• Main

    Jeremy Leslie: The Modern Magazine cover (detail)

Graphic Design

Publication: Jeremy Leslie's new book explores how print is fighting back

Posted by Rob Alderson,

Sometimes theories and ideas get spread so quickly, adopted so unquestioningly and recycled so often that people don’t stop to question their veracity. Ever since the loud and persistent “print is dead” era of a few years ago, a new narrative has grown up which suggests that although rocked by the digital revolution, increasingly magazines have found ways of adapting to the new media landscape and marrying content and design to re-imagine the print experience. PORT magazine went as far as to proclaim a new “golden age” of magazine publishing.

Jeremy Leslie, longtime magazine designer and the man behind the brilliant magCulture blog has taken up the challenge of showing exactly how magazines are rethinking their role for the contemporary era in his new book The Modern Magazine. Across 240 pages the book combines genuine insights with 750 explanatory visuals, so Jeremy’s book looks like a must-buy if you’re the kind of person who picks up a magazine and smells it straight away. We caught up with him to find out a bit more…

The Modern Magazine conference will be held at Central Saint Martins on October 16.

  • Modern-magazine-1

    Jeremy Leslie: The Modern Magazine

  • Modern-magazine-2

    Jeremy Leslie: The Modern Magazine

Where did the idea for this book come from?

My last book was the magCulture one back in 2003, and I’d always intended to do another – the magCulture blog was first intended as a research tool for that follow-up. I was just busy with other things.

What encouraged me to publish The Modern Magazine now was a desire to finally draw a line under the “end of print” argument. The last few years have seen some fantastic editorial design being published in conjunction with clever, well-developed content. Several other books had looked at aspects of this but I felt there was a need for a broader overview of developments – from small independents through to mainstream heavyweights, and across design and editorial.

This is a hugely exciting time for creative publishing as magazines struggle with broken business models. And as ever, magazines tend to get trashed or recycled, so all those ideas and designs quickly disappear unless recorded. Not everyone collects mags like I do!

Which magazines have really risen to the challenge of digital?

After an astonishingly slow start, magazines are now beginning to take advantage of the many channels offered by digital. The biggest challenge is that there isn’t a single “correct” way to use the web, social networks and apps. Every case requires a different mix. That’s the bad news.

The good news from a creative standpoint is that publishers have been forced to reconsider who their audience is, how to engage them and which channels are the most appropriate to use. And magazine makers are going back to square one and re-examining those same factors with regards to their print editions. Longheld assumptions can be questioned in a way that was unthinkable just a few years ago.

Monocle’s approach is a great example of this. Tyler Brûlé has spoken against iPad app versions of magazines, yet they have launched a 24hour digital radio service with an iPhone app available to organise and listen to archive material. That’s what I mean by finding your own way forward. Downloadable audio is perfect for the Monocle reader, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right answer for another magazine.

Everyone has to find their own channels; it’s also neccessary to keep adapting and changing. You cannot stand still.

“The good news from a creative standpoint is that publishers have been forced to reconsider who their audience is, how to engage them and which channels are the most appropriate to use.”

Jeremy Leslie

In redefining their role, what part does design play compared to content?

Design is more important than ever. The power of combining words and images was what first drew me to editorial design and the ability for these elements to work together continues to be enhanced by technology. But the content has to be strong and the relationship between design and content has to be resolved properly.

There’s a chapter in the book called Design x Content in which I argue design is content. We are an increasingly visual rather than verbal culture; that balance has shifted. Design and identity matter more than ever.

Good editorial design balances familiarity with a flexible approach to individual stories. At present the epitome of this is Bloomberg Businessweek, in many respects a very traditional weekly mainstream financial news publication. Yet editor Josh Tyrangiel and creative director Richard Turley have developed a remarkable working relationship which pushes design to the forefront of explaining and expressing the content. It’s one of the most refreshing, exciting magazines out there today. Each week the front cover alone is an event.

Is there a difference between the ways independent and mainstream magazines have responded to the digital challenges?

Yes there is. Indies have less finance to hand, but they’ve also been quick to harness the web to promote and sell their magazines. Twitter and Facebook have been great (free) tools for the independents, while PayPal and software like Shopify have provided excellent entry level access to e-commerce.

The mainstream have struggled with perceived costs of digital  – many publishers got burned in the first dotcom boom and there are plenty of people looking to make a digital killing out of unsuspecting publishers. But they too are now working to take advantage of social media and cheaper channels.

It’s looking like the initial excitement about iPad app replica magazines was as misplaced as predicted, and a major part of the creative thrill these days is forever trying things out, testing things. This is healthy.

I think we’ll see a shift away from every magazine trying to be something to everyone, back to magazines having a very tight relationship with a core set of readers. That relationship will be kept tight via social media and other digital channels.

Is talk of a new golden age for magazines accurate or slightly overblown?

I genuinely believe this is a new golden age. Of course it also makes a good headline, but it only reflects what I and others see on a day-to-day basis. I receive anything from four to 10 new magazines each week, and while not all are perfect examples of the craft, there are enough good ones to support the idea this is a golden age. I believe the new book justifies the claim, particularly the idea that the new indies are reinventing traditional genres of publishing.

