When logos go flat: search engine edition

Whether or not you like it, flat design is here. Regardless of the actual merits of flat design, it’s spreading across all digital platforms, most recently in iOS7, which everyone is raving about.

In an interesting development, three of the three biggest internet search engines have switched their logos to reflect an increased emphasis on flat design, marking a societal shift in web design. When the three biggest names on the web – Google, Microsoft and Yahoo – all change their design to reflect a certain aesthetic, you should probably pay attention.

The Google Tossup

Search giant Google has finally unveiled their new logo, and as you can see, the difference is just slight.

New Logo.

New Logo.

Old Logo.

Old Logo.

Google has finally gotten on the flat train! Granted, you can’t say this was a last-minute reaction to the flat design trend – Google has been using this logo internally for a while. The old logo will be phased out on the website over the next few weeks.

The reason for the change? To make the logo fit with the current design interface, as they told CreativeBloq.

And as luck would have it, a major competitor went flat in the same week.

Bing Gets a Facelift

Bing, Microsoft’s original search engine, hasn’t made a whole lot of waves in the digital world. Basically, it’s hard to compete with a search company so powerful their name has become a verb meaning “to web search.” Nice work Google.

Statistics be damned – Microsoft hasn’t given up yet. Behold the change from the old logo (bottom) to the new flat design (top.)

ea0055f7-512f-4dde-a571-0b41b178b9a6_BingOldNewIt reportedly took them a year to develop that logo. Riiiiight.

Yahoo Stumbles Again 

Oh Yahoo. You’re so funny. The technorati can’t take you seriously, even after Marissa Mayer signed on as CEO and started flipping stuff around. Even buying Tumblr isn’t going to make you hip.

And yet, you still come out with a new logo. Bonus points for trying, but… You didn’t get the flat design part right.

The top one is the new logo, and the bottom one is the old.

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Wait.., you left from flat to something weirder? Come on! Even one of your interns designed a logo, and it kept closer to the world standard for design trends than what you chose!

In fact, the following creation, designed by Yahoo! intern Brad Ehney, was so popular people thought it was the actual logo. 

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Here’s the bottom line: if the world’s biggest tech giants, who drive billions of hits of traffic everyday, are considering a graphical redesign, magazine publishers should as well. If the objective is to secure readers to a brand, then the brand needs to have a digital presence that looks, feels and operates similar to the user’s most-used applications.

Unequivocally, these apps are designed by Google, Microsoft and the like. So if magazines want to drive web traffic, they need to step up. Forget partnerships with Sony – get yourself some web devs from Google.

Blurred Lines: Imaging Edge

Addendum: A general failure to properly apply post scheduling has resulted in three posts today. So enjoy!

So as you may know, print journalism is having a mid-life crisis: as print readership starts to decline, so does revenue. As a result, some magazines have been changing up their advertising game. From Buzzfeed’s native advertising to fashion magazines’ selling the goods they review, everybody’s looking to make a quick buck.

The downside: the lines are blurred between editorial and advertising content, making it harder for a reader to distinguish between the two. One could argue magazines are leveraging their readers’ trust in order to make money – knowing your readers will engage with a certain topic is a very powerful bargaining chip during advertising deals.

And the lines keep blurring. Case in point: Imaging Edge, a new magazine launched last week by Bonnier.

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Imaging Edge is a photography magazine. Put together by a hybrid team from American Photography and Pop Photo, it’s hitting the ground running with an Android-ready tablet issue and a handful of special subscriber-only events.

There’s just one catch: the whole thing is funded by a “partnership with Sony Corporation.”

As you may know, Sony is one of the biggest digital camera retailers on the planet. Suddenly, this beautiful young magazine looks very suspicious.

Do you trust a magazine produced by a retailer who isn’t concerned with bias? Would you respect a publishing company that works so closely with the corporations they’re supposed to cover? Is this not an underhanded advertising strategy?

Let’s think this out before we draw conclusions.

