Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue


The Future of Reading

Is there still a desire for the written word? Yes there is, and by 12 year olds at that, as Josh Quittner of Fortune magazine found out from his own daughter:

A few months ago the most amazing thing happened: Unbidden, unpressured, and all by herself (armed only with my wife’s credit card), my 12-year-old daughter subscribed to a magazine.

While Clem has long harbored a fantasy of one day being the editor of the French version of Vogue (inexplicably, she is a life-long Francophile), it still surprised and thrilled me when Vogue started showing up in the mail.

Magazines, books, newspapers — all that printed stuff is supposed to be dying. Advertising pages, which have been steadily declining, dropped 26% in 2009 alone. But here, surely, was some evidence that publishing might have a chance. If an adolescent who otherwise spends every waking hour on a laptop still craves the printed word, then maybe, just maybe, there’s a little new growth left in old media.

This tender, green, old-media sprout began to bloom in a curious way, however. Each month Clem was excited when Vogue arrived. She’d rip into the issue and scamper up the stairs to her chambre à coucher, with enough enthusiasm to do Anna Wintour proud. But after digesting each issue, Clem would reappear with it hours later — only now a zillion Post-its jutted from its pages, stegosaurus-like.

Over time, one by one, those stegosauri began to stack up, spines out, in her closet. One day I decided to take a peek at the dinosaur graveyard to see what my daughter was tagging so furiously. It turned out that she was trying to annotate each issue, sorting the material by outfits, accessories, footwear, and other categories for later reference. I noticed that the more issues she tagged, the more frustrated she became. This was a lot of work. So why was she doing it?

“Don’t you get it?” my wife observed. “She’s trying to turn the magazine into a computer.”

Et voilà! Of course she was.

The more I thought about it, the more I decided there was good news for the evolution of the publishing industry here — and better news. The good news is that 12-year-olds, just like their parents and their parents before them going all the way back to the publication of the first magazine in 1731 (the year Charles Darwin’s grandfather was born), still enjoy the medium. But they want it delivered in an exponentially more useful way.

Raised to expect instant, sortable, searchable, savable, portable access to all the information in the world, these digital natives — tomorrow’s magazine subscribers, God and Steve Jobs willing — could well become the generation that saves the publishing industry.

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Covers: Design and Production

Let’s talk a little today about creating covers for printed (and digital) products. In the deadline business of magazine production, the cover is often times a last minute change (due to changing news stories) requiring a talented meshing of disciplines. Book covers, on the other hand, are easier simply because you have more time to think them through. Both books and magazines, however, share cover design and production similarities.

An insightful slice into cover design by Vanessa Voltolina, Design & Production @ FOLIO Magazine:


Issue: December 7, 2009
Frequency: Weekly
Launched: 1930
Circ: 850,523
Publishing Company: Time Inc.
Managing Editor: Andy Serwer
Creative Director: John Korpics

Last minute covers are an all too common occurrence in magazine publishing. But turning around a cover with all original images and a painstaking retouching process is a feat for even the best of them.

The December 7 cover of Fortune “was originally going to be something else,” says Fortune creative director John Korpics. “We had this great, creepy-looking mechanical bug drawing that we were going to use [on Intel being sued], but right before we were going to begin work on the cover, the case was settled out of court and the story got killed.”

Acting quickly, Korpics enlisted photographer Geof Kern, who was working on another issue feature, “How To Build Great Leaders.”

Kern began working on the “brick man” cover the next morning. The design, based on his earlier feature spread photos, “had to be cleaner in background than the feature spread in order to have room for cover lines,” Korpics says. “I think in the original sketch, the brick man was completely finished, but we decided to leave his head unfinished to give the impression that it was hollow and being built as we went.”

The final brick man image was created through photography and retouching and involved Kern shooting a male model wearing a suit and tie in the studio, who would become “the map of the future work in post, transforming his contours and their light into brick.”

He then photographed a brick turned in different directions to the camera and light because “the man is a contoured landscape, and I knew the bricks would have to make paths around contours in different perspectives, so we had to have many views of the brick with corresponding light quality.”

The amount of the retouching, however, was significant—Kern hasn’t worked on a magazine cover requiring as much as this one. To perfect the brickwork, Kern enlisted retouchers (Imaginary Lines) who worked on each brick, one by one, in Photoshop for three days.


“I love the conceptual illustrated cover and it¹s a great image for the feature story and will appeal to Fortune’s demographic. Aesthetically, the cover is too busy for my taste. With all the repetitiveness of the bricks, pinstripe, pattern of the tie and textures of the type my eyes just want to move on and not read the text. There are too many typefaces for my eyes to focus on what to read. I’m not sure where to go and there is no real domination of the feature story headline. It might have been saved with the lines on the left being smaller. Overall I like the cover as a conceptual execution, but think it fails on type legibility.”

Holly Holiday | Design Director | US Airways Magazine

“One must admit, this cover is very well executed. Sans type, it’s a very impactful image. On a newsstand, it would make you stop, pick it up and see what they are trying to say. I love the idea of leaving the top part of the head remaining open, since it really opens up a lot for interpretation. The Fortune masthead really jumps off the page here, it’s very clean and has a nice backdrop for it to rest upon. The main cover lines could be in a bolder face to stand out from the rest. Yes, they are larger, but there is a bit of competition here with the inside story lines. The ‘Plus’ lines could be a smaller point size with no Italics. On a positive note, they wrap around our main image here very nicely. Bottom line, this is strong on impact and straight to the point.”

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