Autumn 2003

Ragbag of magazine design

The Art Directors’ Handbook of Professional Magazine Design

By Horst Moser
Thames & Hudson, £45

It is sad that a publication aiming to be a guide to designing in one genre (magazines) should be such a poor example of editorial conception in another (the book). This is the English edition of a book published in Germany as Surprise Me. Well, it does surprise me, but probably not in the way intended.

Partly it is the text. While occasional flashes of Horst Moser’s passion shine through, the lumpy translation and wide generalisations make the text banal to those who know about magazines and opaque to those who do not.

Partly it is the book’s organisation – an apparent ragbag of observations and magazine sequences grouped around themes. Grid systems are introduced and dismissed in four pages, for example.

Were this a magazine, Moser would hardly approve of its level of inattention to detail. Images don’t face the text that talks about them. Captions come and go.There is an interview with art director Mike Meire but we are not told who he is. Maybe German readers didn’t need telling. (He designed Econy and brand eins, the two most interesting European business magazines of recent years.) Worst of all, although writers and photographers get credits, there are very few credits to the art directors whose work is featured.

Still, there is an intelligent selection of current magazine work and, for an English-language audience, a good chance to see German and Swiss work.

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