Monthly Archives: August 2012

Five must-see, must-read links

Superhuman photographer Giles Duley goes back to work at the Paralympics, eighteen months after losing three limbs in Afghanistan. Unbelievably inspiring story

Forbes social media strategy is helping shift copies on newsstand. So they say…

Responsive Design. We’re all going to need this pretty soon

Brilliant explanation of using Keynote as a web prototyping tool

Get your wasted time back. Kevin Heery on big company development culture

Which of these women is reading ‘Erotic Fiction’?


Digital media may well be our life now, but the fact remains that a printed cover says more about you in the real world, than a social network ever can.


Fifty Shades of Grey may well be a huge print book phenomena, but it didn’t start that way. At first, it was ebook only, which like any other digital proposition, meant no-one knew what you’re reading. Only when the Daily Mail pumped enough oxygen through the story, did the publisher and readers feel embolden enough to do it in public.

A cover, whether a book or a magazine, says a massive amount about the reader. More than any other fashion accessory, it lets the real world around you know exactly who you are, or who you might imagine yourself to be. This is a unique aspect to print covers, that digital cannot really


If you saw me coming into the pub with a copy of Dagenham Dog Breeder Monthly under my arm, you’d form a very different impression of me than if I was holding The Economist.

what a cover says about youAs an illustration, here is Jonathan Young, Editor of The Field, perusing a couple of fine magazines. With a copy of Wallpaper in his hands, he’s telling the world (and himself, no doubt) that he’s smart and sophisticated. 


But change the brand, and we change the man. Suddenly, his income and socio-economic profile has plummeted. But on the up-side, he’s clearly much funnier. Which as we all know, is how the English really measure a man.


Is that a camera phone in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?

So the Sun newspaper has decided to publish the Prince Harry pictures in defiance of the PCC. No matter that everyone in the UK can see them at TMZ and a million other online destinations, newspapers still have to operate under very different obligations. This is clearly unsustainable, which is why I am pleased that the Sun has decided to have the debate. There may well be genuine concerns about Harry’s security arrangements, but what’s really in the public interest is finding publishing regulations that actually work.

My personal view is that if Harry wants to invite a load of strangers up to his hotel room, allow them to keep hold of their cameraphones, and be fully aware that he’s being photographed, then there should be no reason for complaint. And if TMZ can make money off Harry’s arse, for the Sun not to be able to do the same is tantamount to a restraint of trade.

Every case has its merits, and has to be judged as such. As an example, his is a completely different story to that of Kate and William’s recent honeymoon pictures in Australia’s Woman’s Day. As I wrote earlier, that was a genuine invasion of privacy, and I’m glad they were not widely seen. Although if anyone fancies a squizz, I have a copy in the office…

Which book cover caught your eye first?

As you can see, I’ve just come back from holiday.

And for the first time, I took a Kindle. (Although I did panic at the airport and bought a couple of paper books, ‘just in case’) The differences between ebooks and paper books are pretty self evident, David Hepworth’s views on the matter are well worth revisiting, but for me, the comparison was a new experience. Digital books and digital magazines may be very different propositions, but for both of them, the dilemma over what constitutes a ‘cover’ remains.

A book cover sets up some measure of expectation. It contains a massive amount of information about what the reading experience is likely to be. I picked out Jon Ronson’s book at WH Smith, on the basis that I had a couple of recomendations, but they were only triggered after I saw the book on the shelf. But if I knew nothing about the book, the design still has enough information to let me understand the quirky, contemporary nature of the work. And for those who’ve read his other books, there’s the straightforward issue of brand recognition. Much like a magazine cover.

An ebook is another thing entirely. I bought several on the way to the airport, on the same basis of a couple of recommendations. Being able to buy on the fly was a fantastic utility, but I didn’t have to go through the emotional experience of seeing the cover before I bought. Which made my level of engagement with the books significantly less.

So I found myself reading several simultaneously, all the while constantly checking the percentage read icon, as opposed to just ‘feeling’ how much of a paper book I had read.

All of which gives me the idea that the way ebooks are written will change. Not only do they not have a cover, if read on a tablet they are only one click away from angry birds. Engagment at the outset is less, distraction through the experience is much greater. Books will become shorter, snappier, and requiring of much less effort.

For what it’s worth, the ebooks I was/am reading are: The Second World War by Anthony Beevor (42% read). Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahnman (82% read) and Inspired: How To Create products Customers Love by Marty Cagan (100% read)

All are terrific, but Marty’s was the shortest!




Wat famis art can look like

I’m away now for a couple of weeks, so I figured I’d leave you with my daughter’s view on the Art World. She’s only seven, but has clearly worked out how to impress the galleries. And thanks for reading. I’m enjoying this blog, I hope you are too!

How to make a monthly cover look both premium and popular at the same time

oprah magazine transformation issueI confess, I love O Magazine. It’s empowering, entertaining, and delivered with real integrity. As the print brand extension of Oprah herself, it’s not like other magazines. She’s always on the cover; everything the magazine does is an aspect of her worldview. The whole thing stands or falls on how we feel about her, but given that she is one of the most compelling media figures of our age, she commands a pretty big audience.

But the new cover is notable, hence this post. Firstly, this is the first time Oprah has ever appeared on her cover without blow-drying or straightening her hair. Given that this splash is all about transformation, it’s a powerful illustration of what changing your hair can do, both of how others see you, and more importantly how you see yourself. Given the politics surrounding black women’s hair, this is a big move by Oprah.

But after that, the thing I admire here is the coverlines. Transformation is a staple of women’s magazines; it’s something the format can illustrate better than any other medium, save perhaps television. And here, the promise is really big and bold.

It’s not just the usual stuff about changing your looks or your wardrobe. Here, the story is all about the way you really live your life. It doesn’t feel superficial, it suggests something a little deeper. The other lines are pretty good too. Doctor Oz has already been noted on this blog as America’s hottest cover star; here he presents his handy hormone handbook. In addition we’ve got good stuff on sleep, a believable non-diet diet story, and the brilliant Suzie Orman.

The design of O Magazine has always been a masterclass in how to make a mass-market title look high-end. Originally created by Carla Frank, the secret to its success has been the way the colour is managed. It’s easy to make a title look posh by stripping it back to black. But that’s way too cool and unapproachable for a big selling title like this. Equally, chucking the paint box at it would drag it down way below any advertiser’s level of interest.

On this cover, there are at least six colours, but they’ve been handled so precisely, it feels lively and fun without risking the sophisticated aesthetic. The type is good too, the serif signifies upscale content, but the weight makes it friendly and approachable.

I haven’t seen the issue yet, but I’ll be keen to see how these promises play out inside. In the meantime, I recommend taking a look at some of Carla’s work on O Magazine back in the day. There’s loads of it on her site, it’s possibly some of the greatest magazine design work you’ll ever see.