Magazines, Notebook

In love with magazines

Above: A layout from The Happy Reader magazine. Issue no. 2

Notebook: 29 September 2015 | MAGAZINE DESIGN

Every few years or so a magazine comes along that I fall in love with – I’ll turn its pages in delight and it will remain constantly by my side carefully positioned on a favourite part of my desk. In the 1990s it was Stockholm New (1992-2002) the fashion and style magazine promoting Sweden and Stockholm, with its beautiful photography and simple, elegant typography. (Art Director: Henrik Nygren)

Then in 2003 John Brown rocked the world of contract/customer publishing with their innovative publication Carlos – the in-flight magazine for Virgin Atlantic’s upper class customers. We all loved its smaller size, its brown cardboard cover and uncoated cream paper, and its use of illustration with not a photo to be seen (apart from on adverts which were on a glossy paper). (Art Director: Warren Jackson)

carlos cover


carlos spread 1

And in the late noughties I couldn’t get enough of DCM – the Design Council Magazine, published on their behalf by Haymarket Network (the customer publishing/content marketing division of Haymarket). This was another magazine at a smaller size and on an uncoated stock, with sharp, structured layouts and bold graphics that brought the work of the rather stuffy Design Council to life and won itself a fistful of awards for its design and content. (Art Director: Jo Spreadborough, Design Consultants: Farrow)

DCM covers by Farrow crop

Then the other day I finally got my hands on a copy of the delicious The Happy Reader and a bunch of other goodies after a trip to Magma in Covent Garden and Wardour News in Soho. The Happy Reader is published by Penguin Books and is yet another smaller sized publication on an uncoated paper, plus it’s bound with a couple of staples and only costs £3 which all adds to its appeal – both throwaway and precious at the same time. Penguin describe the magazine as follows: “For readers, this is a chance to re-engage with classic literature and to stay inspired and entertained. The concept of the magazine is simple: the first half is a long-form interview with a notable book fanatic and the second half explores one classic work of literature from an array of surprising and invigorating angles.” Understandably it’s the words that dominate the magazine and it’s the typography – the way that those words have been rendered and arranged, that really gets me going. The designers have mixed an old style sans (which I think is called Rapport by Helios Capdevila) with a classic serif, and along with some deft typographic touches, such as additional letter space, extra long em dashes and dark green underscoring, they have created an overall feel that the magazine has been set in old-fashioned hot metal. The words are interspersed with odd splashes of illustration and photography and the issue I have (no. 2), has some simple yet beautiful photos of mugs of ‘builder’s’ tea in a greasy-spoon café. I love a bit of white space and there’s plenty of it to enjoy, carefully worked into the layouts throughout the magazine. The Happy Reader even comes with its own beautifully matching bookmark. I adore this magazine and won’t be able to rest until I’ve got my hands on the other two issues that have been published so far.

The Happy Reader is put together by Jop van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers who are the same editorial team behind the successful Fantastic Man and The Gentlewoman magazines. The design is by Jop van Bennekom, Helios Capdevila and Matthew Young. You can read a good review of The Happy Reader issue no. 1 by Jeremy Leslie (author, ex John Brown Creative Director and magCulture founder) here and you can watch a video review of issue no. 3, by Stack magazines here.

There you have it – four magazines that have made my heart flutter over the last 20 years. What do they all have in common? Apart from not being mainstream titles, they have all been carefully engineered with rigorous attention to typographic detailing, despite their apparent simplicity of design, and lots of careful thought has gone into their picture selection. They are all beautifully designed publications and I love them.