Archive for the ‘design’ Category

The Economist magazine milks its past covers

May 9, 2018
The Economist: Cover Story postcard collection

The Economist: Cover Story postcard collection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Economist cover T-shirt: the end of Thatcher

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

News magazines profiled


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

 

 


 

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Delayed Gratification – what a magazine!

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

Delayed Gratification: the first issue with its Shepard Fairey cover

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

 


 

Slimming magazine is a work of art

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


 

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


 

 

London Life prices go through the roof

November 1, 2017
London Life magazine front cover from 1966 with Laurence Olivier, blacked up for Othello

London Life magazine front cover from 1966 with Laurence Olivier, blacked up for Othello

The weekly listings magazine London Life, which was developed to replace Tatler in the 1960s, has long been a good seller on eBay, but a 1966 copy with a Laurence Olivier cover – with the actor blacked up for Othello on the cover – has just gone for £91. A Julie Christie issue from the same year fetched £71 and another issue £57.

London Life was ‘a comprehensive guide to the entertainment scene: films, theatre, restaurants, night life, music, sport’; a Time Out for the Swinging Sixties. It’s usually the earlier issues of London Life under editor Mark Boxer that fetch such high prices.

London Life profile at Magforum

London Life magazine cover checklist


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


 

What does a Bolshevik look like?

October 30, 2017
Portrait of a rabid Bolshevik by Charles Sargeant Jagger on the cover of War Illustrated in January 1919

Portrait of a ‘frenzied fanatic’ Bolshevik by Charles Sargeant Jagger on the cover of War Illustrated in January 1919

War Illustrated magazine left its readers in no doubt where its stood on the prospects of Russia in the control of the Bolsheviks after the 1917 revolution. This ranting maniac was portrayed on the weekly magazine’s front cover for 11 January, 1919, by CS Jagger. Inside, Sir Sidney Low wrote about the revolutionaries as ‘frenzied fanatics’.

I take this illustration to be by Charles Sargeant Jagger, one of the pre-eminent sculptors of the early 20th century. He served with the Artists’ Rifles in the First World War and created several war memorials – most notably the Royal Artillery Memorial at Hyde Park Corner (1925). There is a British Pathe film of Jagger at work.

Sir Sidney Low was a journalist during the war and edited the wireless service of the Ministry of Information. He had been knighted the year before.

War Illustrated‘s editor at Amalgamated Press was John Hammerton, one of Alfred Harmsworth’s most successful editors. War Illustrated was relaunched as New Illustrated after the war.

 


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

 

 

 


 

How Kitchener inspired the nation for Dunkirk

August 4, 2017
Picture Post for the week of 1 June 1940

Kitchener leads the nation again in the week of Dunkirk from the cover of Picture Post (1 June 1940)

Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk has certainly brought the legend of the ‘Little Ships’ armada that rescued so many Allied troops back into the world’s imagination. In 1940, the media that the British will have turned to was BBC radio and Picture Post magazine.

And the image that editor Stefan Lorant chose to put on his magazine’s front cover the week of Dunkirk was Alfred Leete’s Your Country Needs You. It was a cover that will have gone to press before May 29, when the evacuation was announced to the British public. But then Lorant may well have known what was happening to the British Expeditionary Force through his contact with Churchill.

Boat owners certainly responded to the call – making up the bulk in number of the 860 vessels that were involved.  Some 200 of the small craft that epitomised the Dunkirk spirit were sunk. However, by the time the operation ended on June 4, 198,000 British and 140,000 French and Belgian troops had been saved. Another 220,000 troops were rescued  from other French ports.

The presence of this force was undoubtedly a factor in forcing Hitler to rethink his invasion plans, but the war was not going well for Britain – its allies were dropping like nine pins – and Lorant must have been in more fear for his life than most people in Britain. Lorant was a Hungarian Jew who had been imprisoned by Hitler for his work on weekly papers in Germany. In Britain, he promoted the work of many other Continental exiles, including Walter Trier, who drew the Lilliput covers for 20 years, the photographer Bill Brandt and the photomontages of John Heartfield, probably best remembered for his Elephants Might Fly reaction to the Munich agreement (15 October 1938).

Lorant had lambasted the Nazi regime in his book, I Was Hitler’s Prisoner, which was turned into a BBC Radio play; in the pages of Weekly Illustrated, which he had launched for Odhams in 1934; in the delectible Lilliput, which he founded, as well as Picture Post. So he must have been well up on Hitler’s hit list.

