As much as I love my Google Reader, I still prefer to get my design fix in printed form. In addition to providing the necessary dose of inspiration, magazines usually include insightful commentary and design criticism. I love this sort of writing on design and it seems like the best place to find it is still in the “unplugged” land of printed media. Additionally, with each one you get an actual piece of design to hold in your hand. It’s easy to forget how cool this is if you’re used to bouncing from blog to blog. After the jump, I’ve put together an overview of a the major players in the design magazine realm. Check out the list!
Design Magazine Overview
I think of Print as the ultimate design magazine. The writing is far superior to just about every competitor. Rarely, if ever, do they have some innocuous article about “How To Be Creative!!!” or something equally useless. With writers like Steven Heller and Rick Poynor at the editing helm, the caliber of the content is always high. If I could only choose one design magazine to subscribe to it would definitely be Print.
My love for +81 is well documented. Released in Japan, +81 is filled with artists and designers I have usually never head of. This is fantastic considering the over-saturation of the usual design suspects throughout most magazine and blogs. Most of the content is interview based, which I like, and they rarely trim for length before things get interesting. They also do a lot of layout experimentation; a great quality if you are an editorial designer looking for inspiration. They certainly aren’t afraid to take chances.
Amazing for many reasons. First and foremost the design of the magazine itself is terrific. Everything from the typesetting to the photography is extremely well crafted. They also work with some really talented illustrators like Adrian Johnson and Andrew Holder; making every article visually appealing and worth investigating. Probably best described as a mix between The Economist, Wallpaper, and maybe GQ — Monocle is a great overall magazine for the design oriented world traveller.
Another Japanese publication — always kind of reminded me of but does it float, in that the quality of the material they cover is exceptional , and curated with an apparent lack of concern for trends or what anyone else is covering. Most issues are devoted to one designer or foundry — most recently Max Huber went under the microscope. I posted some images here. Their release schedule seems to be all over the place, but this is probably a result of weird timing due to import logistics etc. When you find it, it’s worth it.
This addition to the sunday New York Times is always a happy surprise when discovered with the morning paper. Like it’s sister publication, T is perfect in its execution. It has the ability to make topics that were previously of absolutely no interest to me seem fascinating. In this way it’s sort of like 60 minutes…but about fashion, design, and travel.
I’ve always thought of STEP and How as very similar magazines. Both are so overloaded with paper advertisements that it’s impossible to find the content. When you finally do, there are definitely a few articles worth reading, but many border on inane as mentioned above. The annuals are always good to check out, just to see what’s being done out there. Usually a lot of stuff you’ve seen online, but much more diverse. I’ve actually heard that STEP is no longer in publication, but I’ve yet to confirm this. Would be too bad. If you’re interested, I’m in the most recent issue STEP 100 issue in the student winner section (the one with a crazy yellow arrow on the front).
Like STEP, this one is hit or miss. I enjoy the articles that really dive into a topic — often regarding the legal issues surrounding design — but I don’t need to read this one more than a few times a year.
Computer Arts (Projects)
When I started in design, this was the ULTIMATE magazine as far as I was concerned. It’s so vibrant and visually exciting! Pretty hard to miss this one on the shelf. The great thing about Computer Arts is the software tutorials. Unlike most listed here, CA provides information on how to actually make things with the tools. Scott did one a while back which you can still download. They front load the issue with a ton of inspiration and new talent, making it a good all around purchase. I haven’t read this one for a long time, but I remember it being pretty helpful and always filled with interesting work.
Now with a new look! Based in Britain, grafik is definitely on the cutting edge. Over the course of 100 pages, they cover a very diverse range of topics and really succeed in making every article worth reading. Different from Computer Arts, in that they usually cover a more minimal aesthetic. I love grafik for their lack of ads — so refreshing after you’ve spent some time with STEP or How.
You probably have already heard about the info graphics at work in Good. They are really *good*. Decribed as an “entertaining magazine about things that matter”, Good is much more of an issue oriented publication than most listed above. It succeeds in filling this niche and it’s nice to read about design being implemented for change (and succeeding on that level), rather than just looking bad ass.
This is a publication aimed at aspiring creatives. A lot of student work, articles about working for firms, design education reviews, etc. A typical article might be called “Internships: The New First Job” or “90 of the Best Art School Projects.” That sort of thing. Despite being smack in the middle of the target audience, I’ve never really found CMYK to be all that helpful. Most articles about “how to succeed at your internship” etc are pretty much commonsense. Though like most design magazines, it remains a terrific source for inspiration and example work, especially if you’re looking to see how you stack up as a student.
Not to be confused with IdN or i-d, I.D covers mainly product and industrial design, with a little bit of interior design and architecture thrown in for good measure. This magazine is another example of a really well laid out publication with very high quality content. I especially like the photography; nothing too crazy, just a really refined and simple style that works really well in the context.
Sam Grawe’s magazine about the spaces we live in. Do not read this magazine if you get jealous easily — the spaces covered are usually completely amazing and make even the best apartments seem lame by comparison. Every time I pick up dwell I wish I lived in a glass house, perched in the trees somewhere, with furniture designed entirely by Dieter Rams. If you can manage it, dwell is an excellent magazine — full of wonderfully designed homes, usually of the modern variety.
Not sure what they consider to be their *main* focus, but Wallpaper is a great magazine about just about everything; design, travel, fashion, architecture, etc. Not a lot of specifically graphic design, but absolutely worth reading. Also of note are their travel books; great for supplementing standard issue guides like Fodor’s or Lonely Planet. I had great luck with the Tokyo and Milan editions. The San Francisco one was a little off I thought, but as a local I’m probably impossible to please.
For some reason it has always intimidated me — maybe because it’s usually so damn huge. Anyway this one is regarded very highly in the academic community and is the *one* you want to get your work into, apparently. Of all the ones I don’t read that often, this is next on my list to incorporate into circulation. The most recent issue is the illustration annual.
An extension of Janine Vangool’s Uppercase gallery in Calgary. This one looks intriguing and I remember hearing a lot about it when it launched. An unusual amount of variety represented here. You can purchase the magazine through the website, though sadly the first issue is sold out.
Arguably not a graphic design magazine, but worth checking out for the excellent layout and overall production. This is easily my favorite magazine to hold; the paper has this wonderful, almost newsprint-like texture. I have no idea what the cover is made of but it feels amazing. Great typography too — just look at the rags on their paragraphs — perfect! Fantasitc Man is the third magazine art directed by Jop Van Bennekom (Butt, RE-Magazine). You can view some of the issues online here.
Like Computer Arts, I used to be seriously obsessed with IdN. It’s an explosive visual experience to be sure. IdN usually focuses each issue on one particular theme. Volume 15 / No.4 on information graphics is my favorite to date. (link)
Started in 1984, baseline is focused solely on typography. It used to be a platform for promoting new typefaces; now it includes all sorts of type related material and isn’t specific to any one foundry. Great if you like to geek out over type (which I DO).
Some of the best covers in the business. Every time I pick this one up I am glad I did, but I really don’t have much experience with it. As its UK based, cost is often an issue.
Less design magazine, more “culture” magazine. I like it for the layout mainly — haven’t spent enough time with this one to really speak for the quality of the content.
An irreverent exploration of various global concerns, typically unfolding through the use of high impact photography. Like Good, Colors is much more focused on the issues, rather than letter spacing and color palettes.
Anything I’m missing? Let us know your favorites in the comments!