A partnership with a retailer suggests the possibility of biased reporting. Naturally, a publisher paying enough money to make their relationship a “partnership” isn’t going to stand for any reporting that runs contrary to the corporation’s interests. That being said, all the ads on the magazine’s website are for Sony cameras. And look at that first post in the screenshot below: not a word about an explicit focus on Sony equipment.

sfdfdfdfd“State of the art technology” made by your friends at Sony, of course. This makes me feel like I’m being fooled.

The magazine and the website are gorgeous and work perfectly.  Unfortunately, this is probably a byproduct of Sony’s funding. It’s clean and representative of a standard digital design aesthetic, with awesome Sans Serifs and great photography. Another interesting aspect is the focus on individual photographers’ work. Throughout the magazine, certain excellent photographers are labeled as “Sony Artisans of Imagery,” who are of course using Sony equipment. It’s like a micro version of the celebrity endorsement advertising strategy.

But still, I’m wooed by a pretty face. Here’s a shot of a photo gallery on the site.

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Do we even really care if our magazines blur the lines? It’s pretty obvious that broadcast media has sold it’s soul for ratings, and yet people still watch. In fact, they don’t just watch – some build their decisions around what they see.

So Imaging Edge begs some questions. Do we even care if Sony is influencing this magazine? Will anyone read it anyway? As these lines start to blur, what have we become as consumers? What have magazines become? Magazines never had the same explicit advertising/editorial split seen in newspapers.

In fact, perhaps this magazine isn’t unique in it’s relationship with retailers – maybe magazines have been in bed with retailers all along, and we’re okay with it.

good-housekeeping-seal

Just some food for thought.

Instagram’s Fetish for Fashion Week

Anybody with any sort of journalism experience knows that mobile, crowdsourced, and pro-am reporting is becoming more important than ever.

But, just like always, nobody talks about how mobile reporting is tossing up the magazine world. This year, mobile proved to be a valuable asset for magazines at one world-renowned and utterly fabulous event: New York Fashion Week.

Fashion Week or NYFW (#NYFW) is singlehandedly the most important event of the year for fashion magazines, especially those based in New York. It happened the week of September 9 this year. For those of you who aren’t aware of Fashion Week, you probably should be: for one week each year, all of the world’s most famous fashion designers come together in New York for a week of runway shows, gorgeous models, self-indulgent parties and rabid-live blogging. The main purpose is to show off all new lines of ultra-expensive clothing, just in time for the new fall season. Everybody shows up, including celebrities, designers and models.

And how.

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It’s so important for magazines that several devoted special issues to Fashion Week, often with several hundred pages. This guy even dropped acid and attended a runway show in the name of journalism (sort of.)

Like I mentioned in a previous post, branding is a deeply important aspect of magazines. In the industry, tight budgets are demanding a tighter grip on the audience, and several magazines have nailed it perfectly with this frickin’-sweet app you might know: Instagram.

By having a constant, intense feed of photos that expand beyond selfies, several magazines turned their Instagram accounts into mobile traffic drivers that reflect the visual style of their own brand. Check out some of these shots:

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Click on any one of those photos and look at how many people have interacted with them.

It’s complete genius. Look at Instagram by the numbers.
-There are 58 photos uploaded every second.
-Instagram gains one new user every second.
-Growth is spiking and hasn’t plateaued.
-Instagram hit 100 million users in two years. It took Twitter and Tumblr five years to get that many.
-Of Instagram users, 53 percent are female. If you ask me, that statistic is way convoluted. I only know like two other guys with a ‘Gramz.

So what better way to hit millions of girls and women who want to attend fashion week than give them a feed straight to their phone? Also, you can interact directly with the designers who obviously have Instagram and a buttload of dedicated followers. It’s a beautiful photographical social media orgy that magazines are definitely enjoying. 

Check out these great feeds from ElleVogue, and Mercedes Benz. Addenum, 10/1: Here’s a story from MPA about publishers and Instagram. 

