I haven’t mentioned the D&AD magazine Ampersand since it re-launched early last year because my first impression was it seemed to be a bit try-hard and had legibility issues. Every quarter a new issue turned up and would be put aside for later. Despite people telling me how good it was, I didn't engage with it and the copies went unread.
After a recent office tidy up, the first five issues ended up together on a shelf, and I took time to look at them. And united as a set, they looked great. The design, by Vince Frost, is as strong as you'd expect from his studio. The best element is the die-cut Ampersand title on the cover, the character formed from three overlapped circles and so doubling up as both masthead and representation of a thought bubble rising from the cover subject. This typical bit of Frost-design is a lovely touch, if slightly weakened by the over-enthusiastic second bite of the same idea on the back covers.
Frost has managed to make the most of what is essentially a newsletter. The content is a broad combination of news, reviews and features, and sometimes has to work with poor-quality images. The page design works hard to deal with this mixture. Strong, graphic fonts are used for headlines, sometimes to the point of losing legibility (though if ever there was an audience ready to indulge design, this is it), and a general loose structure applied that allows blocks of text to take on various shapes and drop off the grid altogether.
But it’s the covers that are the stars, so here are four of the first five plus their back covers.