Archive for the ‘magazine history’ 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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Comics, cartoonists and surrealists – this week’s good reads

May 2, 2018
The TLS on comics and graphic novels. Minnie the Minx Beano cover

The TLS on comics and graphic novels

Martin Rowson seems to have become the voice of Britain’s newspaper cartoonists – and he doesn’t let his comrades down with ‘Afflicting the comfortable’, an article in The Times Literary Supplement. It’s the highlight of last week’s ‘Cartoon times’ issue.

Rowson is supported by Lucy Dallas’s ‘Groo! Yeuch! The Beano at 80’, Kassia St Clair on graphics and politics, and Eric Bulson reviewing six books about comics and their spin-offs, including CUP’s Cambridge Companion to the Graphic Novel.

Desmond Morris: The Lives of the Surrealists. Thames & Hudson

Desmond Morris on the surrealists he knew

Next in my reading pile is The Lives of the Surrealists from Thames & Hudson. Desmond Morris – he of Zoo Time and Naked Ape fame – turns out to have been a surrealist painter himself and portrays the likes of Magritte, Moore and Miro through personal anecdote.

The book has some lovely lines. I particularly liked the chapter on Roland Penrose – who bankrolled the movement, founded the ICA and lived with Lee Miller. Other surrealists condemned him for selling out and joining the establishment when he accepted a knighthood in 1966. His reaction? ‘They can call me a Sir-realist.’


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

 

 


 

Artists, their signatures and monograms

April 12, 2018
Alfred Leete's monogram

Alfred Leete’s monogram

Alfred Leete, creator of the Your Country Needs You poster of Kitchener, had a distinctive signature for his work, as did one of his artistic contemporaries, Lawson Wood, the creator of the Gran’pop chimpanzee character. Both were famous illustrators and in both cases, the signature evolved over time.

Richard 'Dicky' Doyle's monogram on Punch

Richard ‘Dicky’ Doyle’s monogram from Punch

Other illustrators and cartoonists used a monogram, a graphic device made up of their initials. A great example of this was the Punch illustrator Richard Doyle. He used a reversed R to share the upright of the D, with a bird on top to symbolise his nickname, Dicky Doyle. Monograms seem to have become less popular in the 20th century, but Simon House has a spread of Victorian examples in his book, The Dictionary of 19th Century British Book Illustrators.

Leete’s and Wood’s signatures are easy to make out, whereas Doyle’s is a rebus. However, some cartoonists’ signatures seem perverse in their illegibility – Gilbert Wilkinson being a prime example with his covers for Passing Show and Illustrated weekly magazines.

To help get my head round them all, I’ve started a page of signatures and monograms on Magforum with 100 examples. Another illegible example is East on a Health & Efficiency cover – pointers as to what it says or in identifying some others would be appreciated!

east monogram from 1928 Health and Efficiency

Illegible signature for part of ‘East’


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

 

 


 

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

 

 


 

NME magazine bites the dust

March 12, 2018
Barney Bubbles redesigned New Musical Express for the punk era

Barney Bubbles redesigned New Musical Express for the punk era

NME is to close. The 66-year-old old music magazine will no longer appear as a free weekly but will remain as an online brand. The owners, Time Inc UK, describe the decision as an ‘initiative’ that will ‘expand its digital-first strategy’.

NME was one of the first two mainstream consumer magazines at IPC to launch a website, the other being Uploaded.com for Loaded, in 1995.

New Musical Express was launched in 1952 and was selling 300,000 copies a week from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s. It saw off its ‘inkie’ rivals as the tabloid music papers – Melody Maker (the grande dame of the sector, lasting from 1926 to 2000), Record Mirror, Disc and Sounds – lost out to the colour A4 magazines such as No 1, Smash Hits and The Face.

NME celebrated 60 years in print in 2012 with bands and musicians holding past copies on the cover. Sex Pistol John Lydon is on this version

NME celebrated 60 years in print in 2012 with eight different covers of the September 26 issue showing bands and musicians holding past copies. Sex Pistol John Lydon is on this version

The title was abbreviated to NME for the issue of 2 December 1978. A few weeks before, Barney Bubbles had redesigned New Musical Express with a colour punk cover, but the publishers (then IPC) had feared too much change, and not wanted to used the NME moniker on that issue (7 October 1978)

It followed the trend to become a full-colour magazine, though it has outlived the A4 magazines that led that trend.

Time Inc is itself in the throes of change, having been bought up by a private equity group, a fate that IPC, then Britain’s biggest publisher, suffered before it was brought up by Time Inc to become the UK arm of the US company.

History of music magazines at Magforum.com


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


 

Magazine titles: what’s in a name?

February 20, 2018
Title from the first issue of men's monthly Loaded-in 1994: for men who should know better

Title from the first issue of men’s monthly Loaded in 1994: for men who should know better

My mention of Private Eye editor Ian Hislop included his editorial philosophy on the satirical magazine. He sees his job as to:

Make jokes about what people know and then tell them things they don’t know.

Simplifying an editorial strategy to a few words is a great skill. Today, companies have their ‘mission statements’ but magazines have been coining these for centuries. What is the magazine about? What is it about a magazine that is different from its rivals?

A Tit-Bits cover from 1955

A Tit-Bits cover from 1955

For James Brown’s Loaded, it was ‘For men who should know better’; for the science fiction weekly Scoops in 1934, ‘Stories of the wonder-world of tomorrow’; FHM‘s mantra coined by Mike Soutar was ‘Funny, sexy useful’.

George Newnes came up with the not-so-pithy title Tit-Bits from all the Most Interesting Books, Periodicals and Contributors in the World for his pioneering weekly magazine in 1881, which was soon shortened to Tit-Bits.

Sometimes, the title goes a long way to saying it all: Answers to Correspondents, Men Only, Motor, Woman, Razzle. But even in these cases, differentiation is needed from rivals.

Alfred Harmsworth's Home Chat from 1895

Harmsworth’s Home Chat from 1895

Think of the woman’s weekly Home Chat. The name dates back to an Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliffe) launch in 1895.  Would House Chat have been as good? Or Home Talk? Or Fireside Chat?

Probably not, and certainly Home Chat lasted until 1959, when it became a victim of new technology in the form of television. The word ‘chat’ was resurrected for the weekly Chat by ITV/IPC in 1985, though by that time the word ‘home’ was a no-no for a woman’s magazine.

A rival to Home Chat was Home Notes (1895-1958) from C. Arthur Pearson. This carried a line of poetry on its cover: ‘The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world,’ by the US poet William Ross Wallace. This summed up the influence of the mother, but today it has sinister connotations.

Charing Cross magazine took its name from a famous place in London -1900-first-issue-magazine-cover

Charing Cross magazine took its name from a famous place in London in 1900

Many Victorian publishers took their titles from fashionable places in the world’s greatest city. Examples include Cornhill, Pall Mall, The Strand, Charing Cross.

In doing so, they spread the fame of these thoroughfares and places even farther around the world, in a way that song lyrics would do in the 20th century (Ferry Across the Mersey, Wichita Lineman, Twenty-Four Hours from Tulsa) and TV does today (Jersey Shore, The Only Way is Essex).

Many magazine titles have changed the meaning of words, or at least influenced our perception of them, such Punch, Eagle and Delayed Gratification.


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


 

Beano: a cheery cover for grey days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

 

 

 


 

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

 

 

 


 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what Marie Claire said at the time:

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

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

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


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