Last week I was a judge on the Magazine and Newspaper Design category for this year’s D&AD awards. Our jury gave out one Yellow Pencil, to Bloomberg Businessweek’s special issue marking the death of Steve Jobs. Here’s why I thought it deserved the award.
When the death of Steve Jobs was announced, an issue of US news weekly Bloomberg Businessweek was, reportedly, hours from going to press. Recognising what a major story this was, and setting aside the daunting ramifications for all involved, the magazine pulled its planned issue and decided instead to devote an entire issue to Jobs. If you want a convincing argument for why printed magazines still have a role, the resulting issue provides it. Quite simply, this was a superb piece of publishing.
Since former Guardian G2 art director Richard Turley took over design duties, Bloomberg Businessweek has utterly reinvented itself. It has been picking up awards steadily over the past two years but this issue may be its finest to date.
The cover uses a straightforward shot of Jobs, but the crop and the silver metallic background gives it a twist. The back cover features a Mac Classic with the word ‘goodbye’ on its screen.
Inside, the issue begins with a series of DPS images, overlaid with quotes. Deceptively simple, but very powerful. The Steve Jobs issue of Bloomberg’s rival publication Newsweek was also entered into D&AD providing a direct comparison. It too began with DPS images and quotes, but Bloomberg’s treatment of both was far more impactful.
There then follows a series of pieces telling the Jobs life story, movie style, in three acts, from initial success through the wilderness years, to triumphant return.
These are followed by a look at the products that brought Jobs to the world’s attention.
It was just an all-round, brilliant combination of text and image, perfectly judged. If I had a criticism it was that there was little that was critical of Jobs and his impact on the world, save for a piece on Apple’s relentless stoking of consumerism, but perhaps this was not the time or place.
Granted, Jobs’ ill-health was not exactly a secret so much of this material could conceivably have been prepared beforehand, but nonetheless, to produce such an issue on such a tight deadline was a huge achievement. And here’s the clincher – the magazine contains not one advert.
If you haven’t worked in publishing you may not appreciate quite what this means. Here was, quite possibly, what would be the biggest selling issue of the year. Ads would have already have been booked for that week, many of them important long-term clients. Someone plucked up the courage to suggest that this issue would be far better, far more fitting, if all those ads were pulled, foregoing a huge amount of revenue for a title that was already losing money. And the powers that be – perhaps a decision made by Bloomberg himself? – agreed. That, when printed publications are struggling for every penny, is a heck of a decision. The magazine should probably have won an award for that alone.
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