New Yorker Magazine

mike gastin's picture

Is it just me or is the New Yorker magazine dying for a re-design? I understand the relevance of the type from a historical perspective, but man, it seems so wrong for a magazine about a happening metropolitan center of culture.

http://www.newyorker.com

Anyone else have an opinion?

James Arboghast's picture

Maybe not a redesign, but a makeover would better reflect New York as a happening center of culture. From a Melburnian's perspective The New Yorker's type treatment and graphic look & feel are almost synonymous with New York city itself---an integral part of its identity---and on that basis substantial change or redesign might seem too radical.

In short, it could do with subtle sprucing up to make it fresher.

j a m e s

blank's picture

...it seems so wrong for a magazine about a happening metropolitan center of culture.

But The New Yorker is not a happening magazine. It is, in many ways, old, stodgy, and self-important. There’s something about that solid old design that lends a great seriousness that few other magazines have, hearkening back to the days before celebrity magazine covers, when people actually read long magazine articles. Like the yellow edges of National Geographic covers, The New Yorker’s design reminds one of the magazine’s great heritage, and that they can still be considered a very legitimate source of information. I think that, in a time when some magazines redesign themselves almost every issue, it’s important to have a rock like The New Yorker around.

ChuckGroth's picture

man, i think new yorker is one of the greatest magazines in the world. i live in missouri, but still have subscribed for 18 years. it's one of the few that haven't dumbed down to the "i want it in 20 seconds or less" school.

NewGuy's picture

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The New Yorker ain't broke.

James Arboghast's picture

...in a time when some magazines redesign themselves almost every issue, it’s important to have a rock like The New Yorker around.

Yep, that's what I meant about the mag being synonymous with New York itself. Still, I think the masthead is so well-established and recognized it could withstand a very restrained updating---just enough of a tweak to make it more contemporary and bring it into the present moment.

You'd want to go about it very, very carefully. I'm thinking no changes to the type outlines at all, but possibly ink color and the manner in which the masthead is applied. Seeing it in black ink on their website it looks inextricably rooted in the early 20th century, yet the printed edition often uses white ink for the masthead.

j a m e s

James Arboghast's picture

"...man, i think new yorker is one of the greatest magazines in the world."

So do I, but look at it.

j a m e s

mike gastin's picture

Wow! I am surprised at the response. I respect the idea to keep it old school.

I still think it could accomplish both - keep its old school cred while sprucing-up the look. To me it is on the edge of irrelevant. I am speaking solely of its type and design - not its content, which I think many have responded to here. I am not criticizing its content. But that type ... it is too dated and looks more like a pastiche than a pedigree.

--
Mike

William Berkson's picture

>But that type ... it is too dated and looks more like a pastiche than a pedigree.

There are two types here: the quirky art deco New Yorker display face, and Adobe Caslon--perhaps slightly reworked.

The New Yorker has used both some version of Caslon and that display face since the beginning, and I don't imagine they are going to want to change that. The display face is a bit awkward, but gives a strong identity, and makes the magazine less ponderous. To get the same effect you'd need something good but a bit playful, and I don't know if it would end up better.

Adobe Caslon is a fine typeface, but I don't think it fully captures readability and warmth of the metal Caslons. I've set out to do a better job of capturing those qualities, and before too long I hope the New Yorker has a superior alternative for its body text. Then you all can convince them that they need it :)

blank's picture

To me it is on the edge of irrelevant.

Given how strong the content in the New Yorker tends to be, I don’t see why the design being irrelevant is a problem. I feel like the primary motivation behind endless magazine redesigns is the Ray Gun effect: it doesn’t matter how stupid, wrong, or just plain bad the writing is, if you make a magazine look cool enough, someone will still buy it.

Then again, sales of The Economist rose dramatically following Herr Spiekermann’s redesign, so maybe a redesign would get more people to read The New Yorker, and that’s only a bad thing if you’re a neoconservative. But the rise in sales of The Economist also occurred after 9/11, a time when the mainstream media really went down the toilet and people were really looking hard for a legitimate newsmagazine to replace Time, Newsweek, US News and World Report, and all the other magazines that went down the toilet in the last half-decade.

But I digress.

.00's picture

I did a lot of OpenType work on the New Yorker fonts, and while they are Caslon, they are not Adobe Caslon. They have been in use long before Adobe released their Caslon.

James

William Berkson's picture

Thanks, James. I knew they weren't exact, but I assumed, wrongly, they were a modification of Adobe Caslon. I'd like to think that the version I'm working on has some advantages, but of course that is for other people to judge.

.00's picture

The softness of the digital outlines makes me think that the New Yorker Calson, was digitized from some older sources, perhaps some metal version that they used in an earlier time. It was probably done in the early 90s, when Conde Nast was converting all their production from traditional sources to Macintosh.

James

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

It sounds like only the typography of the magazine is being questioned, but I'd like to point out that there have been subtle tweaks to the magazine's layout over the last few years. Plus, Françoise Mouly has brought in some great illustrators and comics masters to do covers. And the magazine's website has just undergone a complete redesign. And yet The New Yorker's essential identity is still palpable. I think that is a great accomplishment.

eliason's picture

What strikes me as a bit out of date about the New Yorker is their persistent use of umlauts in words like coöperate and reënact. And their placement of titles of all kinds within quotation marks (instead of italics).

eliason's picture

Excuse me, diaeresis.

