Archive for the ‘Magazine: Lifestyle’ Category

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Cincinnati (www.cincinnatimagazine.com)

Issue reviewed: October 2010

  • Published in Cincinnati, Ohio, by Cincinnati Magazine/Emmis Publishing LP
  • Circulation: 261,480 cumulative readership
  • 220 pages, perfect bound

Audience

  • average HHI: $219,000
  • 32.8% are millionaires
  • 72.5% married
  • average age: 54.7
  • 60% female

Editorial

The editorial content of Cincinnati Magazine is a human-interest-lover’s delight. Starting off with a personal look at the Cincinnati Cyclones and following it up with an appeals attorney’s take on shoe styles and a short feature on a local woodworker. One fun story to read is I Scream For Justin, an article written by a dad who chaperoned his teen daughter to a Justin Bieber concert. Long features on a renowned circuit bender and a family that adopted two Haitian children add depth to the magazine’s human interest angle. Items of local interest include a Cincinnati question-and-answer section by Dr. Know and a thorough dining guide that stretches across 15 pages.

Design

Cincinnati uses great lines — thick black bars for separation, thin horizontal or vertical bars in a series to drop copy off of, and colored bars near the folio to differentiate by section. These lines are cohesive throughout, tying page 4 to page 216, and make each page a pleasure to sift through. The color palette is eye-catching: Bright colors, like greens, oranges and blues, are used in big bursts, but black dominates the design. The overall design tends to be more masculine than feminine but is pleasing enough to be appreciated by both sexes.

What’s Best

  • Letter from the Editor: The editor’s note by Jay Stowe is just right — it shows personality, tells a little of his personal history, and sets the reader up for thinking about college towns, which is the theme of the issue. Over on the right is a list with page numbers of the stories he mentions in his editorial. He opts for subtly directing the reader to the stories rather than the hard sell that some other editors go for. You can read it here.
  • Tiny doses of information: Cincinnati plays with the line that the editor’s note used to direct readers into the magazine; In Frontlines, the line is called Power Play and four 50- to 100-word items of related information protrude from it. In a profile of DJ Apryl Reign, the line is called Vital Stats, and three short info boxes about her play off the line. In Storefront, the line is called Covet and lists three products with their prices. The line is a cool design element that is incorporated into stories well and often.
  • Photography: The designers benefit from tons of great photos and the space to use them.

What’s Worst

  • Special advertising sections: Although I’m sure it was very profitable for Cincinnati Magazine to add in the special advertising sections Innovations in Healthcare (17 pages), The Kitchen, Bath & Remodeling Show program (29 pages) and the Five Star Wealth Managers (32 pages), these sections add up to 78 pages of advertorial copy. It’s difficult to get past all those pages to get to the stuff you really want to read. Sure, it bulks up the magazine, but it makes the reader work harder to get around it.

Overall Opinion

I have never been to Cincinnati before, but if I ever go, I will be sure to attend a Cincinnati Cyclones game, visit the Holy Cross Church to see the tree art, and dine at Tony’s because the magazine made each of the experiences sound appealing, even to a complete outsider. The design of this magazine is really strong, and the stories within its pages are compelling and interesting. For these reasons, I give Cincinnati Magazine an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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Yoga Journal (www.yogajournal.com)

Issue reviewed: November 2010, Issue 233

  • Published in San Francisco, Calif., by Cruz Bay Publishing Inc./Active Interest Media
  • Circulation: 350,000
  • 120 pages, perfect bound

Audience

  • average HHI: $84,120
  • yoga practitioners

Editorial

Yoga Journal gives the appearance of being very basic material that anyone who has taken a single yoga class, or who has some appreciation for the practice, could jump right into and “get” immediately. But it is not light reading. Once the reader reaches the features, about halfway through the book, the stories stretch for 6 to 7 pages each, and the content assumes the reader has a thorough enough knowledge to skip defining such concepts as samsara and asana. And the magazine does not focus on how to do the newest, coolest pose — very little of the content focuses on poses. The yogic lifestyle is the overriding force — the thoughts, behaviors, diets, spirituality, medicinal and physical aspects of the lifestyle are discussed in-depth.

