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Visual Display of Quantitative Information
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Can anyone point me to what they consider to be outstanding magazine layouts? It seems that there is a dearth of information on this topic on the web.
Thanks very much.
-- Babak Nivi (email)
American Scholar, Harpers, Atlantic, early Whole Earth Catalogs, New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, Granta, New Yorker, Private Eye (1970s), Wet (1970s or 1980s?), New York Times newspaper, Hemmings Motor News, farm real estate catalogs (which resemble Hemmings), Sotheby's and Christie's auction catalogs, PDN (Photo District News), ArtForum, Art in America. Time magazine looked quite good several years ago, haven't seen it lately.
Perhaps a Kindly Contributor could post selected layouts from these magazines.
-- Edward Tufte
I like Fine Woodworking's layout very much. The central part of the magazine has no advertisements. This permits them to have plenty of diagrams and illustrations close to the text they relate to. In recent years, the choice of articles has shifted toward the more basic skills and projects, but the layout, apart from a slight size reduction, has not changed.
Other magazine by Taunton Press share this layout, I believe.
-- Bruce Perry (email)
"Cook's Magazine" (no advertisements, all editorial), "The World of Interiors," "The Magazine Antiques."
-- Peter Pehrson (email)
Yes, absolutely, Fine Workworking and all the Taunton Press works are superb. I've subscribed for years.
-- Edward Tufte
In considering the subject of "outstanding magazine layouts," one might conversely look at what design features render layouts poorly done--and, thus, what to avoid. (That is like learning to be a good speaker by avoiding the sins of bad speakers that one has witnessed.)
As the years pass, I see more and more examples of page layouts (especially so-called "front matter") that are hodgepodges of disparate, multiple, and confusing elements. They are difficult for the reader to easily decipher, because there is no hierarchy of elements that guide the eye and brain from more the more important to the less important parts, to aid in assimilating the visual and textual information. As the saying goes, they are overly Photoshopped.
This chaotic approach to graphic design in magazines is obviously driven by the general cultural influence of video games and other multimedia experiences that bombard the viewer with simultaneous, multi-sensory, real-time stimuli. Kids learn to crave this excitement and media managers believe they must replicate it in their print products to keep the interest of today's youth. So, to appeal to this video/multi-media generation, magazines try to replicate this chaotic, jittering, and edgy experience and feeling-tone. Hence, riotous visual stimulation to hook readers is considered more important than reader comprehension and clear communication.
An odd effect of this approach to graphic design--which in an earlier incarnation in old newspaper days was derisively called "circus makeup" (as used in old-fashioned tabloids)--is that without the traditional page structure and "perceptual descriptor" tools of classic-style headlines, subheads, quote blocks, etc. to guide the reader, the reader often doesn't even know what the material on the page is about, or whether it is worth reading, until he plunges deep into the text. That was certainly my experience when I recently read certain pages of the October 2007 issue of Esquire.
--Gregg Taylor, September 25, 2007
-- Gregg Taylor (email)