Walter Trier's cover for first Lilliput magazine in 1937

Walter Trier’s cover for first Lilliput magazine in 1937

Soon after Lorant went to America in mid-1940, Picture Post‘s two most important cameramen – Felix Man and Kurt Hutton, both German emigres – were interned on the Isle of Man. The magazine set about negotiating for their release, but their fates will not have assuaged Lorant’s fears and he emigrated to the US. As Lorant told his deputy Tom Wilkinson, who went on to become editor of Picture Post:

‘You British citizens will be all right – all you’ll lose is the freedom to say what you think. But we bloody foreigners will be handed over … I’ve been Hitler’s prisoner once in Munich, I’m not waiting for him to catch up with me a second time.’

The Kitchener-covered Picture Post issue was larger than usual and was focused on Britain’s leaders, with 32 pages devoted to government members. Lorant was a big fan of Churchill. The section starts with photographs comparing a ‘grimly determined’ Churchill in 1914 with him ‘grimly determined again’ in 1940.

Back in February 1939, Lorant had sent Wickham Steed, a former editor of The Times, and cameraman Felix Man to Chartwell and interview Winston Churchill at his home. As David Marcou writes in his thesis, ‘All the Best’:

‘Churchill – the man the Tories didn‘t trust – was no more than a backbencher under the Chamberlain administration. He‘d held no office since being Chancellor of the Exchequer under Stanley Baldwin a decade before. Steed concluded his profile: “His abiding care is the safety of Britain, the Empire and the Commonwealth. Should some great emergency arise … his qualities and experience might then be national assets; and the true greatness, which he has often seemed to miss by a hair‘s breadth, might, by common consent, be his.” In its introduction, Picture Post added its own prophetic comment: At 64, the greatest moment of his life has still to come.’

Picture Post covered the German offensive with a dramatic story―’Blitzkrieg’ in the June 8 issue.

‘The lightning war smites Europe. It blisters its way between the Allied Armies, cleaving them in two. It carves out a charred road to the English Channel. It scorches the Belgian Army and stuns the Belgian King into surrender.’

Alongside the words is a full-page photo of a man with a girl lying nearby, which tells the story of what war was doing to innocents. The picture caption reads:

We dedicate this picture to the Fuhrer. We dedicate this picture to the ‘moderate’ Goering. We dedicate this picture to those of our own politicians who promised us that Germany would never be allowed to attain air-parity with Britain; that they had secured peace for our time; that they were abundantly confident of victory … It shows a Dutch father wounded all over, but forgetful of what he is suffering. The dead girl on the corner is his daughter.

It’s no wonder that Lorant decided to put the Atlantic ocean between himself and Hitler. However, he had burned his bridges well before. As I point out in A History of British Magazine Design, Tom Hopkinson identifies the seven pages of ‘Back to the Middle Ages’ (26 November 1938) as ‘the finest example of the use of photographs for political effect’. He describes how Lorant drew up the pages to hit back at ‘This bloody Hitler. These bloody pogroms!’

British Library celebrates Russia’s revolution

March 6, 2017
A Russian revolution version of Alfred Leete's Kitchener poster and magazine cover from 1914

Russian revolutionary propaganda based on Alfred Leete’s Kitchener magazine cover

The British Library has chosen one of the many derivatives of Alfred Leete’s Kitchener image to front its latest exhibition, Russian revolution: hopes, tragedies, myths. The exhibition will also show Lenin’s handwritten application for a reader pass to the library.

British Library. Index slip recording the issue of a reader ticket for the Reading Room at the British Museum to Karl Marx

Record of the issue of a pass for the Reading Room at the British Museum to Marx

Anyone fancying seeing more Lenin relics can pop across to the Marx Memorial Library & Workers’ School in nearby Clerkenwell, where you can visit the room where Lenin worked, which has been kept as he left it. Next year marks the bicentenary of Karl Marx’s birth, which both the Marx Library and the British Library are gearing up to celebrate.

London Opinion 1914

The original magazine cover

The Kitchener image was first seen on the cover of  London Opinion magazine.  Don’t pay any attention to the British Library captioning it as a poster in an article by the historian Professor David Welch. It’s an error that people and institutions have spent a century making, from Picture Post in 1940 to the Royal Mint in 2014.

The full story of Alfred Leete’s cover illustration for London Opinion is told in the book, The Amazing Kitchener Poster.

This month in magazines: Oz in 1967

February 17, 2017
The first issue of underground magazine Oz in February 1967

The first issue of underground magazine Oz in February 1967

Oz was an underground magazine launched in London in February 1967 that became a leading part of Britain’s counterculture. Notice the word ‘London’ at the top left of the Oz title above. It’s there because Oz was originally an Australian magazine, founded by Richard Neville, Martin Sharp and Richard Walsh. They were prosecuted in Australia and Neville and Sharp came to London, where they launched another version of the magazine with Jim Anderson.

It was not the only magazine of its type – International Times, Ink and Friends were also influential – but Oz gained mainstream notoriety for the obscenity trial that followed the publication of the Oz School Kids issue (number 28).