Design

Yoga Journal has pleasing colors throughout and makes good use of white space. Some of the elements in the magazine are really fresh — such as the parenthesis around deck heads. Some others, like the thought balloons, dotted lines and double lines, are less original but still appealing. The photography is diverse and interesting: The shots of yoga poses are artistic, and the food photography is very well done (and very appetizing!).

What’s Best

  • Editor’s Note: Although editor Kaitlin Quistgaard doesn’t let the reader learn about Ms. Quistgaard at all, she does do a good job of shaping the theme of the November issue in the editor’s letter, Reality Show. She previews three of the articles in the issue and ties them all together — that yoga helps its practitioners better see and accept the truths at hand.
  • Ayurveda: This section in the shorts department, Om, is made up of two single pages addressing Ayurveda (the science of life) — how to take care of your skin based on what type you are (fire, earth, water, air). It’s a beautiful layout of products, displayed like meals and accented with flora. It’s a unique approach to what amounts to a short product guide.
  • Web integration: Throughout the magazine are references to bonus material on Yoga Journal’s website — and it has tons of extra content in the form of photos, videos, articles and blogs. The website is a great companion to the magazine, and is strong enough to stand completely on its own for someone who doesn’t have a subscription and is just getting started and needs a primer.

What’s Worst

  • Cover: The left-hand side of the cover features a strip that breaks the flow of the nice colors and attractive type to include a monotonous list of subjects covered, such as health, fitness and food. It adds nothing and instead takes up valuable real estate.
  • YogaJournal.com page: This page doesn’t seem to have been designed by the same designers for the rest of the magazine. Whereas white space is tastefully used on the rest of the pages, this single page looks too sparse, like something is missing.

Overall Opinion

Yoga Journal was a nice surprise. The editorial content was full of variety and addressed multiple topics of interest to yogis. The integration of sidebars and short how-tos into feature stories was well-done and keeps the reader’s brain working from cover to sign-off. For its depth and breadth, I give Yoga Journal an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

Forbes recently unveiled a redesign, one that its leader called a “re-architecture” of the magazine and the website. One of the main changes Forbes points out is the addition of reader commentary in the margins of stories in order to add more voices to the magazine. What struck me the most of the new design was the use of white space and the stripping out of color. The redesign issue also happened to be the special Forbes 400 edition, so some, if any, of the changes may only be part of this current issue.

So, here goes! In all photos, the older issue (Sept. 27, 2010) is on the left, and the redesign issue (Oct. 11, 2010) is on the right. You can click on any photo to make it larger. Each section below is ruled a Fail, Pass or Win.

Cover

Forbes fills its cover with big personalities — both before and after the redesign. Forbes makes its readers feel important because they get to read intimate portraits of important people. Nothing on the cover indicates that this is a redesign issue, but that’s really problematic to say because the Forbes 400 issue is also a special issue and gets different treatment. We’ll have to wait until the next issue comes out to determine that. Regardless, I give it a pass because newsstand magazines like this one take great care to appeal to the newsstand crowd, so I’m sure the powers that be know what they’re doing here.

Cover Ruling: Pass

Contents

The contents pages are the first place the reader can start to see a shift in the design, to a more retro, almost newspaper look. The harsh reds and large photos from the previous contents are gone; subdued colors and an abundance of lines are introduced here. The new fonts are very pleasing; the titles stand out, and the designers use a lot of white space on the two pages of contents.

Contents Ruling: Win

Editor’s Note

The Editor’s Note, like the contents and like all the departments after it, showcase the new use of white space, margins and black-white-sepia tones. Steve Forbes goes from being the columnist (shoved up tightly in the corner) to being the main visual. No other photos appear on his two-page column, and the playfulness is removed from the second page on which restaurants to visit. The previous “playfulness” was color, which was stripped away by the designers. It’s almost like this new version is saying, “We don’t have time for silliness. We’re here to work.” If you don’t like the look that’s in the contents and editor’s note, you won’t like the rest of the magazine. It borders on plain, but it’s also more sophisticated, less busy.