Plus, being the reporter assigned to “Instagram all of Fashion Week” can’t be so bad, right? After all, you might meet Pharrell. (read: “dream job.”)

pharrell

Vintage Power: The New Yorker Redesign

And so this is the first of a potential recurring series of blogs about magazine redesigns.

Today we’ll be talking about The New Yorker, one of the most iconic names in magazine publishing. This household name has been setting the standard for New York-based magazines for 88 years, with it’s uniquely recognizable artwork, tongue-in-cheek comics, pithy restaurant reviews, and brutally timely, satirical cover artwork. I mean, look at it:

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This magazine is quintessential New York. So, when I heard they were redesigning it, I became concerned. The sheer power of this magazine comes partly from it’s brand, it’s visual aesthetic, which has barely changed for decades. I was expecting a total rehash: bold, sans serif fonts, crazy modern photography, stuff more in line with the trends of newer magazines. Hey, if it can work for Bloomberg Businessweek, why not?

I legitimately expected The New Yorker to totally rework their aesthetic, which in my opinion would have alienated a very passionate audience and crapped all over a powerful, unique visual brand.

Also, going to their offices when I was in New York and meeting with the editors was a total blast.  #humblebrag. Click the link for a blog I wrote while I was there.

But anyway, I saw this video which chilled me out a lot – and made me notice something interesting.

Click here because WordPress won’t let anyone but Youtube embed videos.

The majority of the work The New Yorker is doing on the magazine isn’t modernization – it’s taking the magazine back to a vintage feel reminiscent of past issues. I think this is a good thing.

The state of the magazine industry isn’t too positive: while readership is staying steady, advertisers are jumping ship, terrified by the doomsday prophecies cast by newspaper publishers, most of which are fat lies. Standard journalism – cynical and pessimistic.

What’s important right now is holding readers, and the best way to do that is to differentiate yourself as a brand. The New Yorker has a super powerful brand – I think this face is recognizable to anyone in the magazine business.

The-New-Yorker

 

So their plan is genius: by bringing The New Yorker even closer to it’s original art aesthetic, they’re magnifying their vintage brand. While other people are looking to establish a modern-looking presence, The New Yorker is exploiting what made it so popular in the first place. We can see some similar redesigns in Vanity Fair, where they hark back to a historical golden age of magazines.

Looks good on you, New Yorker.

Jeff Darcy

Jeff Darcy

Beautiful fashion, ugly web design

v-magazine-2006-march-01

So I know we talked about the fabulous V Magazine just a few weeks ago, but I had to bring it back.

V Magazine, the gorgeous large-format fashion magazine that caught my design fancy, has broken my heart.

Click here to visit their website and see why. Don’t just visit the page, click around a few links and try to read some stories.

You may have noticed that V Magazine’s web layout is a bit… odd.

I’ll take it further than that. I believe this website falls short of V Magazine’s dynamic print presence, and is a disappointing step in the wrong direction. They need to seriously reconsider what’s happening here – their innovation may have been misplaced.

Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The Good

Before I tear into this website’s design, I want to highlight what’s positive. First of all, it’s good to see a magazine invest time into a seriously unique web presence.  Too many magazine companies are settling for cookie-cutter websites. While familiar, they lack the same sort of artistic depth one has in print. I can understand why V wants to escape that trap – V stands out on the rack with it’s larger-than-standard printing, why shouldn’t it stand out on the web? Here’s the result: a landing home page that’s fluid, colorful, and highlights the photography that drives V.

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If you visited the site, you know what I mean. The photo tile homepage is interactive, and the images react with negative-space text when you scroll over them. The swipe bars at the top left are my fave. They switch back and forth between V and it’s underrepresented VMan magazine.
other

For real, I think this is a great idea. This landing page is really powerful for a fashion magazine, and I’m really impressed with it. V deserves something this unique. However, when one leaves the landing page, things start to get sour.

