Pretty much my favourite Tweet of the year came from OFFSCREEN founder Kai Brach who summed up what it’s like to work in publishing in just three words: “Magazines are hard.” That being so, it’s been another terrific year in which all manner of brilliant publications have dropped through our door. The big-hitters have continued to shine – in particular The Gentlewoman, The Paris Review, New York Magazine and The FT Weekend Magazine – while newcomers like Dirty Furniture, Violet Magazine and NOON have made brilliant bows. Elsewhere Riposte and Intern have both developed in exciting ways, building on the potential of their first issues and KENZINE continues to blaze a trail when it comes to branded offerings.
But in the final shake-up I’ve gone for seven titles that I think have had a particularly fantastic year for one reason or another. Magazines are hard, but this lot have made it look admirably easy…
First published in 2012, The Outpost is a Beirut-based magazine which “identifies, understands and analyses the conflicts, morals, energies and opportunities of a changing Arab world and lays down possible futures. “ It’s a smart, ambitious, important mission statement and yet again this year the Outpost team didn’t falter on the delivery. A special nod to Rifle, whose design expertise helps The Outpost reach its full potential.
Whenever we discuss sites we admire here in the studio Pitchfork almost always gets a mention, so it was with some excitement we unwrapped the inaugural issue of their printed offering The Pitchfork Review back in February. Creative director Michael Renaud and his team have done an excellent job of translating the spirit of the website into print while allowing it to develop its own personality too. The commissioning in particular is tremendous and I like how open Michael is that each issue is a learning process – you can see the improvements each time a new one comes along.
It’s been another good year for foodie publications with The Gourmand, FUET and Scrag End Journal among the trailblazers in an increasingly saturated sector. But of them all a special mention goes to White Zinfandel from W/—— Projects. It explores “what happens when creative people, across disciplines and media, get asked to make art about food” and the limited-run 500-edition is more like an art book loosely-themed around food. Issue 5 included a blushing heat sensitive cover and a recurring napkin motif inspired by an extraordinary custom around the eating of the ortolan, an illegal delicacy in France whereby diners cover the head of the live bird “to hide their shame from God.”
In terms of magazine news, Richard Turley’s move from Bloomberg Businessweek to MTV was one of the major stories of the past year (although huge props to Tracy Ma and Rob Vargas for stepping up so ably). However leaving aside his iconic work at that title, it was great to get our hands-on the special edition of ’SUP magazine Richard designed (and told us about in the Spring issue of Printed Pages). Documenting the Day in The Desert festival ‘SUP organises in the Joshua Tree National Park every year, Richard’s zine-inspired creation was rough, ready and perfectly-paced.
Anyone who listens to our podcast will have heard us sing the praises of ZEIT International, the bi-annual English-language digest of the best content from ZEIT Magazin. Yes of course they have a tonne of great content to cherrypick for the translated version, but it’s still one of the most astonishing publications around and Christoph Amend and his team clearly go to great lengths to think about how the international issue works in terms of rhythm and readability. The covetous glances which are found whenever a new issue arrives at It’s Nice That HQ says everything you need to know about how much we respect this title.
I sat down with 11th issue of Gym Class at the start of a long train journey and ended up reading the whole thing cover-to-cover (still in my mind the mark of a really successful magazine). It’s incestuous in the sense this is a magazine about magazines, but it’s packed with brilliant interviews containing some excellent insights (from the likes of New Yorker art director Wyatt Mitchell and the aforementioned Amend). It proves that it’s possible to talk about the art of putting a magazine together in way that’s intelligent but not too serious and it remains something I refer back to almost every week.
A regular refrain we’ve heard this year is that everyone’s a publisher, but too often when brands wade into print the results are less than scintillating. Huge kudos then to Tag Christof whose work on Human Being Journal, the magazine from US-based clothing and lifestyle store Need Supply Co, is one of the few exceptions that proves my rule. It looked beautiful, the creatives commissioned were top drawer and there was exactly the right balance of content and design that can so easily get skewed one way or the other. Other brands should take note.
About the Author
Rob joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in July 2011 before becoming Editor-in-Chief and working across all editorial projects including itsnicethat.com, Printed Pages, Here and Nicer Tuesdays. Rob left It’s Nice That in June 2015.