Editor’s Note Ruling: Win

Departments

Entrepreneurs is another section in which the move away from color and toward white space is obvious. Some of the design elements are so subtle (for instance, the double lines above and below the section head, the dots coming from each side of the section head) that they make the pages feel elegant, even though stripping the color out seems like it would make the pages drab. Even the folios are simpler and more succinct.

Departments Ruling: Win

Back Page

On the pre-redesign Thoughts page, the quotes just flowed, one into another, with nothing driving the reader to each one. I imagine many readers scan just to see if there are any names they’re interested in. If not, they read the first item or the one just under the photo and then close the book. In the redesign, though, the page draws the reader in on each item because all the quotes have something distinct — type size, leading, color, length. Fewer quotes are on the page, but each is markedly more readable.

Back Page Ruling: Win

Feature from Before the Redesign

Overall

Forbes is made up of big personalities — untouchable by the masses, but brought to you, the reader, courtesy of the Forbes brand. In the previous design (see photo), President Barack Obama was the lead story. In the new design, it was Warren Buffett and Jay-Z. The subjects didn’t change with the redesign; only a bit of the presentation. The change was subtle but pleasant, retro but current, simple but sophisticated.

Overall Ruling: Win

Have you seen the new Forbes? What do you think? This redesign has gotten a lot of attention: You can read an interview with Lewis D’Vorkin, who led the redesign, with Talking Biz News, a preview of it in Business Insider, or the announcement about it on Forbes.com.

Flight Training is an association magazine that I had not heard of before my new blogging friend, flyinggma, recommended it for a redesign review. Here are a few of her comments about it:

  • “I’ve tried to read the new magazine but it just doesn’t hold my attention.”
  • “In the old format the regular contributor pages had a photo border that helped identify their page easily as well as color photo of the author.  Somehow that made me feel more connected to them and what they were saying.”
  • “I think the content is comparable to the old just more work to get interested.”

So, here goes! In all photos, the older format (July 2009) is on the left, and the redesigned format (July 2010) is on the right. You can click on any photo to make it larger. Each section below is ruled a Fail, Pass or Win.

Cover

The new cover is sleeker and more pulled together. The new nameplate definitely helps: The old nameplate is clunky and dated, while the new one seems sporty and clean. Overall, the fonts are cleaner, and the bigger differences in type size and style allow the reader to more easily spot items of interest.

Cover Ruling: Win

Contents

The folks at Flight Training shifted from a single page contents to two pages, giving the features articles their own page. This change allows the contents to host more photos and more reasons for readers to turn the pages to the articles that intrigue them the most. A pullquote on the opening page of the new contents (on the green background) is more enticement for the readers to check out that story.

Contents Ruling: Win

Editor’s Note

In general, throughout the magazine, the redesign stripped away loads of color and opted instead for spot color. In the case of the editor’s note, as in every department, the strange prism of color that once banded the top left corner is gone in favor of a black strip, an updated font and a twist upward added in a color that matches the tagline. The editor’s note, called President’s Perspective and written by Craig Fuller, is now shorter (about 500 words vs. the previous 800) and is contained on 2/3 page instead of a full page. It looks more mature, more masculine and more readable.

Editor’s Note Ruling: Win

Departments

The best part of the new redesign is the intro spread to Training Notes & News. Whereas before, Training Notes & News started right off into news and short articles, the new design introduces a beautiful photo (offered as a download on the website) as the precursor to the news and notes. The editors also renamed the section Preflight, the name of a column that didn’t make it into the new redesign. (Instead, the former columnist writes a long caption for the downloadable photo.)

Departments Ruling: Win

 

Before Redesign

 

 

After Redesign

 

Features

White space is a wonderful design element, and it appears that the designers are making better use of it in the new design. The features are not markedly different, though. Inside the features, the sidebars tend to go on a background that is too dark, with reversed-out type too small to stand up to it.

