Autumn 2000

Quick hits from cover to cover

Issues: New Magazine Design

Jeremy Leslie
Laurence King Publishing, £25

Nothing goes down quite so well in the average magazine office as a new book about magazine design. Books about the product are even more seductive than the product itself: a condensation of the magazine’s most superficial impact (the instant hit of the layout) and a total denial of its more complex qualities (the married narrative of words and images). Leslie’s Issues: New Magazine Design mysteriously disappeared from my desk on day one. That’s how alluring it is. It provides a spectacular library of print shots, from the super arty arcana of Shift! (see p. 50-53) to Martin Venezky’s unfathomable Speak and the anti-fashion, fashion-obsessed bible Blow.

But for all the hundreds of layouts, there is no critical agenda. Magazines, for Leslie, do not appear to be good, bad or indifferent, they just are. And opinions are not things that need to be backed up by argument. “The catalyst for the renewed importance of images was Colors,” we read of Benetton’s hubristic marketing tool. “Mainstream magazines now almost exclusively feature full-colour head shots” he asserts elsewhere, next to a series of covers showing full-length portraits.

Leslie is a good designer, as his own projects, which pepper this book, demonstrate (although the irritating sideways captions don’t bear this out). But he says more than once that since the onset of new technology it has never been so easy to get something into print. To an extent, this book proves that point.

First published in Eye no. 37 vol. 10, 2000

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