The Bad

After a viewer is so pleasantly wowed and visually stimulated by the gorgeous home page, one would be inclined to click one of the picture links in order to read a story. Perhaps one wants to explore a photo gallery. Maybe one wants to peruse some of V’s archive photos.

Clicking on one of the photos takes the reader to a layout that probably looks something like this:

what

Like wait, what? I thought I clicked on a story. What is this? How do I scroll down? How do I go back?

Where are the other photos? If I use my keypad to scroll down, I can only see one. I’m lost and scared!

You may have experienced some of these feelings if you explored the site. This is where I start getting concerned.

Once again, V has tried to reinvent the wheel with their story pages, but this misses the mark really badly. A quick breakdown of why this tragic part of the site falls apart:

The interface – no website should have a learning curve. The navigational tools on these pages are counter intuitive and unnatural. Clicking on an image takes the user to a new, in-window dialog box… where the photo is the same exact size. Why!?

Lack of clarity – the UX falls far short of the glory of the homepage. A user doesn’t know where to go (or where to look) next, due to the lack of any familiar landmarks (scrollbars, back buttons, banner ads.) The more of this you have, the more people are likely to say “screw it” and leave, myself included.

The bells and whistles – the cursor becomes a plus sign on the photos. It turns 45 degrees to the right when you click on a photo. I can share every photo on every social website imaginable, but some of the navigation bar on the left is naturally cut off by the coding. If the basics don’t even work, why spend so much time coding stupid stuff that adds nothing to the UX? Like my dad says: don’t put lipstick on a pig.

If you don’t believe me, go to the site and click around a bit. You’ll start to notice…

The Ugly

Listen, if anyone from V is reading this, I want you to know I think your magazine is great. I like what you’ve done with your web presence, trying to mix it up in a cookie-cutter world. But the fact is this: your website is a teeny bit broken. And broken is ugly.

Here’s the worst parts.

The Responsive Design – Nice try with the 4-stage layout. Looks good on a tablet. Too bad any attempt to read it on a tablet is marred by the same redonkulous interactivity issues I faced on my laptop. In making your website responsive, you gave us 4 different ways to interact with your pages. That’s rough considering people don’t like to think when they try to browse.

The Code – The website invites you to navigate using the keyboard, and if you only use the keyboard, you’ll be fine. But if you attempt to use the mouse to scroll, you encounter a glitch and the website gets stuck.

It seems that the navigation bar on the left side is cut by the size limitations of the site, meaning you have headlines and links that aren’t visible thanks to a simple error.

Sure, the social media sharing tools work, but photos are awkwardly placed at times, and they don’t react well to the responsive design.

These are all problems with your code, and they’ve made me cry openly in the basement of the library. Look what you did, V – look what you did.

The Verdict

V, I don’t want to give up on you. The ideas with this site are solid, and you are an innovator. However, now is the time to step backward and analyze your UX: are you achieving your goals?

I think you best have a long, hard chat with Weird Science Studios, the hooligans who made your site. You’re either paying them too much or not paying them enough.

And if you’re from Weird Science, I’m calling you out! Stop taking advantage of my poor V Magazine and fix their website!

Anyway, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and innovation doesn’t come overnight. I think V did something bold here and deserves to be respected for it – even if it does fall short sometimes.

G-Dragon is a badass – just like Complex Mag

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Okay stop – before you continue, click the link to read this story about G-Dragon, the Korean pop superstar slash up-and-coming fashion icon, written and produced for Complex magazine. Make sure you read it all. Protip: use the arrow keys to scroll down, and release when the scrolling temporarily stops.

Tell me: are you not entertained?

It seems that Complex Mag, the brainchild of fashion entrepreneur Marc Ecko, is trying it’s hand at some dynamic, immersive digital publishing. Internally, they’re calling this project “Future,” according to Digidaily. This intensely visual publishing platform is allegedly set up to handle at least one unique story a week, and they’re using this story of G-Dragon as their prototype.

