reading public, in Britain and overseas, and of that public’s standards of taste. It is sad that George Newnes Ltd should have decided that of the three pocket monthly magazines which they publish, they should dispense with the Strand and concentrate on the publication of London Opinion and Men Only.

The Sherlock Holmes Society was founded the following year.

But the writing was on the wall for such general interest men’s magazines as commercial television took away readers and advertising. London Opinion swallowed the Humorist and then Men Only swallowed London Opinion. The only rival left was Lilliput. That closed in 1960 and Men Only turned into a top-shelf magazine.

 First issue of the New Strand in December 1961First issue of the New Strand in December 1961, showing St Mary-le-Strand

First issue of a US version of the Strand in 1999

First issue of a US version of the Strand in 1999. The cover illustrations are based on misty views around the area

A fiction magazine was launched with the title New Strand in 1961 and then another revival, this time in the US, as a quarterly Strand in 1999. But, in the new world of television and the web, neither could hold a candle to the original.

See A History of British Magazine Design from the V&A

See The Victorianist blog for a nice piece on Newnes and the Strand

Bovril’s spiky type

May 24, 2016

 

Bovril's spikey type on ad advert from the New Penny Magazine in 1900

Bovril’s spiky type on an advert from the New Penny Magazine in 1900

Bovril’s Victorian adverts were often striking and the company established a brand that is still famous today. I particularly like an 1892 image of Hercules fighting a lion. The later, half-page advert above is very different and notable for its spiky type.

It’s difficult to avoid seeing that image – notice the way the advert is framed with white space around to ensure it stands away from other images on the page. The text is all about broadening the market for a food that was invented to fortify troops fighting in the Crimean War.

Magazine mantra: ‘No heads above the masthead’

May 9, 2016
Front cover title from Woman's Own from 19 May 1955

Front cover title from this 1955 Woman’s Own magazine overlays actress Dawn Addams

The typographer Dave Farey reminded me of the magazine designer’s mantra ‘No heads above the masthead’ at the recent launch of A History of British Magazine Design. So he immediately came to mind when I saw this front cover design from Woman’s Own dating back to 19 May 1955.

The full magazine front cover from Woman's Own ahowing the Dawn Addams knitted jacket

The full magazine front cover from Woman’s Own showing the Dawn Addams knitted playtime jacket

The actress Dawn Addams is photographed modelling a knitted jacket, but quite what the designer was up to is a mystery.

Were the film star’s eyes deliberately positioned to peer round the letters? Was the photograph cropped to show the most of the jacket? Whatever the intention, the end result is a mess.

Addams was a ‘delightfully vivacious’ British-born actress who had recently married an Italian prince, the ‘darkly handsome’ Vittorio Massimo, and had her first baby.

 

 

Magazine design book launched

May 1, 2016
A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn - now out from V&A Books

A History of British Magazine Design by Anthony Quinn – now out from V&A Books

Last week saw the launch of A History of British Magazine Design, a book that’s been almost seven years in the making. The V&A commissioned me to write the book and the end result – even though I say it myself – is fantastic, with a great design by Joe Ewart. Lesley Levene, the copy editor, kept me on my toes with her thorough fact checking and queries (I even had to show how Wikipedia had got things wrong!).

The interviews and reviews have started to go online:

Matthew Whitehouse at i-D magazine has done a piece ‘Exploring the origins of British magazine design

Caroline Keppel-Palmer from the Museum Bookshop, which specialises in books about museums and their collections.

At MagCulture, with an interview by Madeleine Morley. The launch of the book took place at the MagCulture shop in Islington where they sell some 300 titles from around the world – very fitting!

And 99designs, which has a feature on ’20 new design books for your summer reading list’

The core of the book is mainstream consumer magazines, starting in the early 1840s and the launches of Punch and the Illustrated London News. In about 240 pages and with some 450 pictures of covers and spreads, it shows how magazine design has evolved, taking in influences from society and, in turn, influencing that society. Ian Locks, who was chief executive of the Periodical Publishers Association (PPA) for 20 years and is a former Master of The Stationers’ Company, provided the Foreword.

The cover shows parts from seven covers and one spread, with the magazines dating from 1870 to 1996. (Can you name them all?)

Who will want to read the book? Well, people who like beautiful books for a start. Everyone who’s seen a copy has found something that’s grabbed them, whether that’s a magazine from their childhood or that’s related to an interest they have in art, music or literature. Photographers have peered at the 1957 Picture Post spread stitched together from 15 Bert Hardy images, for example. And everyone smiles at John Gilroy’s grinning cat from Radio Times in the 1930s.

Obviously, students and academics of magazines, design and the media in general. And practitioners in those industries. At £30/$50, it’s not cheap, but the value is really good because that price was set 7 years ago!

The book’s for sale online in all the usual places, such as:

And don’t forget your local bookshop!