ChuckGroth's picture

the umlauts are actually a fairly recent change, aren't they? i think they came in about 6 years ago.

.00's picture

They do use dieresis in the proper way. Not out of date, but cutting edge.

ChuckGroth's picture

they've never struck me as out of date, either.

eliason's picture

Hmm, seems archaic to me. But that's to-day; to-morrow I may feel differently...

William Berkson's picture

Wikipedia on use of diacritics in English spelling. They say that the New Yorker is a hold out on "coöperate".

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

And by the way, if you haven't, check out this AIGA Voice article:

Redesigning The New Yorker to a High Degree of Fussiness, Pt. 1

Redesigning The New Yorker, Pt. 2: A Visual Critique

[EDIT] And oops... here's the Michael Bierut article mentioned in the AIGA piece:
In Praise of Slow Design. It, too, talks about The New Yorker's design.

.00's picture

I think American English has to embrace the few diacritcals it has.

Robert Trogman's picture

I think we should reform magazines that reverse out small type over photos etc.

mike gastin's picture

I started this tread asking if it was just me. Now I see that the AIGA published an article that agrees with me. I think the issue for me is the masthead was originally designed to be modern. It is now so dated that it is funny. To those who have not been reading it for the last eighty years it just looks like some sort of retro-art deco hack.

But, that is just me. Seems I am mostly alone here in the forums on that.

--
Mike

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Well, there are plenty of logos that have barely changed over the years... The one for Coca-Cola comes to mind. Sure, it's been tweaked and had things added to it, but the script logo is basically the same as it was when first created by Frank Mason Robinson in 1885 (!)... As someone already said above, if it ain't broke... :-)

raph's picture

Am I the only one who has noticed that for smaller sizes (mostly the listings at the front, but also blockquotes in the main section), they use Sabon? I think it works; it's clearly subtle enough not to call attention to itself, but they also get much of the benefit of true optical scaling, and arguably Sabon is more legible at small sizes.

Still, if it were me I would have done true optical sizes of the metal Caslon original. James, do you have any insight into why this wasn't done?

William Berkson's picture

Raph, I don't think the Sabon works that well, though it works better than Adobe Caslon at that size would. (I don't have their proprietary Caslon to test of course.) My own small text size--based on Caslon's own Long Primer--works better to my eyes in setting the listings.

The basic problem is that the ascenders and caps of Sabon are too tall to set solid well at 8 pt; when it is set solid at 8 pt, as the listings seem to be, the inter-line space gets messy. This is particularly because the listings are full of proper names--artists, venues, etc.--so there are many more caps than in ordinary text.

As to why it was done, I don't have old pre-photo type copies, but I suspect (from memory) that they were done in Linotype Caslon Old Face. This had optical sizes--by point size--but I don't think the massive job of converting this family to photo type was ever undertaken. (The other likely suspect is Lanston Monotype's Caslon.) I don't know the photo era Caslons, but just guessing I would think that the New Yorker went through those years with one size of Caslon, and then digitized it. Mine will be the first, I think, to do optical sizes in a long while, though it will take a while to finish them if I keep posting to Typophile!

mike gastin's picture

Ricardo,

Good point about Coke. I guess for me the Coke script transcends a time period, whereas the art deco font used in the New Yorker's logo/masthead screams the early 1900's.

Does the Coke script look dated to you?

--
Mike

.00's picture

The Coca-Cola script has been subtly changed over the years, unlike the New Yorker logo.

Geoff Riding's picture

Love the New Yorker, along with the Economist, the only American magazine I really do read. I think the "outdated-ness" of the magazine is fundamentally why it is great. It is timeless and has not been infested by pop culture, it is always relevant. As said above, if it ain't broken don't fix it, my opinion.

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

Does the Coke script look dated to you?

Good question, Mike! No, it does not look dated to me.

The Coca-Cola script has been subtly changed over the years, unlike the New Yorker logo.

Well, I would have agreed 100% with that before reading the AIGA Voice article. It compares a couple of images of the logo -- 1925 vs. 2007 -- in which there are at least two visible differences: the typeface (slightly different in its digital version) and the kerning. [KT Meaney's words: "Match Irvin’s masthead to the current one. The original has a soft, hand-drawn feel. The latest (first appearing in the 1980s) has a cold, ultra-crisp look. Aside from better letter spacing between the “T” and “H” (in “The”) and “Y” and “O” (in “Yorker”), the type is prickly and feels unnecessarily sharp."]

But I see what you are both getting at. The Coca-Cola comparison doesn't really hold water. :-) Poor choice on my part!

