London Life

In its brief but stormy existence, the David Hillman-designed London Life magazine epitomised the Swinging 60s

London Life magazine was launched in 1965 as a ‘what’s on’ for the Swinging London set. It was the brainchild of Mark Boxer, the founding editor of the Sunday Times Magazine, who assembled an editorial ‘dream team’ to produce it. Art direction was provided by David Hillman, who was barely into his 20s at the time. David Puttnam, then still at advertising agency CDP, came in as managing editor. Model Jean Shrimpton was a consultant fashion editor. The roster of photographers included Terence Donovan, Duffy and Ron Traeger. And a young Ian Dury provided occasional illustrations.

The magazine’s distinguishing feature was its prominent use of the date of the issue on the front cover. Though based on typeface Bodoni, this was hand-drawn every week. There were four different paper stocks: the cover, a 28-page wraparound newsprint section for listings at the front and back and both gloss and matt sections for features in the middle (the mixture being influenced by Willy Fleckhaus’s Twen magazine). There was also often a centre gatefold. The listings section was printed letterpress, which meant huge amounts of work for Hillman and his team of two artworkers and two designers.

All this made the magazine expensive at two shillings and sixpence. Soon after launch, Hillman recalls, there was pressure to make it more commercial which led to the departure of Boxer and Hillman soon afterward. The first thing that the new editor did was to remove the distinctive dateline on the cover. The magazine closed in 1967.

Perhaps due to its short period of existence, London Life is something of a forgotten gem although, Hillman says “nobody at the time thought it was any good”. Hillman showed some of the pages reproduced here at his recent D&AD President’s Lecture alongside his more famous work for Nova and The Guardian. Afterwards, it was London Life that everybody seemed to want to talk about.

A graduate of the London School of Printing, David Hillman worked on the Sunday Times Magazine before becoming art director of London Life in 1965. In 1969 he became art director of Nova, where he stayed until the magazine closed in 1975, helping it become one of the most important magazines of the era and one that is fondly remembered to this day. In 1988 Hillman
redesigned the Guardian newspaper, at which time he was a partner at design studio Pentagram. Hillman left Pentagram in 2007 and now runs Studio David Hillman from his home in Gloucestershire

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