As the appetite for, and reach of, independent magazines has grown in recent years the more traditional publishing organisations are reaching out to the indie world.
This interest can ebb and flow – in the UK, the PPA has recently focused strongly on indies at their annual Festival; this year they appear to have dropped that part of the programme.
Elsewhere, two major awards programmes have been wooing the indies. US editorial design organisation SPD have just published their latest Annual, and here at home D&AD are this week judging their 26 disciplines, including the Magazines and Newspapers category with its own Independent section.
I was on the this year’s D&AD Magazine jury, judging yesterday (above). The Independent category had significantly more entries than others, and also provided the most discussion. They’ll be well represented at this week’s Awards ceremony, but it was clear from the judging process that other magazine categories are more easily understood. The front cover designs of newsweeklies, for instance, have a relatively clear function and standard that includes common understandings of illustration and typography. Shift over to the table of indie entries and that common ground falls away — I was surprised to still be discussing the pros and cons of ‘ugly’ type. But this is what I love about judging — the opportunity to talk in some detail about the things we take for granted day to day (see list of winners here).
Next week the SPD hold their annual gala to announce this years winners of their Awards. Just ahead of that, the 460-page sleek hardback SPD annual from last years Awards, designed this year by Rob Hewitt, has been published (pictured above).
Always a treat for editorial designers, the SPD Annual remains heavily US-orientated, and the self-defining parameter of all awards persists – such competitions can only annoint the work that is entered. But it’s still a strong and enduring record of contemporary editorial work, presenting a huge selection of covers and designs that are increasingly familiar through social media but deserve a more concrete archiving.
Alongside the obvious big hitters (New York Times Magazine, Wireds US and Italia, and New York all deserve their multiple awards) it’s great to see Gather, The Gentlewoman, California Sunday and Pitchfork Review (though, strangely, this has just been closed by new owner Condé Nast) among the winners of the more general categories. And in the Independent section itself there are plenty of indies familiar to magCulture readers, including Avaunt, Eight by Eight, Elephant and You Can Now. Interestingly, all these indies sit very comfortably next to their mainstream counterparts. Many share share the same values and aesthetics, and I long to see a little ugly in the mix.
Perhaps this is something I’ll pick up at an event we’re collaborating with SPD on next month. ‘The State of Independence’ takes place on 15 May at the SVA Theatre, and I’ll be chairing a converstaion with principals from Avaunt, California Sunday Magazine, Racquet, The Great Discontent and Victory Journal about the growing influence of the independent magazine.
We’re grateful to Park Communications for their support of ‘The State of Independence’