Queneau's picture

I think magazine design in general is very sensitive to trends that appear and disappear in very short periods of time (Fontblog brought the latest of these to my attention http://www.creativereview.co.uk/crblog/the-new-ugly/). This is why magazines like the aforementioned Ray Gun become icons of an era, but look awfully dated for it... I guess that the style of The New Yorker works exactly because it has hardly changed over the decades. It's style may have been called Art Deco once, but now it has just become synonimous with The New Yorker > It has become 'The New Yorker' style! I personally think it would be an unwise choice to make any radical changes to the design. This one calls for evolution rather than evolution, and besides that: I kinda like it for its awkwardness, its typeface and its illustrations... :>)

cheerio Queneau

Charles Leonard's picture

Showing my age, I have read the New Yorker for over half of its life span. It has significant identifying characteristics. Important among them is that type predominates in its design. In my opinion, it does so in the manner of the modernist aesthetic of transparency -- "The Crystal Goblet." I don't agree with the forementioned essay, but I do respect its consistent implementation over time. So, for me, The New Yorker dosen't look dated. It looks like the New Yorker.

There have been many changes to the magazine over time. The introduction of a table of contents shocked me when it appeared during my high-school years. I was gratified to later learn that the TOC was added for the convenience of the magazines researchers, not its readers. In the 90's, change happened much more quickly. The arrival of Tina Brown brought introduction of photographs and of color, which, by the way, antedated the New York Times. Much more offensive, but essential to the survival of the magazine, was the first appearance of a special advertising section on the Bahamas circa 1992. I was annoyed enough to go the sophmoric expedient of removing the staples, mailing the offending section back to 45th street, and inclosing a note that said, "There seems to be some mistake. I found these pages in our magazine and thought you might want to know."

Compared to Coca-Cola, The New Yorker has avoided commodification. However, its advertising department recently has begun trading on its identity as an institution. The most offensive aspect of the current magazine is its acceptance of advertisements that masquarade as New Yorker style drawings. Given that change I suspect that any redesign modifying the magazine's singular image would be antithetical to owners vision of the magazine's identity as saleable property.

Holy Moholy Nagy, I've just talked myself into a redesign.

blank's picture

Holy Moholy Nagy

I am SO going to use that in class...

Ricardo Cordoba's picture

I was annoyed enough to go the sophmoric expedient of removing the staples, mailing the offending section back to 45th street, and inclosing a note that said, “There seems to be some mistake. I found these pages in our magazine and thought you might want to know.”

That is hilarious, Charles!

The most offensive aspect of the current magazine is its acceptance of advertisements that masquarade as New Yorker style drawings.

Ah, you must mean the cartoons. There was also the issue that had Target ads done by illustrators whose work is often identified with The New Yorker... I wasn't too happy about that one, either. (Not that anybody at TNY is going to lose any sleep over my opinion!) There was quite a discussion about it on Design Observer: Every New Yorker is a Target.

Jackie Frant's picture

Charles,

Did The New Yorker magazine write you back? I could imagine the creative juices in editorial have fun with that one. Dorothy Parker and the round table could have had a ball with it at the Algonquin...

**********

MHO - The New Yorker magazine has changed in many ways, but it is nice enough to have an overall look remain that is very famliar to us. The person who reads the magazine knows exactly what they've picked up when they pick it up. It is what it is.

Sometimes, I really do get tired of up-and-coming designers that want to change the world. I'd like to express that not all the world needs changing. Sometimes we need our comfy, familiar pieces to get through the day....

Endre Berentzen's picture

Talking from a, outside the US, point of view I agree with Mike. I think it could do with a makeover. There are so many typefaces that are linked to New York's history without becoming cliché. TFJ has redrawn some typefaces that would, for me, work just as well from the historic perspective but also meet younger readers. (Ps: Again just talking from an outsiders point of view and only of the masthead)

Charles Leonard's picture

Did The New Yorker magazine write you back?
No, they did not. But back to the subject at hand. By way of comparison, the attached image shows three well known NYC mastheads. Which looks most dated?

ultrasparky's picture

Which one DOESN'T look dated would be a better question. But I think that's part of the charm of the New Yorker. I quite like the contrast of the (now) slightly old-fashioned aesthetic amidst the screaming visual noise of the newsstand. I've always felt it's a pretty bold move for them to resist fashionable change and let its own history define its brand.

.00's picture

That is not the most recent version of the New York magazine logo.

Charles Leonard's picture

That is not the most recent version of the New York magazine logo
True. I didn't mean to stack the deck but my browser seems to have fallen through a time warp this morning.

Here's a corrected set.

Don McCahill's picture

My five cents worth (hey, there has been inflation ... I just can't do it for two cents anymore) is that a redesign for the New Yorker could only be considered a success if they could do it without telling anyone about it. At the end, nobody notices (well, we would notice, but not people in the real world) but the mag is subtly easier to read and handle.

pattyfab's picture

I think the New Yorker is fine, it took me awhile to get used to their headline font used for smaller heads but it's ok. That isn't a magazine that sells itself (or should) by cashing in on the latest design trends.

The magazine I'd like to see get a make-over is Harper's. I can't stand the huge bold heads, think the gutters btw the text columns is unnecessarily wide, really wish they'd ditch Goudy (talk about dated!).

ChuckGroth's picture

i'm with you on harper's. the mast especially.

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