Archive for the ‘magazine cover design’ Category

How Radio Times marked VE Day

May 8, 2020

radio-times-magazine-cover-1945-VE-day-Victory-Europe-May

This is the front cover of the Radio Times listing VE-Day celebrations in Britain to mark Germany’s surrender in May 1945. Special victory radio programmes on the BBC marked the week, celebrating each of the armed services and the civilian effort.

Beautifully illustrated as always, even the advertising, such as this Nestle advert, drawn, I reckon, by Mabel Lucie Atwell. She was an incredibly successful illustrator, renowned for her drawings of cute children.

radio-times-1945-may-10-Mabel-Lucie-Atwell-nestle-advert

 

 

Postwar crossword days at Elle

April 19, 2020

elle-magazine-cover-1947-october-21-paris-france-crossword-design

Today, Elle magazine is renowned as a glossy fashion monthly licensed by its French owners and published globally from New York to Moscow. But it has its origins as a general women’s weekly founded in postwar Paris.

The cover here is from 1947 (dated October 21). It’s unusual for its crossword-based design with the woman and background taken as a single photograph with the masthead title added later. The cross words act as cover lines, describing the attributes of the magazine: gay and practical, but with work spelled out twice as downward words.

Inside was the actual mots croisés for the issue, which is reproduced below. Note the non-symmetrical grid, there being two or three clues for each words, and unusual numbering for the grid. In Britain, the crossword craze dates to the mid-1920s and the symmetrical shape and numbering style were ubiquitous in the 1930s.

The vertical numbers can just be seen on the left edge of the cover design, in Roman numerals. Answers on a postcard please …

elle-magazine-1947-october-21-crossword-mots-croises

 

 

Peter Rabbit and a magazine cover mystery

April 12, 2020
Royal_1904_3mar

Peter Rabbit lookalike on March 1904 Royal magazine cover

Beatrix Potter’s Tale of Peter Rabbit is one of the world’s best-selling books. It was a massive success after Frederick Warne & Co published the work in 1902 and within a year Peter Rabbit stuffed toys and other merchandising began to appear.

This uncredited Royal magazine cover dated March 1904 was undoubtedly part of that craze. A rabbit cover would usually be an unusual choice for a general interest monthly like the Royal a month before Easter Sunday, which was on April 3, but magazine publishers have always been good at jumping on bandwagons.

The illustration evokes Peter Rabbit without  referencing any of the story’s details, which would probably have triggered claims against Pearson’s, for copyright infringements.

ladies_home_1903_4aprIt turns out though, that not only was the illustration jumping on the Beatrix Potter bandwagon, but that it was a copy – or a licensed reproduction of – a cover by Frank Guild from the Ladies’ Home Journal, a US monthly, from Easter the year before.

The association of rabbits with Easter dates back to Eostra, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and fertility, who was symbolised by a rabbit and was honoured on the spring equinox. Christians took on the festival as Easter.

 

 

 

Magazine cover tricks: upside-down faces

January 15, 2020
Punch magazine front cover

Punch horror special from 1973: turn your screen upside-down!

Faces that can be turned upside-down to make another face have long been an illustrated  postcard gimmick, such as a Kaiser Bill card from World War I. They’re rarer on magazine covers, but here’s a Punch effort from 1973 for a horror special issue of the satirical weekly.

>>More cover design secrets

George Newnes and his Millionaires

July 25, 2019

1892_million_1892_3mar26_1000

The valiant attempt by George Newnes to bring colour to the masses, ‘the million’ as they were described in the early 1890s, was the subject of a paper I gave in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago.

The Million, an ambitious penny weekly, is rarely discussed*, but was a rare failure for the man who pretty much invented the modern magazine industry – and became one of the richest men in the country in the process. Magazine publishers such as Cassell and Hodder & Stoughton would soon become, in today’s parlance, legacy brands, and were left to concentrate on book publishing.

But Britain was slow to adopt colour printing. Although the Illustrated London News had started at trend for colour supplements at Christmas in 1855, colour was still reserved for special occasions and papers for children. There were colour weeklies in France and the US, however.

Newnes had launched Tit-Bits, the best-selling weekly, in 1881, and The Strand, the best-selling monthly thanks to Sherlock Holmes, ten years later. The Million started as a tabloid-size magazine in 1892 and lasted for about three years, though it halved its page size during that time and had two redesigns (usually a sign of problems). Its readers were called, of course, ‘Millionaires’ – Newnes was nothing if not aspirational for his audience.

coloured photograph of a lifeboat coxswain in The Million, 1894

Coloured photograph of a lifeboat coxswain in The Million, 1894

The size, quality and number of colour engravings falls sharply in the final year, though there are some surprises; a coloured photograph of a lifeboat coxswain in September 1894 is particularly striking.