Features Ruling: Pass

Back Page

The final page transitioned from Why We Fly to Debrief: A Pilot’s Perspective. The concept is the same, but the treatment is different. (And although the redesign shown here is a celebrity, it is not always a celebrity on this page.) The chunked-up copy is much more appealing, but like in the features, the thin, reversed-out type on a dark background is difficult to read.

Back Page Ruling: Pass

Overall

This redesign was good, but not because the new design is so amazing; it’s because the old design was really unfortunate. Flight Training was definitely in need of an overhaul, and this was a good freshening up. However, while I appreciate consistency, the new design standardized so many sections that many of them look the same. Very few pages stand out from front to back in this magazine, and it might be worth the editors’ and designers’ time to figure out which pieces should remain. There are a few too many columns in Flight Training; commentary is important in an association magazine, but maybe some of the commentary should be presented differently so that there’s not such a feeling of sameness throughout.

The editors should also worry about comments like these from its readers: “I’m far from any kind of expert on reviewing magazines. I just know that the first time I picked up the new format it just didn’t feel right to me,” said FlyingGma. More important than any kind of critique like mine or technical observations from designers/editors is the feeling of connection by the reader. I saw in the June 2010 issue that Flight Training’s staff has reached out to readers and solicited feedback about the new design. I hope they find the perfect balance of design and reader contentment.

Overall Ruling: Pass

Have you seen the new design of Flight Training? What do you think? Another blog, My Flight Blog, had something to say about the redesign, too, if you’d like to read more on the subject.

Excerpt from Jill Herzig’s editor’s note, October 2010 issue of Redbook:

“Have you ever arrived home after making what you think is a major beauty change … only to have your husband look straight at you, open a beer, and notice nothing? In this way, husbands and magazine readers can be similar. … We editors think we’ve rocked our pages with some momentous transformation, but readers often take a look and shrug.”

Dear Mrs. Herzig, I am here for you.

I too have been on the editing end of a redesign and heard very little from our readers. I feel your pain. I am here to save you. I will show you that I paid attention to Redbook’s redesign. Below, you will see that I broke it down, section by section, with highlights and lowlights of the transformation. (I live for this!)

So, here goes! In all photos, the prior issue (September) is on the left, and the redesign issue (October) is on the right. You can click on any photo to make it larger. Each section below is ruled a Fail, Pass or Win.

Cover

Fonts, colors and styles are the same from September to October. The only difference I detected was the removal of “Love Your Life” from Redbook’s nameplate. It was actually removed throughout the magazine, from the cover to the spine to the masthead. I wonder … should we stop loving our lives? Or was loving our lives just a phase that we were meant to work through, and now we’re on the other side? Either way, it appears the powers that be added this phrase in its redesign in 2007 and is taking it away now. I’m positive this makes Jezebel happy. (If you don’t mind harsh language and super-tacky commentary, read Jezebel’s diatribe about Redbook adding this phrase in 2007 here.)

If Herzig and staff wanted to get comments from readers on the redesign, they should have done something new with the cover. It’s only an OCD like me who would notice the “Live Your Life” removal; the cover would have been a great opportunity to kick off the big change and guarantee notice by more readers. However, the newsstand is a fragile animal, and if Redbook’s staff members felt that their combination was magical as it was, then I get it.

The cover was good before and it’s good now. But it definitely does not signal a major redesign.

Cover Ruling: Pass

Contents

Redbook condensed its contents from 2 2/3 pages to 2 pages. The emphasis is now off the article titles and on the page numbers, which makes it hard to find articles that are of interest to reader — it’s more work to go through the contents. The font is harder to read in the redesign, too, from the section names to the article titles. It’s so much work, in fact, to get through these contents pages, that many readers will just skip it and opt to flip around until they find what they want.

Contents Ruling: Fail

Editor’s Note

The new design brings the poor editor out of a hidden corner of a page to her own page with a few accessories added (in this case, they’re Insider Secrets). The photo is light-years better (I think the original photo was taken in 1982), and the design is open, welcoming and eye-catching.

