A mag in five pix: Eye on Design #3

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The third issue of Eye on Design has arrived, promising a deconstruction of Gossip as it attempts to match the success of the award-winning second issue. A tough challenge – how does it fare?

The first thing to acknowledge is that the front cover could never match the all-seeing flouro eye of the last issue. The creative team have gone for broke, changing the eye graphic into a mouth to match the theme, but the result is not as satisfying as last time. The double die-cut seems wasted when both page are pure black, and adding the title of the issue in the centre is confusing when the magazine name doesn’t feature. The visual dominance of text over graphic means the cover reads as Gossip, with the Eye on Design i-d lost. Visually strong as a stand alone item but if you don’t know EoD you might be confused.

Inside, the issue is on far stronger ground. Guest-designed by Allyn Huges, the layouts take their cue from the theme, particularly so in this opener to a feature about the design team behind People magazine. EoD founder Perrin Drumm spent significant time with the team and it’s fascinating to see her won round by what she finds. She admits the magazine has ‘never been in my heart or my home’ and notes it is not put together by high-profile designers.

Yet it’s continued success – a weekly readership of 90m across all channels is claimed – speaks of its the power of relevance of its editorial values. It’s refreshing to find a magazine devoted to contemporary design finding space for People, and while the attempt to mimic celebrity/gossip page design does the job, it also demonstrates how difficult this type of design is.

Perrin and the EoD team are in the process of taking financial control of their magazine and you can sense her learning much from seeing such a vast editorial machine up close.

Later in the issue a more playful approach to gossip comes in the form of a game of ‘visual telephone’ – think chinese whispers for design. Starting from the phrase ‘Shapes in a desert, trying to be modern’ a chain of five designers respond one by one to each others work. A simple but effective reflection of the problem of describing design, it balances a more serious feature about design criticism in the age of twitter. Meanwhile a guide to spotting fake news seems well-intentioned but surely superfluous in this context?

Some content veers away from the Gossip tag; a lengthy interview with US design icon April Greiman reminds us that her early designs using the Mac were not well-received by the (mainly male) great and good of graphic design. The image above, distributed as a poster with Design Quarterly magazine, became the emblem of the debate. Another look back at the same period – AIGA have great archives and presumably these stories emanate from these – highlights graphic feuds, such as that between Tibor Kalman and Joe Duffy in 1989.

This third issue of EoD is another great read, then, presenting a unique range of stories that match the team’s online publishing programme in width and breadth. It’s not a perfect examination of Gossip, but an engaging, intelligent take that cleverly marries the theme and graphic design. To reinforce the theme further, there’s a seperate pull-out section, ‘16 pages of goss, graphics & giggles’ that takes a more satirical look at contemporary design and designers. I’m not sure what future generations will make of the content here, but I hope it’s discovered one day in the AIGA archive.

Founder/director: Perin Drumm
Managing editor: Liz Stinson
Senior editors: Emily Gosling and Meg Miller
Associate editor and art director: Madeleine Morley
Designer: Tala Safie
Guest designer: Allyn Hughes

eyeondesign.aiga.org

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