New National Geographic

tyleryoung's picture

Just got the latest National Geographic in the mail last night, and was suprised to see the cover not adorned in a photograph, but rather, typography.

Now, I don't know how frequently the NG does this, but for me, it was a nice shot in the arm--everyone knows how the NG and its cover are synonymous with photography.

So right away, I'm thinking that this issue is something special. The designer's use of type has let me know this, and in the moment, I'm really into the play on design here, to communicate a unique message.

And then they go and kill it by declaring 'special issue' at the bottom. Elegant design, great type, followed by a 'just in case you don't get it' disclaimer. Ah, well.

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Miss Tiffany's picture

Great way to differentiate it from the others.

david h's picture

"Elegant design, great type, followed by a ‘just in case you don’t get it’ disclaimer"

So....I don't understand what's wrong? This is 100% great cover!

ebensorkin's picture

Sweet! I like the sentiment expresssed - or the idea if you must - too.

Norbert Florendo's picture

National Geographic has had one of the highest standards for photography, editorial, layout, typography and print reproduction for DECADES!

I haven't dissected one (meaning close detailed examination) for a few years, but if you take the time you will discover their superb attention to typography. According to friends who were employed there, National Geographic adheres to strictly established "house" standards (style guides) for all phases of pre-press, printing and finishing.

It is no wonder that for this important "SPECIAL (map of Africa) ISSUE" they went all type with a subordinate graphic (but high-recognizable shape). I haven't seen this issue yet, but from the cover alone, you can immediately tell that this ain't you mom's version of a colorful travelog but a journalistic wake-up call.

As stated on their web site:
They are stories whose time has come. With that in mind, National Geographic Editor Chris Johns led the production of a special edition on Africa. In this issue we look at the impact of humans on the environment and the fate of Africa's great animals. We examine the consequences of oil wealth in impoverished Chad and the plight of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Mbuti Pygmies as outsiders invade their forest home. We contemplate the relationship between people and wildlife through the eyes of an African writer returning to Zambia. We take the pulse of life in Kenya's bustling capital of Nairobi and ponder the future of HIV-positive South Africans, who tell their stories in their own words. Listen to the Editor remark on why, at this particular time in history, Africa is so important to the rest of the world and how we can help as it forges ahead.

rob keller's picture

I haven't confirmed this fact, but someone told me this was coming out a week ago and how it is the first non-photographic cover NG has EVER done. For them this is an extremely powerful way to make a statement.


jay's picture

>it is the first non-photographic cover NG has EVER done.

Don't think that's quite right: I think many of their first covers were all type, basically a table of contents w/o any photos or graphics.


Chris Rugen's picture

Yeah, their original cover designs were all type.

rob keller's picture

Ah, too bad I guess. Thanks for the clarifications.

A strickly typographic cover, in recent years, is a change then :)


jay's picture

>A strickly typographic cover, in recent years, is a change then :)

Absolutely :0)

Several years ago I bought "100 years of National Geographic" on CD. They scanned all the magazines -- including ads -- and put them out as a 40-CD set. Unfortunately, trying to fit ~30 magazines into each CD forced them to compress the hell out of the scans ... which totally destroyed the typography & the photography. It was often hard to tell what the photos were all about, and the type was barely readable.

But for all that, it was a wonderful resource during an extended tour of Latin America. A search on San Blas, Mexico, turned up an article dating back to the 1920s -- when the author had to ride for weeks on the back of a burro to get there.

I'd love to see an enhanced edition, possibly put out on DVDs. I wonder if they saved the original, non-compressed scans...


jay's picture

PS: what's "Africa" set in? Way cool...

cerulean's picture

I think I would be more impressed if they took the time to visually center the lines of the subhead.

marcox's picture

The "Africa" typeface was inspired by the type on old National Geographic maps of the 1950s and '60s. The digital version was created for and first used by National Geographic Traveler when that magazine went through a redesign 4 or 5 years ago. Michael Grossman (Saveur, Entertainment Weekly, Real Simple, Absolute) did the revamp.

Jem's picture

> "National Geographic has had one of the highest standards for photography, editorial, layout, typography and print reproduction for DECADES!"

Highest standards for photography: Agreed (the best)
Highest standards for editorial: Agreed
Highest standards for print: Agreed 

Highest standards for layout and typography: ???

Sorry I may be the only one here but I find the layouts in NG at best average at worst ugly. Spaced out kerning, justified text, ranged left text, contoured text, ranged right captions, ranged left captions. Too many font styles, miss matched font styles, ugly graphic devises (like those little yellow triangles), it's just a mess! 

I totally understand that the 'noisiness' of NG is it's aesthetic and has been forever, though I think generally it could be handled with a little more finesse and visual consistency.

I LOVE NG, but every time I view a copy I lament at how poor the design is in comparison to the photography and editorial. In saying all that I agree the typographic cover is refreshing.

(I'll climb down from my desk now)

peter_bain's picture

Yow! Yuck! I just saw the cover, courtesy of the attachment.

Um, IIRC the Carter face used for "Africa" wasn't drawn for use at that size -- the bar on the f doesn't align, etc. And the spacing is atrocious. Isn't anybody bothered by the "ri" combination? A tough pickle, but no excuse anyway. There is always a solution...

I'll just get on my high horse and state baldly that most designers
have no idea how to compose large display type and how to have it
massaged appropriately. Tight spacing is especially unforgiving.

roquestrew's picture

Apologies, everyone, but what is the "Whatever you thought, think again" serif? I love that lowercase a.


marcox's picture

The "Whatever you thought" serif is Galliard.

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