Magazines, Photography, Typography

The Architects’ Journal

Notebook: 9 February 2016 | MAGAZINES | TYPOGRAPHY | PHOTOGRAPHY

If you rummage around on the lower shelves at WHSmith you’ll come across a selection of industry and trade magazines such as The Grocer, Print Week and Campaign. Many of the sharper looking trade magazines are produced by the publisher EMAP – think of Drapers, Retail Week, Construction News, Nursing Times and of course AJ or The Architects’ Journal. AJ has a long history of clean, crisp, good looking design with its refined, understated layouts that let the pictures and architectural drawings do the talking. Years ago I applied for a job at AJ as the assistant art editor – I’ve always had a keen interest in architecture and I was excited by the chance of working on such a good looking publication – but alas I didn’t get the job. I remember being interviewed by the art editor Paul Harpin who later moved on to become group art director at Centaur and then creative director at Haymarket. Paul’s predecessor at AJ was Simon Esterson, so between the two of them, it was no wonder that the magazine looked so good.

30 years on and I was struck by the cover of the latest AJ (29.01.16) peeking out from the shelf at WHSmith (shown above alongside an issue from 1988). The cover photo is a striking black and white picture of a bespectacled man studying a Barbara Hepworth sculpture in Harlow, Essex. There are no cover lines, only the simple bright red AJ icon and the bar code and date – it’s a brave and bold cover. Flicking through the magazine, I was then stopped in my tracks by a double page spread photo of what appeared to be a patterned chair leg with a long pin protruding from one side (see below). It was only when I turned the magazine on its side that I realised it was a picture of a car park. There was no caption to help me but this didn’t bother me at all as I enjoyed trying to figure out what it all meant and I finally realised that it related to the editor’s leader column about a car park in Peckham. This photo makes a clever and intriguing editorial statement.


Sadly, after nearly a century in print, the AJ printed magazine is to be no more; in October last year, EMAP announced that it would stop producing print editions of all its magazines over the next 18 months and that they would become digital only. I’m unsure how many more printed issues we’ll see of the AJ but it will be sad to be unable to rummage around for it on the bottom shelves at WHSmith.


AJ feature spread 2016. Designer: Brad Yendle


AJ feature spread 1988

Finally, I need to mention the good old typeface Franklin Gothic. AJ has used this font for headlines and text, on and off since the 1970s and it still works as well today as it did 30-40 years ago. It has a bold and assured quality in all its weights and variations. It’s a font that many of us grew up with and one that worked hard and always looked good across a variety of familiar magazines in the 70s and 80s such as The Radio Times, Time Out and Campaign (pictured below).

23rd Sept 1978


Above top to bottom: The font, Franklin Gothic Condensed, hard at work in the Radio Times and Time Out magazines. The Extra Condensed version of Franklin Gothic was used in Campaign magazine