Mags for Decades
Originally posted on December 3, 2014
An old coworker of mine during lunch on day said that print was dead…or at least close to it, a statement that numerous people reiterated from the 90's and still occasionally today if they're trying to sound superior. Sure, the Bay Guardian did recently shut down, but I stopped and got wide eyed because I had forgotten about the war and how there are people who still think print has lost its power.
Although there have been too many debates in the past amongst designers about this very issue, how designers would prove their worth once desktop publishing was introduced (ha) and who would win the constant battle between digital and analogue. To say print is dead in the year 2014 would be inaccurate and sad, for print and web aren't mutually exclusive. In fact, 94% of adults under 35 and 96% of adults under 25 read print or digital magazines…but who likes statistics? (1). Now more than ever we are seeing a happy marriage between digital and print, and we're starting to get attached, for it is getting harder and harder to see one without the other without getting a bit irritated. Having the combination of the two offers much more freedom and creativity when there's a digital version paired with a print version, while allowing the creators to capture a broader audience.
I'm not talking about large newspaper monopolies, lit magazines, or the ones in between — that would be a long post I wouldn't care to write. I'm talking about newer independent culture and lifestyle magazines with dedicated web material (not digital issues for ipad) that keep popping up, started by small groups of people, for like minded people. One of my favorite examples is The Gentlewoman, "a modern magazine for women of style and purpose". It launched in 2010 online and in print, a year later that its brother magazine, Fantastic Man, which was published in 2009, also in print and online. Both magazines were designed by Veronica Ditting, and they are beautiful. Each issue changes slightly in some way because the content changes, allowing each issue to be modified, while still maintaining The Gentlewoman feel, and it includes both shiny and matte. One of my favorite details would be the way the captions are written, they're reminiscent of captions from Vogue and Harper's Bazaar in the 60's — everything is thoughtfully designed. The online version is almost just as great, for it is easy to tell they've taken the time to present the interviews as best as possible, and as Gentlewomanly as possible, putting the focus on the content, and the talented women featured.
Another one of my favorite examples of this is Adult, "a magazine of contemporary erotics and experiences", which was co-founded by Sarah-Nicole Pricket and Berkeley Poole in 2013. While The Gentlewoman makes for a gloomy day read, Adult feels right mostly in the late hours of the evening with red wine, but a gloomy morning in the sheets with black coffee is a close second — either way, it's in bed with you. The website was created first with a collection of stories leading up to the release date of the magazine, which was released shortly after, just to give us a little bit of what was to come, leaving us wanting more. The magazine, which was also designed and directed by Berkeley Pool, offers slightly different content on a heavy paper stock. The paper weight seems a bit impractical once you start flipping though pages until you realize it was meant to be kept in a nice place even after you've read it a few times — this is the difference with today's magazines.
The newer publications seem to value the relationship between print and web, by present different experiences for their reader (or future readers), realizing they need both if they want to survive. This leaves the printed version something to be desired and kept, whether it's in the bookshelf or on the coffee table. Vogue wrote an article this year listing the most popular new indie magazines that have made a name for themselves over the past few years, some even last year. After providing a few almost laughable, but very serious descriptions of the various magazines, the author mentioned the age range of the creators being between 24 and 29 (I better get on it) who are from a generation that didn't grow up on print, which isn't true, but briefly addresses this balancing act. "…creators of these magazines haven't so much rejected the internet as brought if off our screens and onto paper…and when it comes to lifestyle content, print is the future." (2) Although print alone isn't the future, some of these manifest themselves as quarterly magazines while maintaining quality content online, like The Great Discontent, Kinfolk, Cereal, The Gourmand, Darling Magazine, Printed Pages (It's Nice That), Pitchfork Review, Model View Culture, Print Isn't Dead (people of print) and so much more — while some are larger, hardbound annuals like Rookie. But to me, Rookie and Model View Culture easily provide the most value out of all of these and are on a different level than the most drooled over Cereal or Kinfolk. Whatever your opinions are, they all have a specific aesthetic, target audience and are pretty consistent with who they are, whether we like it or not.
It sounds funny saying independent magazines, especially those regarded as lifestyle, have become trendy, but they have, and it's happened all before. When the Spectator and the Tatler journals were widely read in the 18th century England, close to 800 journals followed the same format which "cultivated 'wit' and 'taste'". Those publications that followed did not have much of a lifespan, except for the Gentleman's Magazine, which lasted over 150 years and became the first journal to use the word 'magazine' in the name (3). Today, publications seem to be paying more attention to the print quality (as well as the digital copy), which most likely derives from the neglect of print towards the end of the previous generation. But that's how trends work, right? So who will last? Will the next generation go back to saying print is dead? I hope not!
** UPDATE **
YESYEYEYESYESYES Lucky Peach has a new website and the content is so good and now this can be added to the list! yay! Pitchfork creative did such a great job designing it too :)