Monthly Archives: September 2013

Surprising, delightful, emotional: Radio Times publishes it’s own book of classic covers

There aren’t many magazine brands that can publish a hardback book of their covers alone. Rolling Stone, Esquire and Vogue have done it, now the Radio Times joins this elite club.

Arguably the biggest magazine in the UK, Radio Times has occupied two very different positions in the publishing landscape. Firstly as a monopoly publication of the BBC, and then as a regular commercial offering, competing with all the other listings titles. Radio Times is currently celebrating its 90th anniversary, this book show what an incredible role the title has played in documenting British cultural life,

Unlike the titles mentioned earlier, Radio Times is a weekly, so it’s not possible to put every cover in the book. Skillfully curated by their longstanding Art Director and Deputy Editor, Shem Law, the book has all the famous ones, together with a whole load more that surprise, delight, and frankly make you feel just a little bit emotional.

It’s not available in the shops, but you can buy it online in the Radio Times shop. At only twenty-odd quid, it’s got ‘Christmas present’ written pretty much all over it!

There are way too many amazing covers to show on my blog, so here is just a tiny selection. This cover is from 1951, with what appears to be a one-off logo specially for the Festival.

For the 1964 Winter Olympics, an Escher inspired illustration from Victor Reinganum. A groovy new sixties logo too.

Another from the sixties, this time the moon landings in 1969.

Six months later, Morcambe and Wise usher in the 70’s, with this New Year issue. A measure of the power of this image is that not only can we not see their faces, but Radio Times are confident enough to leave their names off too, referring to them only as ‘The lads’. This cover also presents the logo that for many people, is still the Original & Best.

An indication of the level of effort put into all these covers, is this amazing cover from 1977. Not an illustration, it’s a real tapestry, made by Candace Bahouth and commissioned by then art editor David Driver.

The nineties saw the listings market become de-regulated, which meant Radio Times now faced real competition on the newsstand, notably from TV Times. The logo has been given a whole load of extra muscle, and celebrity covers are now the order of the day. This is Sue Dando from 1999.

The new millenium saw the logo change again, this time to the current position as shown by last years excellent Christmas cover.

In the digital age it seems impossible that anyone could ever want to buy a paper listings magazine, but buy they do, by the million.

Between 2004 and 2013 I’ve  had extensive and continuous involvement in all of IPC’s TV listings portfolio: TV Times, What’s On TV, TV Easy and TV & Satellite Week.

My view as to why these things still work is that compared to digital alternatives not only is the habit more deeply ingrained, but importantly, the listings are just easier and simpler to use than an epg.

And crucially, the sociability is more universal. By that, I mean the whole family, from Granny down to the kids, can easily use and pass round a printed magazine.

In short, they connect the reader to a shared experience of being At Home.

For those interested in a deeper enquiry to covers in the listings market, take a look at my earlier post on coverthink. Here, I look at the differences between Radio Times and TV Times, specifically the challenges of using six images on a cover as opposed to just one.

Miley Cyrus gets naked for Rolling Stone. But look who’s taken the picture…

Here’s the annual Rolling Stone Hot List issue, which with almost perfect timing, gives us Miley Cyrus, naked in a swimming pool. Given that these special issues are planned well in advance, this suggests that the Rolling Stone editors really can see into the future, or else the whole twerking farago has been part of a much bigger, carefully thought out media campaign.

But conspiracy theories aside, this is one cracking cover. The type is old school, but well handled, the red logo pops off the green trees, and the blue of the pool recedes perfectly, allowing the young ‘star’ to project on the newsstand.

How much of this is due to the skill of Creative Director Jodi Peckman is not clear, but what is a matter of fact is that the cover photographer is Theo Wenner, the 26-year-old son of Jann Wenner, owner, publisher and Editor-In-Chief of Rolling Stone.

And it’s by no means his first cover. This story from three years back details the shoots he’s done, an appreciation from Jodi: “Theo gives us a fresh, new perspective”, and the news that he’s also worked for Vanity Fair.

This may well look to the world like nepotism, but if you’re Jann’s son and you really want to be a photographer, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. So fair play to the bloke, this is a fantastic cover picture and he deserves the credit for it.

In other news, earlier this year Jann appointed his youngest son Gus to run rollingstone.com. 22 year old Gus will be taking the report of ‘about 15 to 20 people’.

Is this going to be the best bit of The New Yorker redesign?

House Industries have wasted no time in getting their set of re-drawn fonts for The New Yorker up on their site. They’re an amazing foundry, and this looks like absolutely fantastic work. But it’s sure going to be interesting to see what happens when my favourite magazine actually starts to wear their new wardrobe. Have a look at the comments on Magculture’s recent post for further thoughts on that…

And for those who haven’t seen it yet, here’s the smart little video explaining what The New Yorker is trying to do. With just the thirteen designers.

What the hell is going on with Oprah Magazine?

I saw this issue of Oprah in the airport last week. A huge stack of what was once a newsstand powerhouse absolutely nailed to the shelves. A very ordinary picture of Oprah, horrible typography, cheap colours and a splash line that insults it’s readers by suggesting that they are already dead.

It’s nearly as bad as this other car crash of a cover from a few months ago.  Again, awful typography, nasty colours, and a tired splash line.

This really does break my heart. For a good while Oprah was one of the greatest magazines in the world, due in no small part to the great Design Director Carla Frank. Witness the confidence of this, the first anniversary issue. Much more of Carla’s amazing work on Oprah can be found here on her site.

It wasn’t that bad even a year ago, here’s an earlier coverthink post that highlights some smart type, great colour control and a compelling proposition. All sadly lacking today.

I know that Oprah is not on the telly like she was, and that will absolutely impact sales. Along with general newsstand decline this has made for some pretty horrible numbers for Oprah recently. The idea of trying and connect with a slighter more mainstream audience is a good one, but this is so not the way to do it.

Time magazine makes Church & State finally collapse!

Here’s a great cover of Time, fresh out this week. I don’t know if the bull really does have such a drunken smile, whether it’s a model or all done in post. But either way it’s bright, fast and funny.

I like the white ground too, it makes the red border pop, much like their infamous breastfeeding cover we all wrote about not so long ago.

Time’s not exactly a newsstand powerhouse, but it still looks good in the rack.

But check this out, the BACK cover! Given how queasy Americans can be about issues of Church and State, I was surprised to see this, but I think it works really well.

It’s a great ad, but there’s no way any reader could mistake it for editorial, because it’s the bleeding of the red border that makes a Time cover just that. Here, the white frame around the red makes clear that this is not the Real Thing.

But bleed is an effect only found in print. It’s a powerful gesture, as it suggests the colour (or the image) goes on forever, that it’s merely the limitation of the production process that has determined where the edge is. This is one of the reasons that reportage images work much better when bled.

But what happens in digital? There’s no limit to the canvas there, so there’s no physical indication to the edge of the picture. Which suggests that online, that S.H.I.E.L.D. ad is going to look an awful lot more authentic.

Five must-see, must-read links

Genius. Print your twitter feed onto toilet rolls. It’s called #shitter, apparently.

Great post from Neil Perkin’s fine blog, on why big companies don’t innovate more.

Fair comment from Fast Company on Yahoo’s new logo. Given the minefield, I think it’s good work.

This kiosk prints magazines as they’re purchased. Neat!

Will magazine brands get ecommerce right?