When Wired arrives in my mailbox, I feel like 46% of you feel about design magazines. It is one of a very few publications that I look forward to reading. I got the February issue today and was treated to a surprise redesign. The new design was lead by Scott Dadich and sports four new families of type designed by Hoefler & Frere-Jones. Here are my observations, but feel free to add your own in the comments…
We have been critical of Wired covers in the past and I think the tweak of the masthead is an improvement. It removes the clutter from the top inch of the page and maintains the powerful alternating reversed type. The Wired masthead is probably one of the strongest cover elements in magazines today. The odd thing about the cover is a small red dash that starts on the spine and extends about a half inch onto the cover. It is a burst of color on an otherwise monochromatic cover. I can’t say that it does much for me, but it does activate the space in a weird way. Most impressive of all, the bottom right third of the page is empty! That’s right, breathing room. On the cover. Of Wired. Wow.
The guts of this magazine are still stuffed with ads. Aside from the feature stories which I will discuss in a moment, every spread has at least one page of ads. It is oppressive, but unavoidable for a publication that relies entirely on advertising. The thing that stands out is the switch from san serif to serifs for the body copy. This seemed huge to me because Wired’s use of san serifs always gave it a cutting edge feeling. The new fonts are clean and invisible, like body copy is supposed to be. The font families are used really well and the headlines are fun and complement the “invisible” text quite well. It mighat as well be a lesson in typesetting. Still I can’t help feeling like this was a big loss for us sans serif fans. We may have lost this battle, but we are going to win … uh … the next battle.
If there is a place where the redesign shines it is on these feature stories. On the 104th page of the mag we finally get a break from the ads. Similar to the cover, the spreads are handled with a very limited color scheme. The results are quite beautiful. The text is broken into beautiful blocks of type. The photography is mostly excellent and is used well. My fear is that this first issue of the redesign is going to be an exception and future issues won’t be able to keep the pace. Time will tell.
Overall I give the redesign a thumbs up. You can click on my photos to see a larger detail, but I encourage you to just pay the $12 and get a subscription.