As part of our ‘Issues’ strand Laura Bradley recently included List magazine as one of her choices. The New York magazine, published by Serge Becker and Lisa Ano in 2000, existed for only one issue but made an impact beyond that brief appearance. It was an immediate favourite of mine and as Laura’s post indicates, it made a similar impression on others. Here’s a look through that one issue.
Working from the simplest of premises, List consisted of a series of lists. A list of lists if you like. Lists have long been an editorial staple, and the magazine makes hay with the form. Written, visual, serious, silly… as Lisa told me recently, ‘The possibilities are endless. The fun is in the edit, in compiling the lists and creating a record of the moment.’
The magazine opens with a series of numerical lists (above) ranging from facts about the US strawberry industry to international illiteracy rates via a top ten of photographers’ day rates. Some reveal how fast things change – like the ‘Top Web Ranking’ list (below) that not only demonstrates how language changes (Top Web Ranking?) but also how once important sites have faded away. Each section of the magazine has a different subtitle – this is the TrivaLIST section, the purest form of list here and the one Serge and Lisa declare their favourite.
Later on in the issue is a complete list of invitees to the launch party for wannabe super-mag Talk (above); relentlessly detailed and unmediated, it’s facinating reading the alphabetical juxtapositions of the great and good of turn-of-the-century New York celebrity (Ivana Trump is listed, but not Donald). This is very much another era of launch party.
The RecycLIST section lists original art and the advertisements based on them (above); another section, PlayLIST, is a visual taxonomy of video game systems (below).
FinaLIST strikes a more serious note, listing the last suppers requested on death row (below).
A ‘Most wanted LIST’ of up-and-coming models is followed by the ‘FBI most wanted LIST’ that provides another nod to history, the relatively unknown Usama Bin Laden (sic) appearing in a series of poster-style pages of (above, right). The juxtaposed lists of models and criminals takes a subtle dig at the categorising of people.
Lisa recalls getting to know people through the lists they contributed, and the power of ‘lists as conversation starters, as confessionals, as connective tools.’ This is what makes List such a strong editorial idea; lists are light and easy to engage with, yet can be very revealing. The form has since been tainted by the contemporary cliché of Buzzfeed top tens but even that guilty habit demonstrates the power of the list.
Aside from a guest contribution to a magazine I helped create for Selfridges in the early 2000s, Serge and Lisa never published more lists, despite some development for a second issue of List that never appeared (that big, bold ‘01’ on the cover was in vain). This may yet change; ‘We continue to collect and make lists,’ says Lisa, ‘We’ve been floating the idea of making a second issue for 2020 and the twentieth anniversary of the first issue.’
For now, then, List remains at the top of my list of great magazines that only published one issue. And that baby on the cover? ‘My first daughter, Georgia,’ explains Serge. Maybe the long-awaited second issue will mark her twentieth birthday.