Author: Chloe Holden, Design Intern

Designing Design Magazines

Unit Editions (publishers) held a panel discussion on designing magazines for designers, examining the role of print journalism in the age of the internet. Looking at magazine front covers is a great way to follow the timeline of design and the panel covered the trends in design and typography from the beginning of the 20th century up to the present day.

Design Lecture by Unit Editions

The evening was chaired by Adrian Shaughnessy (Unit Editions) and included a panel of designers, publishers and tutors, who each showcased their favourite magazines.

Shaughnessy began by showing a small selection from the large research archive for his books Impact 1.0 and 2.0. Starting in the USA in 1883, with The Inland Printer and The American Printer, Shaughnessy highlighted the transition of design from a sub-section of art magazines, to a publication topic in its own right. This was followed by publications in the UK and Europe that began featuring more and more design content, and beautiful and experimental covers, with unfixed mastheads and layouts.

Over the years, magazines have continued to experiment and push the boundaries of design. Looking at magazine archives like Typographische Monatsblätter for example, the extent to which each design was developed for the magazine until it could go no further becomes very clear.

Typographische Monatsblätter design development

Shaughnessy concluded his thoughts by referencing Steve Jobs’ release of the first Apple Macintosh computer, which Jobs stated, ‘altered design forever’. One of the first magazines to use Apple was Emigre, which was one of the first to use a Mac to create typefaces and digital layouts.


Other highlights of the evening for me were examples from the panellists’ favourite magazines, which included Teal Trigg’s (Graphic Design tutor at the Royal College of Art) love of Flair magazine, created and edited by Fleur Cowles in 1950. Unfortunately, Flair only existed for one year, running just 12 issues, as it was too expensive to produce with its lavish paper stock, pop-ups and fold-outs. It featured work by the latest illustrators and designers, like Paul Rand, arguably one of the most influential designers of all time, who designed the magazine’s ads.


Another highlight was Jeremy Leslie’s (Founder of MagCulture) favourite magazine, M-real, edited by Andrew Losowsky and designed by Leslie (and Chris Parker from 2002 to 2007) and distributed globally.


The issue pictured is especially anti-commercial, like Leslie himself. I particularly liked this magazine because it parodies mainstream magazine covers of today, pushing the boundary of what a magazine ‘should’ look like.

Final thoughts…
To end the beautiful magazine show and tell, Tony Brook (Co-founder of Spin and Unit Editions) showed his favourite Typographische Monatsblätter cover (1976), designed by Wolfgang Weingart. This design magazine was extremely influential, mainly due to the introduction of and advancements in technology from1960 to1990. It was also an important channel to get some of the world’s most influential designers and Swiss typography seen by an international audience. Brook explained how many of the issues produced made no attempt at legibility. A strange approach maybe, but for me, this lack of consideration seems extremely considered and that’s what makes it so beautiful.

Typographische Monatsblätter

The evening concluded with the question of the night: ‘is print dead’? The panel’s answer was a unanimous no, print is not dead. In fact the view of the panellists is that we are in one of the most exciting periods for print design due to the influx of online content. Magazines continue to push boundaries and work harder than ever to keep people excited and wanting more. The panel backed this view up by detailing a study by Norway’s Stavanger University, which concluded that print is easier to read than online copy, proving that long copy has no real place online. While online is for fast information, video and audio, print offers the tactile and beautifully detailed information that humans crave.

Leaving Unit Edition’s event, I am in complete agreement with the panel. Online is great for getting information quickly, and keeping up with the fast pace of our world, whether that be via video, audio or text. Print, on the other hand, should be more considered with its content, and more indulgent, whether that be with layout, fold-outs or paper stock. While some independent design magazines of today work successfully online and off, for example Disegno, which produces a quarterly journal of design and daily content online, print should be something you want to keep and treasure for life, otherwise what is the point?


The Unit Editions Timeline

The first real design magazines:

· The Inland Printer 1883

· The American Printer

· The Studio

· Les Maîtres de l’Affiche

· Das Plakat

· The Monotype Recorder 1902

· The Typographische Mitteilungen

Other influential magazines of the 20th century:

· Graphische Revue 1922

· Gebrauchsgraphik 1927

· Art Director Magazine 1940

· Portfolio 1949 - this magazine changed everything

· Graphis 1944

· The Architectural Review

· Typographische Monatsblätter

· Emigre - one of the first to use a Mac

· Graphic Design Magazine - 1959 Japan