CR Blog

I Spy an influential magazine

Graphic Design, Magazine / Newspaper

Posted by Patrick Burgoyne, 3 May 2012, 14:51    Permalink    Comments (3)

At the latest Printout event, organised by Stack and magCulture, myself, Liz Bennett from Oh Comely, Steven Gregor from Gym Class Magazine and Simon Esterson from Eye presented our favourite old or 'dead' magazines. And I learned that a lot of what I love about some of today's best weeklies was pioneered by Stephen Doyle and Spy magazine in the 80s

Printout is a collaboration between the independent magazine subscription service Stack and CR contributor Jeremy Leslie, who runs magCulture, to support independent magazines and provide a meeting point for publishers, designers and enthusiasts. Each event features four speakers talking about magazines on a particular theme while a large table groaning with print gives attendees the chance to flick through some of the most interesting magazines around.

CR's Patrick Burgoyne (standing nearest camera), Liz Bennett of Oh Comely (partially hidden), Jeremy Leslie, Steven Gregor and Simon Esterson answer audience questions at the latest Printout event at the Book Club in London

Last night, I talked about London Life, the short-lived Swinging 60s weekly that CR featured in June 2009, Liz from Oh Comely chose Young Writer, a title aimed at encouraging the literary ambitions of children, and Steven Gregor chose Jop van Bennekom's highly influential gay culture magazine Butt, which is still going. Simon Esterson chose Spy.

Spy was a snarky, satirical monthly founded in 1986 and based in New York. It was irreverent and cynical, witty but also capable of serious investigative journalism. And from a design point of view, as Esterson revealed, it proved extremely influential on today's magazines, particularly New York.

Spy's art director of the time, Stephen Doyle, pioneered a diagrammatical approach to magazine articles that New York in particular has made a central part of its appeal. Take this article, for example, on 'Hollywood's stagnant gene pool' of related actors.

The boxes, cut-out head shots and arrows will all be familiar to today's readers.

In this piece, Spy breaks down the content of tabloid newspaper the New York Post to highlight its alleged obsessions with 'Dirty Reds' and the Mafia.


And this piece maps out celebrity support for the two main US political parties

Separated at birth? A typical New York infofeature and (above) a Bloomberg Businessweek cover both seemingly reference techniques pioneered by Spy

Spy closed in 1998 but, As Esterson revealed, its influence lives on.

So, an entertaining and educational evening - and there was cake too.

See Stack or magCulture for details of future Printout evenings.



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Sounds like a great night! There's such a buzz around independent publishing at the minute.

@Patrick do you know if there was a visual or audio recording of the talks? Seems a shame that those of us outside of the capital can't learn from or enjoy the knowledge being shared... if not, maybe next time!
Luke Tonge
2012-05-03 16:23:13


Yes, I believe so. I would check with I think they are going to post video
CR PatrickBurgoyne
2012-05-03 16:47:36

What’s it going to take to get you people to write publication names in italics?

New York? That’s a state, isn’t it?
Joe Clark
2012-05-08 23:53:49

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