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I’ll tell you the truth: I’m madly in love with this story. The visuals, the text, the photos, the interactive elements, the GIFs, the color palette, everything. Funny thing about love, though – only fools rush in. 

Therefore, I’m going to break down why I believe Complex has stepped out as a potential digital magazine leader with “Future” – if not in subscription numbers, in content production.

1. The interface

Complex is not the first to implement this “while-you-scroll” interactive layout design. Arguably the most publicized is the New York Times “Snow Fall” feature, and Pitchfork ‘s sporadic Cover Features are similarly coded. However, Complex is building on the weaknesses of it’s predecessors: Snow Fall took 6 months and (allegedly) than $1 million to make, and Pitchfork’s productions are all uniquely coded, meaning they’re usually released months apart.

Plus, it gets worse: Snow Fall, a huge 11-person project, was reproduced in less than an hour by a single tech developer, much to the NYT’s chagrin. And Pitchfork is full of hipsters – ew.

Here’s why Complex is doing it right: it’s simple.

The interface isn’t a unique design, nor is it a pile of unintelligible code. Although the images, text and video may have taken lots of work, the animation is simple while immersive. The source code is relatively short, the GIFs easy to make, and the animations straightforward. The transitions in this work are a little less… flamboyant than some of the Pitchfork pieces. 

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Speaking of flamboyant. G-Dragon in Vogue, 2009

“Future” is designed as a platform, a template that promotes creativity but allows for fast turnaround. The framework was designed over a period of three months and is easily customizable, according to Complex CEO Rich Antoniello.

Hmm, it sounds like this platform was designed for…

2. The rapid ability to produce stories

The best part about this initiative? It’s not a gimmick. Antoniello boasted that Complex will be publishing “1-2” of these features a week, which craps all over NYT’s and Pitchforks special editions. Complex is making this a consistent form of publishing, which is a step towards raising the bar on digital print media. No longer can you just regurgitate print stories on a webpage and let it fly – if this initiative takes off for Complex, you’ll see everyone rushing to keep up. And finally…

3. Future’s shortcomings are superficial

Sure, the design doesn’t include music (which would have been instrumental in G-Dragon’s story) and it doesn’t have videos, but Antoniello assured these features are incoming. This only leaves one big problem: the website isn’t adapted for mobile. Could you imagine seeing this on an iPad? There’s no way this hasn’t been discussed in the Complex developer office.

Still, my hopes are high for Complex. I’m genuinely impressed by this step forward from a relatively average-circulation magazine, and I think we’ll be seeing big things from them in the future.

In the meantime, I’ll spend my time trying to comprehend G-Dragon’s fashion sense.

Vogue, 2009

Vogue, 2009

Zen and Digital Design: a Cultural Theory

So I’ve been browsing through some blogs recently, only partly because I’m required to for class, but also because people sometimes say smart things.

Recently, the smart things people have been saying are about software media design: websites, digital magazines, mobile magazines, mobile news apps, etc.

Well, I’ve started to identify some common denominators. Everyone seems to be tooting the same horn, and I wanted to put them all together to reveal something everyone’s been hinting at: the culture of digital user interfaces and user experiences, or UI/UX.

I propose that a culture of use and culture of design exists between the people designing the software and the people using the software, creating a number of subtleties that can be exploited to create fabulous software.

Let us begin!

The Visuals of Software Design

We’re far beyond the days of baroque start menus, flashy desktop icons, designers have been embracing something called a “Flat User Interface,” or flat UI. If you have a Windows 8 phone, you already know what this looks like. Here’s an example from dribbble.com:

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The design focuses on a clean, minimalist approach with basic colors and ergonomic, easy-to-press-on-a-touchscreen buttons. Also notice the simplicity of the text and the lack of superfluous visual decorations.

Either way, you’ve been seeing this across the internet recently, from Instagram to this startup web mag Middle 8. Windows 8 is probably the most recognizable invocation of flat UI.

