Jeremy Leslie thinks that Disappear Here, James Brown and Peaches Geldof’s new venture into youth publishing has a great name. Unfortunately that isn’t enough to detract from its empty editorial and confused design…
As a fully paid up member of the magazine obsessives club it takes a lot for me to dismiss a new magazine. So I surprised myself when I did just that about a new title announced at the end of last year.
Disappear Here arrives courtesy of Peaches Geldof (C-list celebrity daughter of Sir Bob) and James Brown (the man who bought us Loaded magazine back in 1994). I mentioned its launch in a brief post on my magCulture blog late last year. While admiring the name of their magazine (more of which later), I slipped easily into the assumption that any magazine from those two would be disappointing. How could 19-year-old Peaches and the quietly fading Brown create anything genuinely innovative? I added that their description of the project (“a magazine about music and fashion and everything you love”) made it sound hackneyed.
The one thing I did like was that title. Naming a new magazine is always one of the toughest creative tasks, and while not the most easily presented or descriptive name for a magazine, Disappear Here is a great title. It sets a distinctive conceptual tone for the project and demonstrates that the people behind it understand what a magazine can be – a world apart, a place to escape to. The best magazines offer their readers a unique world to submerge themselves in, be it the sheer escapism of Vogue, the intellectual stimulus of The New Yorker, the conceptual experiment of independents like Kasino A4, or indeed the full-on hedonism of Brown’s Loaded. Disappear Here tells you little beyond that, and is a clumsy phrase for the designer to build a logo from. But a clever name nonetheless, a good start.
In response to my post, Brown, not unreasonably, suggested I should check out their pilot issue before passing further comment. Meanwhile, to my amusement, a quote from my post (“what a great name for a magazine”) appeared on the magazine’s website.
It was left to art director Stuart Tolley to mail me a copy of the pilot issue. A quick flick later and two things were clear. Firstly, my initial cynicism was correctly placed. Disappear Here is a mess of a magazine, featuring the worst sort of self-regarding insular content completely lacking the vital glue of an editorial concept to hold it together. It lurches from Geldof interviewing Vivienne Westwood to reportage from a Norway rock festival via a column from Tony Benn and endless pictures of teenagers snogging. The lead feature of the pilot issue is that most tired magazine cliché – 50 Things We Love, number 42 of which is “Silky knickers in lurid colours”, because, “We’ve got lots of them. Literally millions of pairs of knickers. Where do they all come from? Sweatshops full of children of course, but you know what we mean, right?” Believe me, this is not a world many will want to escape to.
Secondly, and in response to the confusion of the content, Tolley has had great fun playing with this editorial mess. Too much fun. One of the basic premises of editorial design is that content and presentation should reflect one another and he has risen to this task without fear. Every page looks different, borrowing from early i-D, RayGun and a thousand other indie mags. This is editorial and design chaos with none of the refreshing novelty of its sources.
Geldof and Brown seem to be under the impression they’ve created a super-cool youth fanzine, when the actual result is a half-baked melange of ideas that could have been knocked out down the pub. There probably is a decent magazine somewhere within their thinking, a magazine that might reunite a young audience with print, but with this pilot edition they’ve singularly failed to prove it.
This article appears in the February issue of CR. Jeremy Leslie is executive creative director of John Brown, co-curator of the Colophon independent magazine festival and author of the magCulture.com blog