A university magazine doesn’t just compete with the higher ed crowd. In reality, it competes with magazines of every stripe (and frankly with all types of media).
So for a recent magazine redesign project, we hit the magazine stand to collect the best examples in the current magazine universe. Although I’m drawn to obscure, foreign, subculture-focused mags — especially those about pop culture — on this trip I was fascinated by more mainstream titles.
Here are my five faves (this list is subject to change at a moment’s notice):
1. For news content: Time
Have you read Time lately? The mass-audience news weekly may be a dying breed, but Time has discovered a new life. I love the witty covers and the way sidebars advance the stories. The punchy briefs pages are a work of art, and the insightful writing in the back-of-book culture section always ends before you want it to.
Runner up: Bloomberg Business Week. That Popularity issue was genius.
2. For typography: More
Serif typefaces are back big-time, and More’s cool type mixing makes you wonder why serifs ever went away. Bonus points for the artful page grids and the custom-designed departments.
Runner up: You can sneer at Rachael Ray’s recipes and cutesy catchphrases, but you can’t deny that Every Day with Rachael Ray looks great.
3. For charts and infographics: New York
Inventive infographics, great headlines and clever content make New York a standout. I never wondered about eating the whole hog until I saw the infographic explaining which NYC restaurant served each porky part. (And even though it wasn’t presented as an infographic, I never cared about the Mitt Romney-Jon Huntsman feud until I read the dishy soap opera here.) When it revs up the attitude, this magazine recalls the glory days of Spy.
Runner up: Good, the title that launched the long-form infographic feature into the mainstream.
4. For intriguing content presented with style: Fast Company
Looks great, lures you in, makes you think. This is the magazine that keeps me awake on a plane (and that is saying something). If I’m not careful, I’ll read the whole issue.
Runner up: Esquire, in either the American or British versions, has that unbelievably dense and unbeatably smart front of book.
5. For surprise: Afar
I’d never heard of this magazine, but it’s a keeper. Afar focuses on the travel experience, not on the thread count of sheets at swanky hotels. The calm design makes the photography shine.
Runner up: Newsweek’s creative “Mad Men” issue placed modern-day content into circa-1960s layouts, complete with retro-styled ads.
What magazines have you excited these days?
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