Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What Happened?

Just to belabor the point, as I tend to do, magazines used to be wonderful to behold—with brilliant and intriguing covers, artistically designed to seduce you into picking one up and reveal its inner works, superbly written and illustrated. And after enjoying it, you might think to save it, to look at again another day. And as time went by, you might want to keep it even longer, adding it to a collection of other magazines that you can't part with.

Every once in a while that might happen even these days, but the last time that happened to me was more than a decade ago, with the magical Mary GrandPré Harry Potter artwork that the news magazines had the good sense to showcase, as you can see below.

Mary GrandPré — Time — 1999

Mary GrandPré — Newsweek — 2000

I've kept the magazine below, only because of the article inside about JK Rowling, and one of these days I will rip the article out to file in the morgue, tossing the rest into the recycle bin. Not slighting Henry Leutwyler's photograph in the least, I do not want to keep this cover. Subject of Karl Rove aside, IF it was an insightful and intriguing illustration of him on the cover, I probably would archive it.

Henry Leutwyler — Time — 2005

Magazine publishers don't care if you save their magazines, for one day or one century. All they want is to sell that magazine to you in the first place. Well, I don't buy any of the modern magazines. If I want to keep up on affairs, I check magazines out from the library. If their covers and interiors were brimming with timeless and brilliant illustrative art, I would subscribe to them all. Photographs are fine too, if they are directed and designed to be thought-provoking and distinctive.

What happened that art directors, for the most part, are satisfied with dull and throwaway graphics, jamming on blurbs and such, until each magazine looks like another, blurring away distinction and dignity?


Anonymous said...

I completely agree with you...there is a complete lack of individuality in many magazines now, the companies are much more focused on a quick in and out in terms of production. The artists I know express the same sort of frustration toward this declining aesthetic sense.

On a more positive note, your blog is absolutely beautiful! I've spent a long time combing the archives already, I'm in the process of buying The Songs of Bilitis (how have I never heard of Pogany before?), and I look forward to future posts. Thank you for your wonderful curating.

E.G.Palmer said...

Popular magazines represent the spirit of the times they are printed in.
2011 is shallow and two-dimensional. There is very little depth to public discourse.

I have a nearly complete National Geographic collection, and one of the most interesting things about it is watching the attitudes, beliefs, and points of view represented by the writers change over the hundred plus years of the magazines life.
It's a month by month, year by year chronicle of the popular culture of the time and how it saw itself and the past and future.
You do notice that photography plays a much greater role in the contemporary issues. the writing becomes secondary to the images.

mahendra singh said...

As a former magazine production guy, AD, etc., I can tell you that most magazine publishers simply refuse to pay for anything remotely interesting to look at in their books.

In addition, there is now an entire generation of ADs & editors who really do think that clip art looks cool because they've never used anything else.

The fact that many contemporary illustrators draw stick figures and diagrams doesn't help things.

Grumble, grumble, grumble, eh, Mr. Gibbon?

John Smith said...

Mahendra, when you wrote that point about the clip art, I could just see some AD and artist moving an element of a clip art picture layer in Photoshop, with the two gasping in delight that the figure has been moved into a law of thirds zone. Genius in a tiny, tiny fish bowl. Thank you, Mahendra.

mahendra singh said...

You're welcome … actually, it's even worse than that. A lot of magazines no longer have functioning ADs as you and I would understand the word.