[udpated: the winners have been chosen.]
Here’s a piece of information that comes solely from what I’ve noticed, free of any research to back it up: the magazine industry doesn’t seem to be in crisis. I don’t see articles lamenting the inevitable and rapidly approaching destruction of the format with anywhere near the frequency of those charting the end of the Newspaper, for example. Maybe I’m wrong, but magazines still seem pretty healthy, even though I barely buy them. They’re a tricky thing for me–I have subscriptions to exactly two of them, and I don’t read as many as I probably should online, considering the amount of great long journalism still being done. The only time I hit upon some great writing that I take time out to read is usually when it gets mentioned by say, 3 blogs I happen to read, all at once.
The modern newsstand is a mixed bag, and I think that’s my main problem. There are so many magazines out there, and they’re all so glossy and full of attention-grabbing headlines that I can scarcely take it all in. I don’t really know where the industry is at anymore, if I ever did. It’s too bad, because magazines are also an invaluable design resource–the best of them have some extremely fine graphic artists working for them, doing work that a lot of us just don’t see. In this vein, the American Society of Magazine Editors have recently announced their finalists for the 2008 magazine Cover of the Year (the ASME holds a separate contest for excellency in magazine covers, different from its well-known National Magazine Awards, which are handed out later and are eventually followed by an annual, indispensible compilation-book that makes me feel OK about not buying any of the individual issues).
Let’s check out some of this year’s finalists, specifically the three running for the final Cover of the Year:
Here we’ve got Interview Magazine celebrating their founder–Andy Warhol–in this 80th Birthday issue, which has some striking photography of designer Marc Jacobs on the cover. It’s a great photograph, but a top 3 finalist? There are a few covers that didn’t make it which really could have (speaking of which, why is the art department of Texas Monthly so good?). Back in May, Glenn O’Brien, Interview’s recently installed editor, talked about the shoot to New York magazine:
“I don’t know if that’s Andy’s wig on his head in the shot, but I talked to the guy at the Warhol Museum yesterday, and he was complaining about makeup being on Andy’s wig, so I guess they did use it.”
Speaking of New York , they’re one of the other finalists: their March 24 cover features a fine, polite portrait of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer sabotaged by a good and direct piece of design. I think ruminating over that cover for 5 minutes is probably more rewarding than reading most of the overheated scandal-analyses from the period.
The final cover comes from David Remnick’s New Yorker, and is by the same artist–Barry Blitt–who produced the infamous Obama cover of this summer. It depicts Iran’s presdient, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, getting a taste of the bathroom-stall stance made famous by Senator Larry Craig’s unintentionally hilarious defense (that he was sitting in a wide stance), back when he was arrested for soliciting sex in a public bathroom. Some context: at the time of the cover, Ahmadinejad had also made the possibly-difficult-to-verify claim that there are no homosexuals in Iran.
My vote goes for New York’s Spitzer cover: concise and smart, it made fast use of a perfectly captured studio photograph (you really couldn’t hope for anything more earnest) to create a lasting image-cum-summary of the scandal.