The boom years – the 2000s – may have been a golden age for the big publishers and financiers, but like the banking and property sectors there needs to be a shake out. This is golden age for creativity in magazine publishing.

The Modern Magazine published by Laurence King is out later this month.

  • Modern-magazine-3

    Jeremy Leslie: The Modern Magazine

  • Modern-magazine-4

    Jeremy Leslie: The Modern Magazine

  • Modern-magazine-5

    Jeremy Leslie: The Modern Magazine

  • Modern-magazine-6

    Jeremy Leslie: The Modern Magazine

  • Modern-magazine-7

    Jeremy Leslie: The Modern Magazine

  • Modern-magazine-8

    Jeremy Leslie: The Modern Magazine

  • Modernmagazine_highrescover

    Jeremy Leslie: The Modern Magazine cover

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Graphic Design View Archive

  1. List

    We haven’t featured Oslo-based studio Heydays on the site for a while but a quick check-in with their portfolio shows they’re still producing top-quality work for an eclectic range of clients. Nöra is a design house based between London and São Paulo which among other things supplied the seats for the World Cup stadia in Brazil. Heydays wanted a look and feel that felt “sophisticated with a stylish twist.” The pointillist type treatment pulls this off neatly and there’s some impressive animated elements you can see below as well. Keep up the great work team Heydays!

  2. List

    When it comes to a trendy commission, a restaurant in east London that serves everything on the bone is right up there. Credit is due then to Burgess Studio, whose identity for the eatery doesn’t take itself too seriously. Built around a nice typographic wordmark and the simple idea of making the all-important bone into a smile, the look and feel rolls out seamlessly across everything from bags to cups, menus to the website. It’s simple, it’s striking and it steers well clear of some kind of terrible hipster overload, all of which is to be very much commended.

  3. List

    It’s been a while since we last checked in with Stockholm-based Bedow studio but there’s a host of new work to enjoy over on their site as ever. I was particularly drawn to their ongoing collaboration with Essem Design, “a Swedish manufacturer of artisanal hallway interiors.” Bedow used a refreshingly straightforward way in to what might seem like rather a niche product, building an identity around the Swedish words for “hello” and “goodbye” – the utterances most commonly heard in a hallway.

  4. List

    Producing graphic collateral for one of the world’s largest international contemporary art fairs is a brief that would have some graphic design studios quaking in their boots, but when London-based Studio Frith was approached by Frieze Art Fair they accepted with relish.

  5. List

    “Churn out” always sounds like a derisive expression when referring to exceptional creative work, but the prolific nature of some studios means it’s the only one I like to use use to conjure up the relentless mechanical precision with which these studios proceed – and I definitely don’t mean it derisively. And so to Praline, the products of whose churning we’re here to admire.

  6. List

    For graphic design types, the opportunity to run wild with a printer’s various techniques is pretty much the dream brief, and Mexican agency Anagrama have well and truly lived that dream. They were one of seven agencies studios invited to create a notebook with Imprimerie du Marais, and they were given free rein to experiment with effects like hot foil stamping, microembossing, silk screening and sewn binding.

  7. List

    When David Mckendrick told us he was leaving Esquire and setting hop a new venture with Wallpaper* art director Lee Belcher, we were fascinated to see what the fruits of such a top-notch collaboration might look like. Last week we got our answer, when a copy of the new Christie’s magazine came dropping through our letterbox.

  8. List

    When you’re set a challenge by Google’s UXA design team, there’s the expectation for something pretty darn special to be created. Fortunately for Manual, they nailed their brief and created a smart, clean, eye-catching interpretation of Google’s visual language.

  9. List

    It’s a widely-acknowledged fact that Tony Brook and his Spin team can do no wrong – they just design cracking stuff. So imagine our surprise when… no, just kidding, their latest project’s a belter too. Commissioned by Sim Smith, a London-based gallery representing emerging British talent, Tony and his team went about producing a slick, simple, monochrome identity that’s as unfussy as the artists the gallery represents. The logo, website and print collateral are all pleasantly understated, meaning the Sim Smith name won’t ever get in the way of the most important thing – the artists’ work.

  10. List

    Some design cultures outside the UK are very familiar to us, others less so, and it’s always fascinating to get a glimpse into how others are interpreting the visual world, which is why I was immediately drawn to the Prague-based Anymade Studio.

  11. List

    Few figures have impacted on the UK design scene quite like Neville Brody, and this week he announced the launch of Brody Associates, “a boutique studio network” that will specialise in digital, identity design and typography.

  12. List

    Sometimes I can’t help but wonder what our banknotes and coins would look like without Queen Liz’s face slapped all over them. As it looks like that won’t change anytime soon, I instead look to other countries for monetary inspiration.

  13. List

    When a studio with a back catalogue as impressive as Hey’s relaunch their website it’s tricky to know where to start in terms of choosing what aspect of it to cover. Is it the crisp design of their now fully-responsive site, the beautifully conceived identity for a Miami-based jam company that represents the product’s moreishness through the medium of randomly-generated die-cut patterns, or the 500 unique invitations they produced for ArtFad 2014, a contemporary Art and Craft Award? In this instance all of them because, as ever, all of Hey’s work is much too good not to show off.