Editor’s Note Ruling: Win

Departments

Lots of magazines say they “re-imagined” their issue in a redesign. Most don’t really. It’s not a safe strategy to re-imagine too much because you might alienate your readers. It remains to be seen if Redbook will alienate its readers because its sections have completely changed. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Old: Style Scoop; Your Love Life; Body & Mind; Making It Work; Living; Downtime
  • New: Beauty & Health; Men, Love & Family; Make It Work; What To Wear; Features; Good To Eat

The Good To Eat section is completely new; the old magazine included a couple of recipes, but not a cooking/dining section. The opening short-item department, Just In Time, was replaced by Spill Vent Gossip Go!, changing the content from quick fixes (cook chicken in 15 minutes, give yourself a makeover) to a more interactive reader polls section.

Departments Ruling: Pass

 

Before Redesign

 

 

After Redesign

 

Features

My familiarity with Redbook is admittedly low, so it’s not easy to judge the features based on these two issues. I don’t know how similar all the previous issues’ cover stories resembled the Julianna Margulies spread, and how similar the upcoming ones will be to the Lauren Graham spread. But the Margulies spread is clearly more dramatic, with only the deckhead on the opener, whereas the Graham spread introduces the first two paragraphs. The inside of the features is the same, though.

Features Ruling: Pass

Overall

The taglines at the top of most pages morphed from feminine and delicate to chunky and edgy. The design overall looks less like it appeals to teenage girls and more like it appeals to women in their late 20 or early 30s. The new food section is appetizing, useful and creative — and now that everyone is a foodie, this section needed to be added. One other great change is the back page: The old version had “I love my ____ life,” where readers filled in the blank. It was a very plain design. The new back page is a spunky, funny chart to help the reader determine, in this case, if she’s “in the mood” enough to go all the way or go to sleep. Here’s the comparison:

There were a lot of good changes throughout, but there wasn’t anything that blew me away. Redbook’s readers will surely be pleased — at least, the ones who notice will!

Overall Ruling: Pass

What do you think? Have you seen the new design? If you’d like to keep reading, check out what two other websites have had to say about it: MediaWeek and MagaScene.

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Time Out Chicago (www.timeoutchicago.com)

Issue reviewed: September 9-15, 2010, Issue 289

  • Published in Chicago, Ill., by Time Out Chicago Partners LLP
  • Circulation: 51,699

Audience

  • median age: 33
  • average HHI: $95,400
  • 70% are single
  • 60% are female
  • goes out three or more times per week

Overall Editorial

Time Out Chicago calls itself an “irreverent, intelligent, insightful roadmap” to Chicago, and its editors say that if you can’t find anything to do in Chicago, it’s not their fault! And I believe them. This magazine blew me away when I flipped through it the first time because of the enormous amount of stuff to do that this magazine listed. And it’s weekly! That means they compile this huge list every single week. I’m amazed by this, mostly because each listing isn’t just a place, address and admission price. Each one is written — real insight, real attitude, real stories. One, for instance, is for Raunchy Bingo: “This isn’t your grandmother’s bingo — unless Granny was a bit smutty.” Another for Dollar Drink Night: “You can … get hammered at this night of karaoke … and cheap-ass cocktails.” Doesn’t Chicago sound fun?

Overall Design

Similar to my feelings about Baltimore Magazine, I am wowed by how Time Out Chicago can cram so much information into these pages and still make it look good. It doesn’t look like the classifieds section of a paper like you might expect. Color and illustrations and graphics and ads are spread out through all the listings so no page is too boring. The editors are even kind enough to put a big “FREE” next to every free admission event. The contents page is attractive and to the point, and the page right after it has more copy than maybe any page I’ve ever seen in my life — but it still looks good. Especially if you don’t mind smallish type. Throughout, Time Out Chicago has several simple but nice design elements, such as highlights, speech balloons and tiny sidebars with photos. On the features, the design is overboard. In the features Major Score and Concerto Inferno, the opening photos are weird, busy and distracting. The remaining pages of those features are much more pleasing than the first page.