The Oz Schoolkids issue

The Oz Schoolkids issue

The three editors (Sharp had left and been replaced by Felix Dennis) selected a group of youngsters aged between 14 and 18 to edit issue 28. The magazine’s offices were raided by the Obscene Publications Squad, the issue was seized and the editors were charged with conspiring to ‘debauch and corrupt the morals of young children’ because of some of the cartoons and discussion of sexual freedom and drug use.

Protest issue at Oz obscenity trial

Protest issue at Oz obscenity trial

For Felix Dennis, the Oz trial was the ‘finest hour’ for John Mortimer, their defence lawyer and later author of the Rumpole of the Bailey TV series and books. Although they were found guilty under the Obscene Publications Act, the verdict was overturned on appeal.

Like Private Eye, Oz might have looked crude, but it was an innovative user of the latest production techniques such as lithographic colour printing. It produced some amazing imagery by people such as Peter Brooke – now the leading political cartoonist on The Times – and Sharp’s iconic imagine of Bob Dylan, the Tambourine Man.

Another Australian who worked on Oz, in Sydney and London, was Marsha Rowe, and Germaine Greer wrote for it, too. Greer wrote The Female Eunuch in 1970 (and was gardening correspondent of Private Eye with the byline Rose Blight!) and Rowe was a co-founder of Spare Rib in 1972. She condemned a plan by Charlotte Raven to relaunch Spare Rib in 2014. The archive of Spare Rib can be found through the British Library’s website.

Felix Dennis went on to found Dennis Publishing, which launched Maxim and The Week. Since Dennis’s death, the profits from the company have been put to creating a massive forest. As well as the people behind Oz becoming mainstream, so have many of the ideas it, and the other undergrounds titles, argued for.  Oz is also one of the most collectable magazines.

The last issue of Oz - November 1973

The last issue of Oz

The University of Woollongong holds an online archive of the Australian issues of Oz, which was first published in Sydney on April Fool’s Day 1963 and continued until December 1969.This was set up with Neville’s co-operation after he returned to Australia and became a writer.

Woollongong also has all the London editions of Oz, from February 1967 to November 1973. The last issue cover carries a photo of the Oz staff naked overlaid on a background of disgraced US president Richard Nixon.

 


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: She’s sunny Februarys

February 15, 2017

Bikini days for She magazine in February 1977

Bikini days for She in February 1977

Bikini days for She magazine in February 1977

… and again in February 1978

Bikini days for She magazine in February 1979

…and in February 1979

In Britain, February is not a time of year normally associated with bikinis, so I was surprised to find these February covers for the monthly She from 1977-79. There was even a January 1975 cover of a bikini-clad model on a ski slope! Why are the models all in bikinis? To attract holiday advertising? No, after a bit of research, it emerged that women in bikinis were the most popular covers for She right through the Seventies. In 1978, no less than eight of the 10 covers I could track down were bikini shots. That’s a feel-good strategy: bringing a ray of sunshine into women’s lives every month!

Punch cartoonist Fougasse regarded magazine covers as repetitive

Punch cartoonist Fougasse regarded magazine covers as repetitive

But this is unusual, or perhaps typical. As long ago as 1920, Punch was jesting about the predictability of women’s magazine covers. Yet, editorially, She was not a typical magazine. For a start, two people shared the editor’s post in the 1970s: Pamela Carmichael and Michael Griffiths. It was more like a weekly in a monthly format, with a particular strength in witty picture captions (Tim Rostron, whom I worked with on weekly trade papers, got himself a job as a sub-editor at She on the strength of his captioning skills). Its cover motto in the late 1970s was ‘There’s nothing quite like She.’

The first issue was March 1955 with Joan Werner Laurie as editor. Its motto then was: ‘young, gay elegant’. She was fond of repeating its logo several times on the cover, either reduced in size as part of its motto (as in two of the February issues above) or full size (there were three down the left side of the launch issue cover design).

Three logos on the cover of the first issue of She in March 1955

Three logos on the cover of the first issue of She in March 1955

Laurie’s partner was Nancy Spain, who was a household name thanks to her appearances on radio and TV shows such as Woman’s HourWhat’s My Line and Juke Box Jury, and her weekly column in the Daily Express. They were a real go-getting pair – but came to a tragic end in a light aeroplane crash on the way to the 1964 Grand National at Aintree in Liverpool. Laurie was learning to fly at the time. The biography, A Trouser-Wearing Character – The Life and Times of Nancy Spain, was written by Rose Collis.

She magazine bit the dust in 2011 after more relaunches than you could shake a stick at from its owner, The National Magazine Company, then known as ‘NatMags’ and now Hearst UK (it is owned by the US-based Hearst Corp).


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