In the wide world of magazine publishing, there’s a special niche occupied by magazines dedicated to design, graphic design and printing. These titles are not just read by designers, but also have a loyal readership of enthusiasts, students and professionals from other industries thanks to their innovative layouts and eye-catching use of typography and images (typically illustrations or montages).
Some of these magazines have achieved legendary status and global readership. Indeed, these aren’t independent or self-published magazines, but specialist titles that can be found in good newsagents that sell international magazines.
Sadly, over the last five or six years, some historic magazines have closed their doors. Some have shut for good, while others have turned into digital versions only (notably How Magazine, CMYK and Print Magazine).
In this article, we’re going to travel the world in search of the world’s best-looking graphic design and printing magazines.
THE VISUAL IDENTITY OF DESIGN MAGAZINES
Before we set off, let’s first look at what we should expect from the visual identity of magazines about design.
Layouts are very ordered, without big surprises, because the idea behind many of these magazines is to showcase innovative and creative graphic design. As a result, modular grids are often clearly visible in page layouts.
A staple for the past few decades are double-page spreads with original designs and bleeds that make content fresher and more dynamic.
The fight to stand out from the crowd plays out most visibly on the cover, where each magazine strives to catch the eye, often in subversive or provocative ways. In fact, many of the magazines that we’ll be looking at in this article bring out themed issues dedicated to subjects like typography or photography.
Another feature is the heavy use of illustration: while examples of graphic design are often photographed or inserted conventionally, illustrations frequently seek to bring something unique to the page.
Founded in London in 1990 by visual arts journalist Rick Poynor, this quarterly magazine soon became essential reading for graphic designers around the world. Its pages are packed full of discussions, debates and reviews, as well as interviews with and opinions from the world’s leading graphic designers.
The magazine’s graphic design is characterised by rigid yet creative layouts and eye-catching covers.
Print is one of the oldest magazines on graphic design. Founded in 1940, it was published quarterly in print until the end of 2017, when it ceased publication. Two years later, Print was saved when the title was purchased from its bankrupt publisher by some of the biggest names in graphic design. These included: Debbie Millman, founder of the Design Matters podcast and long-time collaborator with The Guardian; Steven Heller, the man behind popular blog The Daily Heller and one of the most prolific authors of books on graphic design; and Andrew Gibbs, founder of Dieline, the most influential blog on packaging design.
Thanks to them, the spirit of Print lives on with the continued publishing of quality content. Online, you can still find and purchase back issues telling the stories of the graphic designers, especially Americans, who have influenced design the world over. In terms of its own graphic design and layout, Print was always a rather traditional magazine that commissioned leading graphic designers to produce its covers.
Image sources: http://idsgn.org/posts/print-magazine-dead-or-alive/
Over the past decade, Creative Review has become the go-to magazine for coverage of international graphic design and advertising. With a quarterly print edition as well as an online version and digital archive, it offers various subscription options. The magazine’s unique square format makes it instantly recognisable.
This is perhaps the oldest design magazine in circulation, given that it was founded in Germany in 1924. It has been one of the most popular and influential design magazines ever since.
Novum has its own distinctive approach and devotes each issue to a specific theme, such as a particular trend, design niche, colour, object, material or anything else that fires the imagination.
Founded in 1957, Form covers design in its broadest sense, from industrial to graphic, exploring the latest trends. Its high-quality content makes it a must read for anybody who works in design.
Form is not particularly original in its graphic design, which is modular and relies on high-quality photos rather than illustrations.
Graphis in one of those portfolio magazines that were commonplace until a decade ago, a throwback to the eighties and nineties when the web didn’t yet exist and the best graphic design was found in magazines.
Graphis has always stood out for its irreverence and unconventional visual choices, which have helped ensure its longevity ever since it was published for the first time in 1944 in Zurich, Switzerland. The focus has always been on presenting and promoting the work of outstanding talents in design, advertising, photography and illustration.
Slanted is one of the best graphic design magazines of the last 20 years. Founded in Germany in 2004, it showcases graphic design work and discusses the latest events and trends in international design and visual culture.
Like many magazines of this ilk, it only releases two issues a year so it can guarantee the highest quality of content and design. It is published in German.
Eye on Design
Eye on Design is the magazine published by one of the oldest trade associations for graphic designers, the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts), which was founded in 1914.
It showcases the work of mainly American designers and is immediately recognisable by its ever-present eye motif on the cover.
Italian graphic designers have also had their own trade magazine for some 20 years now. Progetto Grafico is the international graphic design magazine published by the AIAP (the Italian Association for Visual Communication Design).
Published in Italian in English, it has played an important cultural role, filling a gap in Italy’s publishing landscape.
Idea is a graphic design and typography magazine first published in 1953. It is based in Tokyo and is written Japanese and English.
Idea’s design plays with colours, layouts and different papers, making it a one-of-a-kind printed product.
The magazine covers the different creative scenes in both Japan and abroad, and showcases the work of Japanese designers from across the country.
Grafik Magazine is another British graphic design and typography magazine founded in London in the past 20 years. It’s even less mainstream than the others we’ve looked at today and has a more experimental design.
Its layout and visual content really are worth a look.