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September 22, 2013

The New Yorker’s redesign: A retreat from text?

The New Yorker has done it’s first major redesign since 2000, although it’s so far only been rolled out to the front of the magazine.

Personally, the return to a more highly stylized typeface is welcome. But I am disappointed that they’ve made the magazine look like more like everything else in the racks. It’s not a lack of originality that bothers me. Rather, it is the retreat from text.

There’s no less text and so far the writing style seems to be the same. Rather, the previous design presented a wall of text, broken up with occasional insets of text, with empty spots filled with text. For example, “Tables for Two” used to be a small, two-column insert into the Goings On section. The type size was the same as the directions on a tube of toothpaste. Now it’s a single column that takes up the entire right-hand three-fifths of a page, in a perfectly readable font, with a quarter-page color photograph at the top, as if to say, “Well look at us! We have so much room that we’re filling it up with a merely pleasant photo.”

There are at least two results in how we take that page. First, “Tables for Two” has turned from a lagniappe into a column. Second, the magazine doesn’t feel like it’s so bursting with things to write about that it had to shoulders goodies into whatever nooks it could find or force.

Sections now are headed by a graphical emblem (e.g., a Deco knife and fork on a plate for the Food & Drink section) that signals that the New Yorker thinks the section titles themselves are not enough for us. Really? What part of “Food & Drink” does The New Yorker think we don’t understand? Why does the New Yorker now believe that mere words are not up to the task?

The New Yorker used to be for people unafraid of climbing a sheer wall of text. It demanded we make judgments about what to read based solely on the text itself; this was even more the case before Tina Brown put the authors’ names at the beginning of the article instead of at the end. But now it’s pandering to the graphical-minded among us. The graphical folks have plenty of other magazines to thumb through lazily. The New Yorker was a text-based trek that had to earn our every footstep.

Don’t go soft on us, New Yorker! We’re not afraid of words. Bring ’em on!


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January 10, 2009

Here’s something you don’t hear every day

Feeling enabled by magcloud — a you-do-the-content-and-we’ll-do-the-rest service — Shannon Clark is thinking of starting a magazine. An actual magazine, with articles and pages and possibly staples. It’ll be on things he finds interesting and aims at being high-quality stuff with a relatively long shelf life.

This is the sort of thing that shouldn’t work, and then on rare occasions does.

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July 20, 2008

Mygazines, because was taken? is an interesting idea. Currently in beta, it’s designed to let anyone upload any magazine or magazine article, and then share the content, using the familiar elements of content-based social networking sites (or, more accurately, the social networking elements of content-based sites).

The site unfortunately has little information about itself, so I don’t know what they think they’re going to do about the obvious copyright issues. The existing content includes the magazines’ ads, so maybe the site hopes publishers will see some benefit in being scanned ‘n’ read. (As an example, here’s a link to the complete contents of the current issue of The New Yorker.)

While the tool for reading is pretty slick, the process of posting to enable said slickness seems pretty onerous.

I’m interested to see what becomes of it… [Tags: ]


June 20, 2008

HL: The argument against print

Way back when, the magazine Movieline was one of my many guilty pleasures. (Aren’t we supposed to feel guilty about all pleasures? Oy.) It was an irreverent mag for people who felt a little bad about liking pop movies.

Apparently there weren’t enough of us, or we were the wrong demo for the advertisers, because Movieline became Hollywood Life, which was more interested in the lifestyles of the rich and boring than in teasing the people we had secret crushes on. Then Hollywood Life stopped publishing, and, frankly, I didn’t care.

Now it’s back and in my mailbox as HL, an ultra-glossy, high glamor, near-card-stock magazine that epitomizes just about everything I don’t want to see in a magazine or, frankly, on paper:

The topics are out of date. The first three one-page profiles are of the big name stars of Indiana Jones, Savage Grace, and Leatherheads, three movies that came out weeks ago, and one of which failed miserably months ago. Jeez!

It fetishizes the sorts of objects no one actually buys and few of us care about: Diamonds, obscenely expensive perfume, furniture too ugly to sit in, clothing only Jessica Alba’s prepubescent sister could fit in.

The font is tiny, and although it has serifs, it is far from angelic. The stems are so fine that it is almost illegible when it’s printed white against a dark background, which it frequently is. It’s even worse when it’s black against a blue and black background photo of a shag carpet, as it is on a two-page spread. Print is not intended to be op art.

The photography is dark ‘n’ trite, because you know that’s how us jet-setting couch potatoes like it. And when they run a full page photo of Malcolm McDowell printed on blue paper, not only is his dark jacket nothing but a black lump, they tell us who provided it for the shot. John Varvatos, call your agent. Or your lawyer.

The writing is awful. Here is the opening line of the piece on Harrison Ford: “Harrison is like … a fine wine.” And that’s proudly in all caps as the lead-in. (The ellipsis is in the original.) The big article on Cannes takes three long paragraphs of value-free blather (“sleepy fishing village,” “charmed circle,” “could hardly have imagined,” “celebrity hot spots,” “breathtaking vista,” “windswept pines”) before telling us what it’s about: Some glamorous Cannes spots you might to visit. Even then, it lacks the sort of information that might be useful to a traveler.

As you’ve guessed, HL doesn’t give a flying celluloid crap about anyone new and actually interesting. For example, a two-page spread tells us that the Halcyon Company — “one of Hollywood’s most cutting-edge and innovative entertainment groups” because, well, it hasn’t actually produced anything … be sure to tip your PR agent, boys — plans on “reinventing” sci-fi by picking up the Terminator franchise. Yes, there’s nothing more cutting-edge and innovative than picking up a franchise.

Oh, they have a “portfolio” of young Hollywood actors…whom they portray as 1940’s noir-ish stars (oddly claiming the photography is an homage to the Silent Era). In fact, overall the photos are retro as if a magazine proudly proclaiming that print isn’t dead can only prove it by looking like something you might have found in your upscale dentist’s office forty years ago.

Do you think when I mulch it, the varnish on the pages will cause my geraniums to wilt? [Tags: ]

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