The Million was printed on letterpress machines – so did not have to use expensive paper – by the London Colour Printing Company at their works in Exmoor St, Notting Hill. The same printer later produced Puck, a colour cartoon paper launched by Harmsworth in 1904 and seemingly modelled on a US paper with the same format and title. Harmsworth’s Amalgamated had also tried colour for a one-off edition of a comic paper called The Funny Wonder in 1898 (May 28).

In fact, Guy Lawley, a fellow researcher at the conference, told me that the colour presses used by Newnes were bought from Hippolyte Auguste Marinoni, who already used letterpress for a supplement to his French daily tabloid Le Petit Journal. This was the best-selling paper in France – probably the world – claiming a million print run in the early 1890s.

Le Petit Journal appears to have started publishing an eight-page colour illustrated supplement on Fridays in November 1890, judging by adverts on the front page of online digitised copies of the daily edition at the French national library. The price was 5 centimes, the same as the daily edition. Soon after, the supplement itself was claiming print runs of just over a million.

Guy adds that the success of Le Petit Journal and The Million inspired US newspaper publishers to turn to colour. The Chicago Inter Ocean added a free Sunday colour supplement in 1892, three months after The Million; The New York World added colour pages from 1893 and later a colour section. The Inter Ocean referred to the success of both Le Petit Journal‘s Supplément Illustré and the Million in its editorial announcing the coming of colour.

The New York supplements evolved into colour Sunday comics section, a development that was then copied across the country, giving birth to a new form of mass entertainment in the US.

As for the US Puck, that was printed using a different printing technology, lithography, until it was taken over by William Randolph Hearst in 1917, and closed down. However, in 1918, he resurrected the name Puck on his own Sunday comics supplement for the New York Journal, so it was also printed on newspaper-type colour letterpress presses.

Guy is working on a PhD thesis about colour printing and US newspaper comics.

Print Networks and the Centre for Printing History & Culture organised the conference, Dregs, dross and debris: the art of transient print. Discussions are under way about collating the talks as proceedings, or publishing them in Publishing History or Printing History and Culture.

*Kate Jackson’s Newnes and the new journalism in Britain, 1880-1910 has the most to say about it; Dave Reed doesn’t mention it. My British Magazine Design shows one of the smaller format covers. The issues are available in the British Library as bound volumes

General weekly magazines

The Strand magazine

 


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


Where did you get those teeth?

April 11, 2019

harmsworth-magazine-1898-white-teeth - 1

Shiny teeth, no skin blemishes and clear white eyes. It’s standard practice nowadays that celebrities on magazine covers such as Vogue look perfect. But when did these little white Photoshop lies start?

It’s well known that the publicity photographs in Hollywood were taken by experts in the art of making anyone look good. And that they were then put into the hands of expert retouchers to take out any real-world blemishes.

harmsworth-magazine-cover-1898-november

But this cover image shows the practice goes back before Hollywood even existed, It’s from a 1898 copy of The Harmsworth, a monthly pictorial magazine that competed with the likes of the Strand. The teeth on the girl have clearly been altered to become perfectly white blocks.

Magazine mastheads and typography

August 6, 2018

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

Nowadays, type and magazine title pieces – mastheads – are created by designers 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 and creativity 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. The three titles here scanned from different issues of Drawing date from 1915 and 1916, at the height of the first world war.  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.

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.

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

 

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

 

 


 

Maurice Rickards: ephemera and magazines

October 14, 2017
Maurice Rickards merged two images in the dark room for this image manipulation cover on Man About Town in 1959

Maurice Rickards merged two photographs in the dark room for this image manipulation cover on Man About Town in 1959

Maurice Rickards is one of the unsung heroes of graphic design. Although he wrote several books – and Michael Twyman completed his Encyclopedia of Ephemera – the godfather of modern-day ephemera is rarely written about. Even Wikipedia, that great hoover-upper of everybody else’s research and websites, has yet to acknowledge his existence. Only the Independent gave him an obituary (by Patrick ‘Book of Firsts‘ Robertson, a former chairman of the Ephemera Society who claims to own the largest private collection of vintage magazines in Britain).

Rickards trained as a photographer but collecting the fleeting printed objects of everyday life – particularly posters – was his joy and he appears to have made a living from his Fitzrovia basement studio as an illustrator, photographer and magazine designer. It was his enthusiasm that led to the creation of the Ephemera Society, its offshoot in the US and the Centre for Ephemera Studies at Reading University under the direction of Professor Twyman.

Maurice Rickards poster-style cover design for Man About Town (spring 1956)

Maurice Rickards poster-style cover design for Man About Town (spring 1956)

I never met the man, but came to some idea of his approach to design through the pages of Man About Town under the editorship of John Taylor in the 1950s (before it was bought up by Michael Heseltine’s Cornmarket). Later, when researching books about British magazine design and Alfred Leete’s Kitchener poster, I discovered his books on posters.

The spring 1956 poster-like cover of Man About Town is credited to Rickards, as is autumn 1958, so he was probably working as a freelance designer on the magazine in those years. I particularly like the latter example, which is described as being inspired by the squiggle shape that he came across.