One can assume this change is being driven by user demand – software is more successful if it reflects this flat style. I mean, look at all these flat designed apps. But why would we switch from bells and whistles to a skeletonized, minimal design?

Well, as Adrian Taylor over at Smashing Magazine puts it, the bells and whistles were too much to handle.

As a constantly connected culture, we deal with a nonstop flow of information, some of it important and relevant, most of it not. We are constantly evaluating, filtering and, of course, creating content, and it all gets pretty exhausting… Becoming overwhelmed is all too easy, and a reduction of clutter in a user interface (UI) can create a little visual zen.

Of course, there’s a problem with simplifying design – no longer can you write the full name of a button’s purpose inside the button. The solution? Let a person infer what each button means by strategically placing it and adorning it with a symbol.

Maybe this experiment will make things clearer. Here’s a screenshot from Instagram, an insanely popular mobile app. What is the purpose of the button in the bottom left corner?

Screenshot_2013-09-12-13-41-55

It takes you to the home page, and if you knew that, congratulations! You’re part of the culture I’m talking about:

Because many of our intuitive user interfaces are similar, people can pick up software and already know how to navigate it – the same way anyone who picks up a book knows how to open and read it. 

This phenomenon manifested when magazines first made the jump to tablet editions. Instead of scrolling up and down like a web page, users wanted to swap left and right, just like they would through a physical magazine. This was a big problem with designing Huffington, Huffington Post’s iPad-exclusive magazine, according to Josh Klenert, Director of Design and User Experience at HuffPo. (We talked briefly after a presentation about Huffington in New York this summer.)

The answer? Either embrace people’s natural inclinations or give them subtle hints about how to navigate your app. Klenert chose the latter, as you can see with the little arrow in the bottom right hand corner of the magazine’s pages.

From Robert Snow Photography
From Robert Snow Photography

The bloggers over at Nielsen Norman also highlighted the problems with awkward design:

Although tablet-specific applications have plenty of usability flaws, the problems are mainly the same as those that plague traditional application design: difficult features, a mismatch with user workflow, and poor instructions that people don’t read.

However, our good friends at Nielsen Norman upset me with the following statement:

The flat design threat is a fashionable trend that will hopefully subside before it hurts users (and companies) too much.

NN argued that because flat design is so minimal, many users have trouble determining how their intuitive gestures work (swipes, pinches, drags of the fingers.) I disagree – the Twitter and Gmail mobile apps have helped fight this problem with design that response to slight swipes, snapping whenever a full swipe triggers the effect.

This is the bottom line: by exploiting how your users will attempt to interact with your product upon first glance, you can design mobile media that not only operates smoothly but feels natural to the user.

I’ll leave my conclusions at that, but I want to ask you some questions:

1. Have you ever downloaded a new app and found it easy to navigate?

2. When was the last time you had to read a tutorial for a mobile app?

3. Do you use any apps to read/watch/listen to media on a mobile device? Does that app utilize intuitive design?

Vanity Fair’s New Logo (Kate Upton is Still Gorgeous)

So when it comes to fashion magazines, reputation is everything. Of the top names in the business, one is celebrating it’s 100th anniversary this month: Vanity Fair.

And to celebrate, they really have gone all out.

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Notice something? Anything besides Kate Upton sporting a Monroe-esque hairdo?

After years with their iconic font, Vanity Fair has officially changed their logo – and interestingly enough, they’ve gone in a direction opposite of other industry leaders.

Here’s the old logo:

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And here’s the new:

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See the difference? The new logo is a serif font.

What I’ve noticed recently is a design shift towards sans serif fonts. This may be driven by a number of reasons, from the demand for futuristic fonts for digital publishing to the crackpot argument that sans serifs are easier to read.

Either way, the font is a wise move in my opinion: while iconic, the old Vanity Fair logo was very 80’s-chic, and for a younger reader, it probably invokes images of Francophone-themed winter sports posters hanging in their mother’s bedroom.

At least that’s what it does for me.

