Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A design perspective on adding value to magazines through attention to detail

A recent post in Creative Review's blog reported on a talk by Scott Dadich, the art director of Wired magazine. And some of the observations by Matt Willey are worth noting (the boldfaced emphasis is mine):
It was nice to have confirmation of the importance of obsessive attention to detail inherent in successful magazines. There is an extraordinarily rigorous and exacting attention to detail that holds Wired together; it serves as a prerequisite for the creative freedom in the magazine. One of the chapter headers for his talk was Details Matter which included an interesting look at the custom type­faces Vitesse and Forza, designed specially for Wired by Hoefler & Frere-Jones, and an explanation of the ‘law of equal volumes’ where the area between any two letters in a word must be of equal measure.

I was struck by how adventurous and varied the spreads he showed were. They seemed to me to be the result of a willingness to try things out and to experiment, to take risks and not be too fearful of failing. Pages that were playful and dynamic and done with a supreme confidence. There were highly complex layouts that were utterly fascinating and there were very restrained photo-essays that were simple and beautiful.

The magazine is as brave and as intelligent in terms of its editorial as it is with its design. That’s a crucial point for me, the design isn’t compen­sating for anything. It’s rare to come across a magazine that does both so completely and with such conviction. Wired is fully aware of and utterly engaged with its reader, in a way that most magazines could never hope to achieve, and yet the range of content and the depth of reporting is vast. It is, at its heart, a nerdy science and technology-based geek-zine but the wonderful strength of that central scientific premise is that, editorially, it allows the magazine to look at almost anything it wants, anything that it finds interesting.

Long before the economic panic really set in, before it took a firm hold, the magazine industry was already going through a fairly severe intro­spection of its own worth and relevance. There was apocalyptic noise about print being dead, the future being an online place where magazines serve no purpose. Wired magazine seems to me to add value to the internet, not the other way around. It offers the kind of experience that the internet still can’t give you. The use of infographics, the many metallic and fluorescent inks, the huge attention to detail – they are all done with the utmost importance placed on the experience of Wired as a magazine.

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