On the NY Times’ High Life issue and print’s bright future

A simple change of orientation created one of the best examples of magazine design this year. With memorable work like this, print still has a bright future

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I strongly advise you to get hold of an archive copy of the New York Times Magazine from the 5th of June this year.

Then when some smug member of the digerati tells you that print is dead, you can roll it up tightly and hit them very hard with it. Repeatedly. Please try to not get any blood on it though, this magazine is a beautiful thing.

But of course the New York Times Magazine also has a digital version. When done well, print and digital are both great aren’t they? It just depends what you want. Digital can give you up-to-the-minute interactivity, cost savings, moving image and sharing. Print gives you a much underrated tactile quality, the wonderful smell of ink on paper, the impressive scale of an open broadsheet or double-page spread fifteen inches from the tip of your nose and true portability, with no annoying low battery warnings. Print also tends to be a more immersive experience. The structure of newspapers and magazines makes it not only easy to find the things you are looking for but easier to stumble across interesting stuff you were not looking for. Because the user interface is much better designed and more sophisticated. Something digital editions simply cannot compete against – there ain’t enough room on the screen. I could go on.

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So is it really sensible for anyone to announce the death of print? Just because fewer newspapers are being sold? Perhaps yet again, the naysayers are confusing the medium with the messages.

Let’s face it, when a large slice of the UK newspaper industry is owned and influenced by immigrant-hating, non-tax-paying, grouse-murdering megalomaniacs, is it any wonder that fewer and fewer sane readers are interested? Many UK papers are garbage before they even hit the printing press. It does not of course have to be like that.

In this special New York Times Magazine issue dedicated to Manhattan’s tallest buildings, the layout has been rotated 90 degrees to create taller spreads. Such a nice, simple, impossible-to-ignore idea. It’s great because it’s both clever and editorially appropriate. They even persuaded the advertisers to join in with tall ads throughout the magazine. Brilliant.

But it gets better. Sod the corporate guidelines, let’s have a tall, thin headline typeface as well (drawn by Art Director Matt Willey), with a flexible, variable cap height to fit the various page designs.

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Under the no doubt terrifying deadlines of a national newspaper, you need an impressive team to put something like this together. And the New York Times Magazine seems to have one. First up, Jake Silverstein. The open minded (and design minded) Editor in Chief who had the balls to approve such a daring transformation of the tried and trusted. The photo team, lead by Kathy Ryan have made the absolute most of the new format with some brilliant commissions. Photographers Thomas Struth and Christopher Anderson have particularly impressive contributions. The layouts feel huge – the head of one of the portraits in Jack Davidson’s images of construction workers is actually larger than life-size.

And let’s not forget the editorial team who have created headlines that work best with the new type and layout. Last and by no means least of course, massive credit must go to Matt Willey and Design Director Gail Bichler.

If only more newspapers and magazines could create work of this quality.

Let’s hope they do. I’d hate to see ‘print’ in the obituary columns.

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