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September 16, 2020 7:30 AM   Subscribe

What are your favorite magazines that have an interesting, well-designed, or "artsy" layout?

I'm tasked with designing a magazine one-off and looking for inspiration for cool, interesting, artsy, non-traditional layouts. They don't need to be necessarily indies - looking at something like Kinfolk might help too. I don't have the content I will be working with yet, but I think it will be mostly in the form of articles without much graphics to go off of.

Think big words, lots of white space (or not?), cool art, large illustrations of uses of color. I'm also open to well-designed classic layouts in the Bauhaus style. I'd also love any website aggregators of design that include magazine design to get inspiration and my mind working outside of a boring corporate layout.
posted by Bunglegirl to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I like Stack Magazines as a resource, you can flip through pages in the shop. Lots of historical "avant garde" artsy material at Printed Matter, but also some new stuff — magazines here.

Searching for the term or hashtag "risograph magazines" or "risograph zines" or "riso zines" is bound to yield many cool results.
posted by plant or animal at 8:13 AM on September 16, 2020

Wet Magazine was exactly what you're looking for. Publication ceased in 1981, unfortunately.
posted by Rash at 8:24 AM on September 16, 2020

Hi! I'm not a regular user but this post was sent to me. I'm Kinfolk's former creative director (led two magazine redesigns from 2014-2017) and afterwards I started a magazine called Broccoli (a magazine for cannabis lovers). While I'm not a graphic designer, I do a lot of design direction and work alongside talented designers.

Our magazine Broccoli has fairly experimental, constantly shifting design, as a way to keep ourselves and our reader surprised and engaged, issue after issue. Not really the style you are seeking, but I feel like the best inspiration comes from unexpected places. Our magazine is designed by Jennifer James Wright (Citron Studio). There's not a lot on her website, but we have links to our back issues at the bottom of our site, including many sample spreads.

You should check out Kinfolk designer Alex Hunting's portfolio, as he works with a number of cool magazines. He does a beautiful job with large type. I've also been enjoying Chloe Scheffe's work with Here Magazine. Check out Veronica Ditting, designer of the Gentlewoman, and Giulia Garbin who does Luncheon, L'Uomo and others. It sounds like your mag might be more text-heavy than some, so you may want to look up some literary magazines to see what they're doing.

During Kinfolk's 2nd redesign (when we started working with Alex), my research was largely focused on looking to the past, and we were especially inspired by Twen and some other magazines from the 60's and 70's. I rarely, if ever, look at modern magazines for inspiration when starting a new project. To me, it's more fun to dive back in time, and reinterpret the design elements that resonate with me now. I love the surprise element of discovery, and looking back is a good way to avoid current design trends (and to see which things have come around again 20 years later!).

Two other fun, conceptual magazines that I love are Nest (from the 90's) and Flair (a short-lived, incredible title from the 50's).

I echo Stack as a great resource, and also the UK-based magCulture, their blog shares looks into many magazine's pages. While not completely focused on magazine design, Eye on Design is a plentiful resource. Pinterest and google image search are both endless rabbit holes of image references, too.

You might already be doing this, but you may also want to ask your client for some sample copy, for sample heds/deks (titles & the brief story description that goes with them), possible caption length and a rough guess on the length of the articles. This feels extra important if you want to use large type, because you'll be limited for space based on your page size, and you want to make sure that the designer and the editor are aligned with their expectations for text and how it's presented. There are a lot of fun things you can do with a two-word title, but fewer options if the titles are 5 words or more, and large type might start to look messy.

It's also important to have a sense of the structure of the magazine provided by the editors, so that the content's purpose can inform the design. For example, Broccoli (and many others) follows a pretty traditional structure: our front of book (first part of mag) features smaller, shorter, bite-sized content, and our middle of book is all about the longer features, photo stories, etc. We play with back of book (the end of the magazine) and vary it a lot, but often have a themed section to close it out. Each section has its own treatment, and this offers a structure for the pacing of the magazine. It helps to inform the reader's experience.

Have fun digging into inspiration!
posted by anjalouise at 10:25 AM on September 16, 2020 [16 favorites]

See if you can find copies of Ray Gun and Bikini (both art directed by David Carson). They have a very 90s aesthetic, but certainly give lots of inspiration on how to not look like a typical magazine.
posted by jonathanhughes at 12:37 PM on September 16, 2020

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