Monday, November 19, 2007

Digest Blues, Part Two

As mentioned earlier, the digests require a makeover. A sort of "Designer's Eye for the Stodgy Digest", if you will.

This is the cover for the current issue of Analog:

It is ugly.

Here, I've created my own vision of the cover to Analog. Keep in mind, I have not read the issue; this is merely my own vision of what it could look like standing on the shelf. I'm no designer, so it too may be ugly. However, I think it hearkens back to the past style of Analog, while giving it a more modern, techy style.

Artwork by Neville Dsouza, swiped without permission.

The interior design should also reflect the new approach. I imagine a very clean, grid-based approach, but with more embellishment, using call-outs and varied columns. Clarity is important; however, the page design should also include something of interest as well.

Just one example would be something like this:

Of course, I have no idea if it's possible to print gray tones on the paper used in printing the digests. But the fact is, it isn't all that difficult to create modern pages.


This is the October/November cover of Asimov's:

Again, I have no idea what the contents are about. My example is solely based on the desire to appeal to the teenage, gamer, rebellious crowd. I focused on using an image more in line with Greg Egan's writing, as I'm not very familiar with Allen Steele's work. I selected a moody, abstract photo and gave it a cross-processed look to accentuate the "edginess".


The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is trickier. In many ways, it would be too easy to go overboard, swinging too far in one direction. Generally, their covers are pretty simple, following a distinct formula. Moreover, the logo creates a difficulty: does the designer continue to use a plain logotype, or split it up to reflect the fantasy and science fiction? It will be interesting to shake it up a bit from the general style:

In the end, I decided F&SF would benefit most by taking an elegant yet stylish, clean yet semi-Romantic approach to cover design. Rather than attempting to fit the art with any particular story, it would be better if F&SF were to use more abstract, expressionist-styled art. The goal here is to exude a particular aura.

Artwork again swiped, this time from Loïc "e338" Zimmermann.

I don't pretend to think my "covers" are any better than the current designs used by the digests. After all, I'm not an artist, nor a designer. What I know I merely picked up from being interested in photography and occasionally hanging out at print shops. But my goal here is to simply suggest that it is possible to update the styles of the magazines, by doing so, the magazines will find it easier to cement their positions when defining who it is they wish to reach. The entire process is one that is tied together, feeding one from the other. There are no simple answers of "Do this, and you will be relevant". It is an ongoing process.

Next, I'll take a look at the second step the magazines can take to increase their relevance.


Anonymous said...

GReat Post!!!

I love the ideas you have a bout redoing the look of the big 3.

I am shallow, first off. And the big 3 are dry as toast. I need a nice pretty picture to get me in the mood (ask my wife. Just kidding. Ahem...). The artwork on any of those 3 is dull. About 10 years too old. Maybe 15.

It's amazing what a simple redo like yours accomplishes. I bet that would allow them to acquire a serious number of new subscribers.

Christopher Barzak said...

I hope someone's paying attention, because I would start buying more subscriptions simply on cover art alone if they looked like these.

SpecLit said...

Thanks to both of you.

I do know that one of the barriers to buying the magazines for me has been their boring look and feel. Postscripts stands out as a beautiful object compared to the "Big Three".

gary gibson said...

Well, I am a graphic designer who's worked on magazines, and I think you've done a very very good job indeed. You're quite right in believing the appearance of these publications is an enormous barrier for many people who might otherwise buy them - possibly including me. The originals are, by contrast, somewhat fuddy-duddy looking, as you've made eminently clear.

SpecLit said...

Why, thank you Mr. Gibson. Very kind of you to say so.

Colin YJ said...

hear hear. this is what the big three needs!

great job.

Daniel said...

Just had to say, this was great work.

Also, that original Asimov's cover looks like it was celebrating the 30th anniversary in 1967, not 2007. Good lord, I didn't realize there were artists who still drew like that.

One other suggestion: maybe instead of using some of the stodgy illustration styles that mags like Asimov are currently invested in, they could try tapping the world of comics. False advertising maybe?

SpecLit said...

Daniel, you bring up a salient point. I for one would love to see covers by comic people. Comparing the magazines to current comics on the shelves, it's amazing how much more comics stand out.