Maurice Rickards ephemera-inspired cover design for Man About Town (autumn 1958)

Maurice Rickards ephemera-inspired cover design for Man About Town (autumn 1958)

The autumn/winter i959 issue at the top of this post was the last Man About Town under Taylor and perhaps that is why it gives a big showing to Rickards’ work. He had done several earlier covers designs but this one gives an opportunity for his ‘crackpotography’ ideas, along with a five-page article.  The text reproduces some of his ‘eccentricities’ in ‘Rickards’s howdoneit’, an article based on his book, Off-Beat Photography (The Studio, 1959), about image manipulation. In Man About Town‘s inimitable style, the magazine  describes that the woman sitting on Rickards’s head cover is easily explained:

It is not that we used a particularly small girl; it is merely that Rickards himself has such a big head.

Offbeat Photography by Maurice Richards

Offbeat Photography by Maurice Richards shows Rickards with an axe in his head on the dust jacket

In the article, the captions explain how each photograph was composed and how shadows were added using an airbrush or avoided. A man shown balancing on a glass using just one finger needed 50 or 60 exposures before Rickards got it right. A skull and Luger photo was for a book, named as Skeleton Island. In fact, this looks to have become A Twist of Sand (1960) by Geoffrey Jenkins and was made into a film eight years later starring Richard Johnson and Honor Blackman. The cover used a variant of the photo, without the gun.

Another photograph of what looks like the aftermath of a massive road accident  harks back to a poster campaign he did right at the start of his career in 1953 – Lives Matter. Three posters were commissioned by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, showing a woman collapsed over a telephone, a one-legged boy on crutches, and a little girl in the arms of a policeman. According to Patrick Robertson’s obituary, such was the horror they generated that they were banned by various local authorities, were defaced on hoardings and prompted ‘harsh letters’ to editors and MPs.

 

 

Punch magazine’s horn of plenty

September 28, 2017
Morten Morland cartoon from The Times newspaper showing Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell with his mouth depicted as a Punch-style horn of plenty

Morten Morland cartoon from The Times newspaper showing Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell with his mouth depicted as a Punch-style horn of plenty

The Times this week ran a Morten Morland cartoon showing Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell with his mouth depicted as a horn of plenty – a cornucopia. This is a reference to an idea that goes back a couple of thousand years to Greek mythology. But it is a classical allusion that was very much kept alive by Richard ‘Dicky’ Doyle with his famous Punch magazine cover design that developed from 1844.

The horn of plenty from the left side of an 1847 Punch cover

The horn of plenty from the left side of an 1847 Punch cover

Buyers of Punch – just 6,000 of them each week in the satirical magazine’s early days – are the sort of people who will have had a classical education and so would be aware of the idea of a goat’s horn or horn-shaped basket overflowing with produce. It’s associated with Zeus, Hades, Hercules and Gaia.

In the case of McDonnell, he’s spouting forth a stream of policies at the Labour party conference; for Dicky Doyle in 1842, it was a cornucopia of fun, wit and entertainment.

The Punch cover is often described as never-changing, but that it not the case. The earliest issues from July 1841 showed a Punch and Judy stall. That idea stayed in place until the 20-year-old Doyle’s Mr Punch and his dog design took hold in April 1844. And there were several versions of that, though the main elements, full of classical references, stayed constant.

RGG Price’s History of Punch (Collins, 1957) states the frieze at the bottom was based on Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne.  What appear to be the words ‘Exhaustive wit’ exude from the horn on the right, and ‘fun’ on the left. It is ‘satire’ that is raised up towards the heavens on the right among a multitude of mischievous imps, fairies and cherubs.

The cover of Punch magazine's almanac of 1842 by Halbot K Browne ('Phiz')

The cover of Punch magazine’s almanac of 1842 by Halbot K Browne (‘Phiz’)

This 1842 almanac cover is initialled HKB – Halbot K Browne – ‘Phiz’. He was one of five artists who did early covers for Punch (the others being Archibald Henning, William Harvey, John Gilbert and Kenny Meadows).

The engraver is also credited, Ebenezer Landells. He was one of the founders in 1841 of Punch, and acted as art editor, along with the journalist Henry Mayhew and William Last as printer.  This almanac sold very well and may have saved the magazine from closure, because sales had been running at 6,000 a week whereas they needed to sell 10,000.

However, the financial problems led Last to pull out in favour of working with Herbert Ingram on Illustrated London News. Landells had to sell his share to Bradbury & Evans, the publishers. Bradbury & Evans replaced Landells with Joseph Swain and gained complete control in December 1842. Swain was not credited on the covers.

Although Doyle’s design won out in 1844, it took five years to settle down into the image that lasted until 1956, when one-off colour covers by the likes of Ronald Searle became the norm. In particular, the detail of Mr Punch in the bottom frieze was altered in response to criticism that it was crude, a drawing of a British lion replaces the Punch stall on the easel and the circus typeface for the title was turned to wood, in a mockery of  the German illustration style of artists such as Alfred Rethel.