We have no doubt that readers pick up a copy of The New York Times and often dive through the paper to get straight to its magazine. But 15 times a year, this dash for the glossier pages that reside within the newsprint becomes quicker than ever, when The New York Times Magazine releases one of its special-themed issues. Christmas came early for design heads and technology-smitten readers last week as the magazine released its design and tech issue discussing the theme of “Humans of the Future”.
When The New York Times Magazine gets to work on a special issue, careful thought – both editorially and in terms of design and art direction – is needed in order to make a consistently engaging publication; especially considering the entire magazine is dedicated to a single topic. For this issue, Ben Grandgenett, a graphic designer at the Times, tells us his team kickstarted design proceedings with the imagery. “The first thing we decided on was the art,” he tells It’s Nice That. “The content in the issue consisted of a lot of ‘science-y’ articles that could have resulted in dry pictures of labs or offices. We wanted to find a way to make the art engaging and give the issue a cohesive visual feel”.
This feel developed through the commissioning of New York-based studio Delcan & Company, entrusted with the design task of thinking of “a series of concepts for the cover and the opening pages of the articles,” Ben continues. With concepts decided on, the publication partnered with photographer Jamie Chung and fabrication studio Pink Sparrow to work on imagery for its cover and articles. By working closely with the same team throughout the issue, the art direction allows each subject matter discussed editorially to shine, but also appear close-knit in terms of photographic style.
The use of photography is then balanced out by the commissioning of illustrator Brian Rea who was asked, “to create art for the essays and various sidebar imagery which were interspersed throughout.” Typography came after these choices were made, responding “to the imagery using organic compositions with a hierarchical nod to code,” Ben points out. The magazine’s cover was also made by the aforementioned team and resulted in a humorous, enticing interpretation of contemplating our future relationship with technology.
In terms of overall themes woven in under the topic of “Humans of the Future”, the articles in the publication’s design and tech issue cover a wide range, “from the possibility of genetically engineered pigs solving the donor-organ shortage, what we will do with our later years when we are able to live longer, to how AI will aid human’s predictive abilities,” explains the designer. By focusing the magazine’s overall outlook on something often varying in inventive possibilities, “design and technology coverage can often take on a more imaginative lens,” says Ben, pinpointing the Times’ “Future of Driving” issue from 2017 as another example.
With the publication’s decision to cover “human medical and scientific advancements which are likely to occur in the future,” the latest special issue from The New York Times Magazine “brings a weight of reality which I think is interesting and important to examine,” Ben describes. But other than the weighty and insightful subject matter at hand, “the live pig we brought on set was definitely a highlight.”
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.