28 August 2008

'Print' magazine - for the thinking designer

As designers, how can we but revel in that glossy eye-candy rich artifact: the design magazine. We're looking for fun, information, inspiration, the new, the bold, the beautiful and a font of fabulous ideas. So is it me, or does it feel like instead we're bombarded with a stream of photoshop tutorials, technology ads, free cds, buzz-word infiltrated articles and layouts that are "so hip" its hard to read the text? There's certainly nothing wrong with tutorials and product reviews, but what about when you're looking for something more? And the conspicuously old boys club approach of some mags I could certainly do without.

After a relentless search (in the area of English-language graphic and digital design) I landed on what I would call the "thinking designer's magazine"...

It's a multiple award winning publication, which is no surprise, as it maintains truly superb journalistic quality (the kind you'd expect from a top news source like the New York Times), and it's not just the new, narrow and fluffy, but the expansive, eclectic, essential and serendipitous. It's the first magazine I want to devour slowly from cover to soft matte cover. It's called "Print - Design Culture Place" and it's certainly not new. Print has been in print since 1940, and in 2008 it's fun, visually satisfying, intelligent and even authentic. It never screams try-hard or self-consciously-trendy, but smart, and the layout is (wait for it) well designed! That means it's literally usable, not just eye-catching. It's comfortable and pleasurable to read and to view.

There are plenty of pictures, but also plenty of content.

With topics as irresistible as "Design under pressure - how conflict influences design" featuring book covers, comics, signage and mural work in Iraq, Northern Ireland, India, and Cuba, it's not exactly that same review of the top 10 UK studios. The June issue featured European design, but again, not the same-old studio tour. This time it's "cute" in Iceland, political cartooning in Turkey and board game design in Germany along with tidbits on fonts, retro movie posters, business comics, album art and even those "Little Golden Books" you remember from childhood. You get the picture - it's not a one-note magazine.

And if you're thinking "but it's print, and I work in digital" don't forget that all that print these days is done digitally and inspiration will always come from everywhere. But they also have a regular segment titled "Desktop" that focuses on animation, flash, software and other digital domains. If you want just website reviews, you will need to look elsewhere, but there is always the web for that. I'm not saying this will be the only design magazine on your shelf, but it could end up being the best one. Although Print is sometimes dubbed "America's graphic design magazine" it takes an extremely international view. Overseas subscriptions are available (take it off your taxes).

HOW is another solid design magazine, and perhaps unsurprisingly, is put out by the same publisher (no, I am not getting any payouts from F+W, unfortunately). HOW focuses more on career and practicalities with loads of information for the freelance designer and art director. I know there are more great design mags out there, so feel free to drop a note on your favorite ones, where they're published, and why they're particularly inspiring.