NME, The Face and Creative Review: magazines that have shaped designers

Last week, we spoke to the author of a new book documenting the rise and fall of 1980s culture mag The Face, famously designed by Neville Brody. Now, designers tell us which magazines have changed their lives.

Adrian Shaughnessy, co-founder, Unit Editions

“I devour magazines of all kinds but I’m a promiscuous reader – I pick ’em up, and I drop ‘em. Only two mags remain unmissable – The Wire and Sight & Sound. They cater for my obsessions with maverick music and serious-minded cinema. Crucially, both hold out against the crass conventions that most magazines succumb to.

They have serious writing at their core and subject matter is never softened to make it ‘accessible’ to a wider audience. Both journals hold true to the principles of critical engagement that they were founded on. Both are stonking good reads that have introduced me to hours of pleasure that I might otherwise have missed. And both have had a profound effect on my cultural life.”

The Wire magazine, issue 407, December 2017. Art direction by Ben Weaver, illustration by Julien Simshäuser (Builders Club).

Tala Safié, art director and graphic designer

“Life-changing is a bit of a stretch, but Little White Lies did have a big impact on me, both as a movie buff and a design student. I remember discovering it in 2011 back when I was completing an internship at a design studio in Amsterdam. I was fascinated by the fact that each issue was unique, with a selected cover film cleverly influencing all aspects of the design and editorial decisions. Little White Lies would also release online videos that revealed the design process behind each issue. It was very inspiring.”

Little White Lies, cover art by Laurène Boglio

Sam Freeman, freelance art editor and ex-art director at Design Week

“I distinctly remember the first time my older brother showed me a copy of Ray Gun magazine and the connection was instant. Led by founding art director David Carson, the pages felt like they were living and breathing, with chaotic typography, distorted imagery and dynamic grid formats creating an energy that reflected the artists featured.

Carson rejected conventional editorial design, to a level only British designer Neville Brody had come close to occupying previously. Legibility went out of the window. Kerning, sliced away letters and the overlaying of text columns required the reader to decipher messages from a web of tangled elements. One memorable example of this was an interview with Bryan Ferry set entirely in typeface Zapf Dingbats.

Carson’s distinctive grunge style is still being emulated among the designers of today and the impact of Ray Gun is still all around us – you might not even realise it.”

Ray Gun magazine, courtesy of David Carson Design

Paddy Carey, senior designer, Together Design

“Growing up as a skater in the mid 1990s, there were two magazines on my radar – Rad Magazine and 411 Video Magazine.

Although I didn’t realise it at the time, these magazines and video journals, loaded with sequential photography, lo-fi film, graffiti-drenched backdrops and adverts for underground lifestyle brands, had a huge influence on me creatively and undoubtedly paved the way for my future career.

But what really made them special was the anticipation and excitement created by every new issue – they brought people together. Videos were played at skateparks until the reels snapped, and magazines were passed around until the staples fell out. Woe betide any parent who tried to throw away the stacks of old issues though…”

Jeremy Leslie, founder, magCulture

“Three magazines have changed my life; New Musical Express (NME) and The Face, both edited by Nick Logan, and then there was City Limits, a London, weekly, listing title where I laid out my first magazine pages. As a student I had been a regular reader – I had been attracted by David King’s wonderful cover designs – and was lucky enough to work in the studio after I graduated. I was already interested in magazines but working at City Limits got me hooked on the adrenaline of balancing design and deadlines.”

The Face magazine © Nick Logan/The Face Archive (below) ‘The Work Ethic’, no 23.

Matt Baxter, Baxter and Bailey
Matt Baxter, co-founder and creative director, Baxter and Bailey

“I could very happily answer this question with a long list, having been so shaped by countless, stapled, inky rags over the years – but I’ll edit it down to the highlights. Here goes; in 1982, The Eagle blew my nine-year-old mind.

In 1984, Scream scared me witless. In 1985, 2000 AD melted my brain. In 1987, NME opened my ears and guided my taste. In 1992, Creative Review showed me a career. And in 2012, the mighty Phoenix Comic bowled into my life and changed me from a humble graphic designer to a humble graphic designer who also occasionally writes and draws stories for kids.

But perhaps the most significant influence happened in 1988, when Deadline magazine launched onto unsuspecting newsstands. While certainly no design classic, its heady stew of bonkers comics, alternative music, left-field politics and a very British spirit felt like a mini revolution.

Surely all of this weird, subversive, amazing stuff couldn’t really sit between two covers on the shelf in Burnley’s WHSmiths, could it? It was revelatory. Deadline’s founders Steve Dillon and Brett Ewins are sadly no longer with us, but their lairy legacy lives on.”

Matt Baxter’s collection of Deadline magazine

Which magazine has had the biggest impact on your life? Let us know in the comments section below.

Hide Comments (7)Show Comments (7)
  • Shaughn McGurk November 22, 2017 at 9:39 am

    I still have the first 100 copies of Arena – another Nick Logan / Neville Brody collaboration, at least at the start. Absolutely integral to my design education.
    If anyone would like the complete set, make me a sensible offer.

  • Tom Cooney November 22, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    Straight no Chaser, no question about it!

  • Cormac Figgis November 22, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    It’s a longish list. As a kid, Krazy comic turned my head completely. It felt radically different in terms of its art and humour. This was followed by Spirit and the art of Will Eisner, and Jim Aparo’s Batman. In later years, as my awareness of music and culture expanded in tandem with my time at art college, The Face, Lime Lizard and Blitz, followed a few years later by Ray Gun, took the absolute best of content and visually turned it all on its head. They all had a huge influence on me as a designer. In more recent years I think that Interview is the benchmark for perfect, unfussy, impactful design. Its approach of the famous interviewing the famous is the cherry on top.

  • David Weight November 27, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    For me, in addition to ones mentioned – The Face and New Musical Express (with the wonderful photography of people like Anton Corbijn, Pennie Smith and Kevin Cummins) and following with excellent fanzines like Vague, I think iD deserves a good mention – fine and sometimes rough at the edges in both content and design. Still makes for a good read and view.

    In the middle, Deadline – again damn fine design and that music and comics content that was so perfect for me.

    These days Huck and Little White Lies, Wire and the beautiful (covering cycling so well in both design and content) Boneshaker are favourites.

  • Stephen Bell November 27, 2017 at 10:06 pm

    Heat and Bella for me. Keeping it real.

  • Zarina Holmes November 29, 2017 at 1:35 pm

    I starved to buy Ray Gun when I was a student. The deconstructionism art direction is still ahead of its time today.

  • Suzanne Taylor December 4, 2017 at 12:37 pm

    The Face, reading it as a teenager when growing up in 70s Northern Ireland was perfect escapism..and its content heavily influenced my choice to study design at Manchester Poly.

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