Design Magazines Technology

Craig Mod Is Not Anti-Magazine Design

I’d like to follow up my post from earlier today — about how I felt that Craig Mod’s recent pieces on digital publishing don’t really take into account the desire for beautiful magazine layouts — with a few comments that were tweeted to me by Craig in response.

Everyone is conflating my desire (demand? 🙂 for real text with an anti design stance. Not the case at all.

I want layouts just as interesting / unique as today’s magazines. But with more accessibility / respect for digital text.

I’m arguing not for a certain type of book or magazine, but a certain kind of accessibility of text.

Sure, then it does sound like we’re on the same page after all. I think the problem I had with his recent essays — and the latest one in particular — is that he continues to push for a better kind of accessibility of text in digital form, but from all of the examples that he tends to give, some of them just don’t jive with creating an iPad-formatted page (using those dimensions) of a magazine that can’t be affected by user interaction.

There’s no reason why text in iPad magazines can’t be selectable (a few examples have been popping up recently), which could then mean adding text copying/sharing and the like. But part of his “accessibility package” — as far as I can tell — also includes being able to adjust text size, and that just won’t work.

I do have a solution though: For every article in a magazine, include a button that lets you open just the text as a separate “window,” which would be adjustable. It’s similar to what you see in certain magazines on Zinio — instead of having to zoom in and out on each page to read text that is too small, you can read the text separately, at a larger size, on a separate page.

And I said my favorite *reading* experience is Instapaper, not ‘favorite magazine’ 😉

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on this one, but I was pretty sure he said “magazine,” which is why it stuck with me.

I want someone to build a magazine that’s as comfortable from a content consumption POV as instapaper. I’d happily read it.

That’s something I can definitely agree with. As I said, I absolutely love what Instapaper has done in terms of making long-form journalism (or essay writing if you will) more accessible. I’d love to see magazines do their own thing to make this happen, just not in the same way.

readability + accessibility + well considered typography != anti-design.

Yes, it certainly is, and it’s what made me want to write that post. I don’t think that a good magazine can really be “anti-design,” and so by promoting all those other things, it sort of contradicts the idea of beautifully designed magazines (in terms of graphic design, layouts) also attaining the pure goals of that trifecta he so holds dear (although I think two of them can easily be achieved).

Magazines Technology

Books Are Not Magazines, and Vice Versa

Craig Mod recently posted a new essay in relation to digital publishing — the throat swallowing titled “The ereader incompetence checklist (for discerning consumers, editors, publishers and designers” — and as with everything else he’s written of late, it’s a must read for anyone with even a passing interest in the topic.

BUT, I do have to say that I’m starting to disagree with some of his stances, and mostly because I feel that he continues to treat the digital treatment of books and magazines in a similar manner, while these are in fact quite different mediums, and the way we interact with them is quite different as well.

The biggest issue I have with his views on magazines is that he prioritizes readability over any thoughts of design, and that’s just not how I experience most of the magazines I love. For me, the beauty of the magazine medium is in its marriage of text and images, and the ways that art directors manage to combine these in an appealing presentation. Text alone or images alone do not make a magazine (although I’ll readily admit that there are some magazines, like The New Yorker, where it’s really just about the text).

While we were out for drinks the other night — in commemoration of his leaving Tokyo for more “digitally charged” pastures — he mentioned how his favorite magazine experience on the iPad is through Instapaper, and I think that says it all. Don’t get me wrong, Instapaper is not only of my favorite apps (on both iPhone and iPad), it’s also one of the apps I access the most, and it’s because of it that I was able to get back into reading long-form journalism (something I’ve never felt comfortable doing over the web). But a great magazine experience? There’s no magazine experience there at all, it’s just a better way of reading an article, independently of any design touch.

For me, same goes for Flipboard, the “Social Magazine.” While yes, it does offer a more pleasing (compared to the web) and magazine-y way to read collections of articles, the fact that it’s automatized means you quickly tire of the layout. I think “Social Newspaper” would be a better way to describe it, since most of the time (and emphasis on the “most,” since there are definite exceptions out there) layouts in newspapers tend to be conservative and relatively standard. It’s why I love the New York Times iPad app, and wouldn’t really want it to change (although I’m quite tired of the inclusion of image heavy/slideshow photo rounds-ups, with the images missing).

So going back to Craig’s piece, I’m of course all for a greater level of accessibility in digital texts, but when it comes to magazines, not at the price of losing any though of layout that doesn’t simply copy a web-like approach (long flows of text).

Update: The discussion continues — with a response from Craig — in this post.

Design Technology

Gray Suits Me

I find it interesting that three of the apps I use the most on my iPad — Twitter, Reeder, and The New York Times’ Editors’ Choice app — all have grayscale, no-color icons (and let me add that if the iPad dock had space for one more, Instapaper would be there too). I wonder if there’s something to this.