Year in review: Magazines

magCulture’s Jeremy Leslie looks at the magazine highlights for the year, including the best new titles, new formats, events and collaborations

In the year that two British men’s titles – Maxim and Arena –ceased publi­cation, it was reassuring to see an alternative version of a man’s magazine launch. Dreamt up in the pub but not left there, a group of writers, editors and designers from several mainstream men’s maga­zines decided to make their own publication, Manzine. The resulting fanzine celebrates hardware stores, Phil Collins and mermaids in a monochrome mix of long lost Letragraphic type­faces and random design elements. A refreshing change from the clichéd glossy men’s magazine in design and content – but can it go bigger and retain its character?

Publishing conferences
The biannual FIPP confer­ence took place in London this year, an oppor­tunity for publishers from across the world to meet and share successes and problems.

The highlight was hearing Condé Nast chairman Jonathan Newhouse deliver a very positive message – “To those that suggest that printed maga­zines will forever disap­pear I have one thing to say: Non­sense” was a line I noted at the time. He’s right of course, but with the later ad down­turn forcing the company to close five US titles, what was at the time inspirational began to sound merely hopeful. Meanwhile the star speaker at Colophon2009 (of which I am a curator) was the highly articulate and dryly witty Joerg Koch of contem­porary culture magazine 032C. “We did everything wrong. But that’s alright”, was the theme of an inspiring introduction to his self-published magazine.

Love vs Pop
The creative team from fashion bi-annual Pop left the magazine to launch Love for Condé Nast. In response, the publisher of Pop put together a new team and came back with a revitalised version of the fashion/art title that was significantly cooler than Love. In a saturated market – how many fashion bi-annuals do we need? – Love ticked all the right boxes, being slickly produced and starring the familiar milieu of fashion celebs. But Pop found a new role as the leftfield outsider, making good use of papers and print effects while also taking advantage of social networking to promote itself.

The Gentlewoman
Another alternative men’s magazine, Fantastic Man, reached its tenth issue and its success could be measured by the volume of advertising, the number of supplements and the publication of sample pages of its women’s launch planned for 2010. The Gentle­woman is seeking to do for the women’s market what Fantastic Man has done for the men’s market – provide a genuine alternative to the mainstream instead of being just a wannabe mainstream magazine. The women’s market will be a far tougher challenge but if anyone can do it, Jop van Bennekom and team can.

Meanwhile, in the world of mainstream women’s publis­hing, the British edition of Elle continued to impress. The creative team, led by art director Marissa Bourke, have been winning awards for the past couple of years for their refresh of the Elle look. Previously stuck in the international Elle template of multi-coloured Futura, the British edition now features monochrome serif typography and improved photography. When travelling this year, it was notable how many people working in publishing around the world referred to the magazine.

Sadly, The Newspaper Club (see below) remains a rare example of how print and digital can work together. The digital­isation of maga­zine content remains a struggle. Colors and US Esquire both experi­mented with QR codes to add web-cam readable links to online content but whether that can become more than a gimmick remains to be seen. Monocle’s site remains a great example of how additi­onal content for subscribers can add to the print edition, while Grazia has focused its site to become a daily resource that promotes the printed maga­zine and provides content feedback. British Esquire and Wallpaper* were two titles that embraced Twitter, using the social networking channel to give updates on their print editions as well as to provide links to additional content. PDF page-turners continue to be the stopgap quick solution, allowing readers to flick through their favourite title page by page, but these remain creatively frustrating, a useful add-on but really just poor substi­tutes for a copy of the printed magazine.


The Newspaper Club
In January designer Ben Terrett published a simple but beautiful tabloid newspaper, Things Our Friends Have Written On The Internet, that heralded a new project that seeks to make use of newspaper press down­time. By providing templates and a link to printers, The Newspaper Club hopes to help amateur publishers easily produce low-run publi­cations. But as tofhwoti showed, professionals can provide their own bespoke designs too. A neat coming-together of digital and print: a pointer to the future of publishing content.

Book, newspaper or magazine?
The cross fertilisation of traditional print formats continued over the year. While Monocle maintained its bookish appearance, other publications that might once have been magazines used newspaper formats. Frontline (above) was one example, designed by Sarah Douglas and Lee Belcher and published by the journalists’ club of the same name, it updated the broadsheet format in a deliberate reference to its journalist audience. Mean­while The Drawbridge followed daily newspapers in dropping its large format page size and going tabloid to better accommodate its editorial content. A more dramatic change was seeing news­papers adopting maga­zine formats and design tech­niques. Portugal’s ‘i’ news­paper was one example, a saddle-stitched A3 daily that combines colour, typo­graphy and image to present news and opinion in a very magazine-like manner. It even finds space for some Monocle-like section headings. In the UK, The Times launched Eureka, a new monthly science maga­zine supplement, that cleverly mixed newspaper and magazine elements.

Wired magazine continued to impress, its ability to make even the most obscure and abstract subjects come to life on the page being increasingly recognised with coverage in the design press and award wins. But it was creative director Scott Dadich’s visit to London to talk to the Editorial Design Organisation that empha­sised the point. Here was a designer not only highly fluent in presentation on the page, but equally able to communicate to a live audience. Meanwhile, a UK edition was launched that struggled to live up to the extraordinary standards of the US one.

Independent round-up
While personal favourites Fantastic Man, 032C and Carl’s Cars continued to publish, Kasino A4 (right) from Finland surprised its fans and announced its self-initiated end, determined to finish on a high rather than outstay its welcome (watch out for a new publication from the same team next year). But there were plenty of new magazines appearing across the year to prove this genre is as strong and as innovative as ever. High­lights for me included OK Periodical from the Netherlands, (Slide 5), each issue a themed collection of material presented in a small book-like format; Meatpaper (Slide 1) arrived from the US to prove that a magazine about the culture and politics surrounding meat could create an engaging niche for itself; Germany’s Cut (Slide 2) was a recession-friendly celebra­tion of DIY fashion that revelled in its handmade aesthetic; and from here in London, young bloggers It’s Nice That moved into print with their self-titled and rather beautiful journal-like magazine (Slide 3). The weirdest magazine of the year? Free Style maga­zine, (Slide 4), a round format fitted inside a Frisbee.

“If you read some of the hate mail I got, you’d think ‘My God, what did this guy do? Seduce a German Shepherd Dog?'” Joerg Koch, 032C

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