But then there’s the cultural standpoint: Fashion Week is coming in hard with vintage pieces, and the trend shows no sign of stopping. The film The Great Gatsby made flapperwear cool again, and Gatsby-themed parties – while horribly, terribly ignorant – are all the rage. Also, all of the other major magazines, like Elle and Vogue, have strong, timeless serif logos.

My only lament about this rework is that I still can’t read Vanity Fair in my student union without being judged.

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Dammit.

My Most Influential Blogs

Here are some blogs I’ll be following, all of which are excellent sources for commentary, news and information about publication design.

MagCulture
This is a longstanding blog about editorial design. While not focusing on new and upcoming magazines, this blog will still be a good source of insight.

SmashingMagazine
This is an online mag about internet and mobile design.  It has a lot of articles, but the majority of them have a slight editorial lean. It reads like a blog and sounds like a blog, so I’m treating it like a blog. I’d call this one of the “new-school” magazines that redefine the “print-only” idea of a magazine.

MrMagazine
Samir Husni is allegedly the “world’s expert on new magazines,” according to Forbes. Needless to say his blog will be beneficial to my endeavors.

PrintMag
Allegedly the best magazine design blog, I think I’ll be visiting this site often. They even have a space for design jobs – major plus.

MagSpreads
Basically the same blog as mine. It will be interesting to compare perspectives with them.

MagazineChat
This will be a good place to engage with others in magazine design. Curious to see if this can blossom into a community.

DesignerDaily
A huge mine of all the design information I’ll need in the future.

The Society of Professional Designers
The single greatest resource for publication designers. There’s a lot to learn and absorb on these blogs.

Computer Arts
An awesome overseas resource for computer arts and print design. Their print magazine is awesome as well.

Wired’s Design Blog 
A great blog about digital design in general, which will be influential when discussing mobile apps and breakthrough website design.

Lady Gaga’s Cleavage and V Magazine

Like many celebrities, Lady Gaga is good at making people talk about her. Unlike many celebrities, she’s good at making people talk about her at the right time. Exhibit A: The R-rated photoshoot she did for V Magazine. Behold the toned-down cover!

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Now, this post could be about Gaga’s impressive weight loss, or how photographers Inez and Vinoodh captured Gaga’s raw intensity, or about how this whole photoshoot was a publicity stunt designed to promote Gaga’s new album, but it’s not about any of that.
It’s about V Magazine and how freaking awesome it looks.

Before I drool over it, some history about V Magazine. It’s an offshoot of Visionaire, a “multi-platform album of fashion and art produced in exclusive numbered limited editions,” whatever the hell that means. V Mag is edited by Stephen Gan and is primarily a women’s fashion magazine, and has only been published since 1999 – yet they continue to book huge celebrities for cover shoots, including Kanye West, Mariah Carey, Miley Cyrus, and our beloved Gaga.

The most compelling part of this magazine isn’t the content – sure, they get some huge interviews – but the majority of the mag is fashion photography. The most interesting part is the design. Each cover is graced with a giant V, which depending on the shoot, can vary in color and opacity.

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It reminds me of GQ’s giant bold abbreviated logo, but the V is different. The shape of the vectors allows the subject to interact with the V, something Inez & Vinoodh obviously took into account. It’s not like other magazine flags, where the editors have to sacrifice the readability of the flag for the cover photo.

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The V is completely visible each time. Look, for example, at this other cover of Lady Gaga:

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Her body shape plays perfectly into the V.
But the shape isn’t the only part about the V that I like. The V itself suggests a feminine body part, something the art editors abuse with each cover, making V Mag a beacon of overt sexuality on the magazine rack. Plus, the magazine is tall, standing above it’s peers. It’s as if someone is holding the magazine and screaming “The women in our magazine have vaginas! And they’re attractive! And this magazine is attractive! Buy it!”

As far as design tactics go, I think this young magazine is doing everything right. If you haven’t picked up a copy of V yet, you should.