Cover Design and Blurbs

A smashed violin graces the cover and is definitely intriguing, especially with the huge words Smash Hits. The cover photo is good, but for people like me who get this magazine in the mail (and most people, really, because this magazine is almost entirely subscription), the bottom third of the violin isn’t visible because of the label area. It feels like I’m missing something as the reader, especially because most of the damage to the violin would be in the impact area — at the bottom that is covered. The cover blurbs are good (“Gin Yummy” and “Bear Down”).

Editor’s Note

Aw, no editor’s note! What a shame. I would have loved to hear from Frank Sennett. Instead, he packs the magazine with tons of Chicago voices, from weird comments on the street to reader letters to Chicagoan interviews. That’s all great, but hearing one strong voice from a magazine, even amid dozens of others, sets a tone for the magazine that is invaluable.

Departments and Columns

The best department in this magazine appears on the first few pages: It’s the front section that’s made up of Public Eye (an interview with a random Chicagoan), Speak Up (letters and chats with readers), Heard on the Street (awful little things that people hear on the street, full of irony, humor, perversion and the F word!),The Bean Poll (reader survey, with the Chicago Bean statue as the graphic) and What’s Up With That? (a useful but insane question; in this case, it’s “can I get a DUI for drinking and bicycling?”). It’s all short, snappy, funny and shocking. The rest of the magazine is divided into Eat Out, Shopping & Style and Around Town, with the latter being the bulk of the magazine — 60 pages of stuff to do in Chicago. Everything is a quick read, including numerous reviews of books, movies, clothes and restaurants.

Features

There’s only one feature, made up of two stories and two sidebars about music. The first story, Major Score, is a straight-up Q&A interview with the incoming Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director, and the other, Concerto Inferno, is an article about “new classical” music. Concerto Inferno benefits from good writing, but it is difficult to read because the writing is smushed into two pages so the opening page can be taken up with a really ugly burning white wig. Disappointing, considering the cover — bearing the smashed violin — was directing readers to this story, and they probably passed right by it. The photo is weird, it takes too long to figure out, and it likely sounded much better in the board room than it was executed on paper. Plus, it doesn’t relate to the cover. And the design of Major Score leaves tons of blue chicken-scratch background behind the text, making it difficult to read and almost not worth the effort. It would have been much better on both stories to dedicate more white space to the design and invite the readers in instead of telling them “Never mind, just go on to the next page.”

Use of Photography

Photos are everywhere, all with varying levels of strength and interest. The food photos are generally appetizing throughout. Especially interesting were the plate photographs from the restaurants the writers reviewed. They’re mostly straight-down shots, which is generally not recommended for food photography, but in this case, the photos look more like a series of how-to photos, which let the reader see exactly what an order at these restaurants would look like.

Use of Illustrations

Barring a couple of illustrated treatments to photos, I don’t see any illustrations in this magazine. Photos take care of the business needed.

Relevance to Intended Audience

The snarky tone, super-honest-to-the-point-of-red-face answers to sex questions, and the drinking/dining/shopping focus are perfect for party-hearty 30-somethings in the Chicago area. The magazine offers such a variety of go-and-do possibilities that, seriously, it really isn’t their fault if you can’t find anything to do there.

Integration with Website

The website is just as informative as the magazine. Possibly — just maybe — even more so. The website is arranged by type of entertainment, and then by date. It has several blogs and opinions that don’t appear in the magazine that add value. The magazine sends readers to the website in several sidebars and “for more info” boxes, and plus, it puts the web address at the bottom of every single page.

Flow, Story Hierarchy

The flow is good. Starts small, builds up, then brings the reader back down into a sexual then super-geeky finish. These guys have enough content, though, that I think it would be better to produce a larger feature well. Not being a fan of classical music myself, I was totally bored during the features in the beginning. So I started on a high with the crazy quotes and insane questions, then I had to force myself to read the unattractive features before I got into the interesting stuff again.

Paper Quality

The paper is fine, especially for a weekly. It doesn’t wrinkle much and is easily foldable for if you’re on the go to any of the recommended places. It’s 104 pages plus covers.

