But here are the 5 publications that I can’t stop talking about, right now.
New York Times Magazine
The NYT Magazine redesigned in early 2015. Jake Silverstein had just taken over as the editor, Gail Bichler was promoted to creative director and Matt Willey moved across the Atlantic to become their art director. The publication was 119 years old and already considered well-designed, but the team was making it their own and investing in making it even better.
The redesign was brilliant. They managed to create something that was fresh and surprising but genuinely felt familiar. That’s no small feat. Three years in and this magazine design dream team is still capturing my attention, every single week. We’re talking custom type executions (often a collaboration between Matt Willey and Henrik Kubel of A2-Type,) special issues with a single visual idea taking over the entire issue and some of the cleverest covers I’ve seen in a long time.
No Man’s Land
When I first heard about No Man's Land, a magazine for The Wing, a women’s work and community space in New York City, my expectations were low. Typically, these brand-driven publications take a whole lot of marketing gibberish and jam it into a pretty little package. But as The Wing's branding started to roll out, designed by an all-female team led by Pentagram's Emily Oberman, I changed my tune.
It’s packed with stories that are incredibly interesting and well-written—a brief history of the feminist mags that came before, written by Oberman herself; a photo essay of NYC’s bra-fitting experts; interviews with Tavi Gevinson, J.D. Samson and Brie Larson to name a few; a fashion feature on power suits; a giggle-inducing centrefold featuring Maxine Waters as Miss November (turn-offs include: systematic inequality.)
The design of the magazine itself is a little chaotic, but there are some great pieces in here and it's obvious that the team had a pile of fun putting it together.
All signs point towards No Man's Land being a one-off, but I really hope we get a second issue!
Launched in 2011, The California Sunday Magazine is a long-form publication, distributed monthly in the Western United States. It arrives in the local Sunday newspapers as an insert (read: alongside those ugly grocery flyers). It’s a crazy smart model, giving the team a base of readers while keeping them free from the shackles of a larger host paper.
On the design side, it’s headed up by Leo Jung (fellow Torontonian!) who does such wonderful things with their big, bold, photography-led stories.
Seriously, their photo essays can take upwards of 16 pages! The design is slow and carefully considered, your eye manipulated almost entirely by white space. The place where they really get me though, are the itty-bitty details. The issue is often littered with the smallest illustrations, once hidden in the bottom left-hand corner to make a flipbook or for a recent issue devoted to the life of teenagers, they bailed on page numbers and instead time stamped every page.
Oh, and the cherry on top is a back page by visual journalist Wendy McNaughton.
Broccoli is a free magazine, by and for women who happen to like weed. It launched in November 2017 with the goal of reinventing the image of cannabis culture by celebrating the experiences of women who smoke weed through the lens of art, culture and fashion.
I experienced major #fomo waiting for my copy of Broccoli. For whatever reason, mine took a lot longer to arrive than my magazine pals across the globe. Watching them post images of the layouts all over social media made me all the more infatuated with the title. When it finally arrived, it didn't let me down. It's chockablock full of smart ways of looking at both the cannabis industry and culture. The design is clean and smart, with the occasionally distorted headline—a nod towards its subject. The piece that really caught my attention was the cover story: a photo essay of marijuana leaves presented as Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging.
The team, headed by former Kinfolk Creative Director, Anja Charbonneau is already working on the next issue (yay!)
Buffalo Zine is an enigma. It's difficult to describe, arrives suddenly and unannounced (or bi-annually, now) and never looks the same. It pokes fun at almost every magazine cliche you can think of and packages it in a series of tongue-in-cheek covers (see No. 6.) They're ridiculous, in the best way possible.
I'm fairly certain I can't do it justice. You'll need to read a couple of interviews with the founders or track down a copy for yourself. (Pro tip: As of writing this, there were a couple of copies of No. 5 at Soop Soop)
Special Shoutout: Esquire Covers
Esquire's covers have had a real retro-throwback vibe lately and I'm really digging it.