Overall Opinion

I teetered on the edge of a B for Time Out Chicago for the lackluster features for the music, but in the end, I decided that Time Out Chicago does enough good to outweigh those few oversights. The tone of the magazine is consistent throughout — irreverent and cool — something that’s hard to achieve with this much content. Time Out Chicago does an excellent job of educating and exciting its audience about what’s going on in the area, and it entertains them while they’re making their plans. For these reasons, I give Time Out Chicago an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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Baltimore (www.baltimoremagazine.net)

Issue reviewed: October 2010, Vol. 103, Issue 9

  • Published in Baltimore, Md., by Rosebud Entertainment LLC
  • Circulation: about 51,200

Audience

  • average age: 54
  • average HHI: $165,000
  • 63% female
  • Baltimore residents
  • educated, affluent professionals

Overall Editorial

Baltimore Magazine calls itself America’s first city magazine, established in 1907. An honorable distinction, I must say. Where Baltimore Magazine excels is in its conveyance of information; its value is that Baltimoreans will miss activities or restaurants or events or local insight by not getting this magazine. The writing is strong in this magazine; my favorite opener is the following, written by Evan Serpick (following a Ben Franklin quote that beer is proof that God loves us): “It’s 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, and God’s love is flowing fast and furious.”

Overall Design

The color palette in Baltimore Magazine is black, tan/gray and several scaled-back bright colors. They’re not pastels; they’re bright greens, pinks and oranges toned down to reveal a pleasing color. Because there are several repetitive sections (long swaths of pages dedicated to a single topic, such as things to do or places to eat), Baltimore relies on a few design elements that carry over multiple pages and maintain an effortless, pulled-together look. One of those elements is the opener page for It List, Upfront and Local Flavor: full page photo, short info on the beginning page and contents for the section at the bottom. The designers get to have fun in the features section with textured backgrounds, illustrations, icons, setup photography, and super-colorful sidebars, and they do an exceptional job on those pages. In the things-to-do sections, the words remain readable, even on seriously copy-heavy pages.

Cover Design and Blurbs

I have seen better photos of steaks before, but it’s still eye-catching. And while other magazine focus on the-bigger-the-better cover blurbs, Baltimore experiments with multiple type sizes on its cover. Sizzling Steakhouses is in a point size that rivals the nameplate, but the designers made room for a subhead for the title, as well as a cutline for the cover photo. A red button houses more small type, and the freaky Andy Warhol peeking out from the top right of the cover gets even tinier type. This treatment forces the reader to pick up the magazine from the newsstand to read it, increasing its chances of being opened and of turning into a sale. Plus, it looks good.

Editor’s Note

Steve Geppi obviously has a lot going on, and he spends his entire publisher’s note talking about it. It’s all over the place, and a little self-promoting. I don’t mind self-promotion, especially when it’s deserved, and it does sound like Geppi likes to keep his fingers in lots of pots — a new social network he’s created, his own museum in Baltimore, a special exhibit at said museum, and so forth. He only lets the reader into his head a tiny bit when he talks briefly about his fascination with art and Andy Warhol. I’m disappointed that editor Max Weiss doesn’t have a column in the magazine; she does a video blog here that makes me want to read more from her.

Departments and Columns

The It List spans 25 pages (yes, 25 pages!) and covers everything there is to do, see, touch, experience, play or read in Baltimore. It includes a colorful calendar, multiple photos and tons of information. Upfront and Local Flavor are other multiple-page sections set up like It List. Other departments include Community, Hot Shot (local hero-type story), Lifestyle (which actually also ties into the cover feature), Voices (a local person’s story) and Personal Space (home decorating). The magazine ends with Baltimore Grill, an interview with a local food-lover. I do feel it’s my duty, though, to point out the big spelling blunder in the Baltimore Home section. I mean, the word is big and in color, and somehow the extra “c” in eclectic got missed.

Features

The two main features in this issue are the steakhouses (Let Them Eat Steak) and Andy Warhol (Fifteen Minutes and Counting). Both are well designed, and the writing is informative and interesting. I now hope to one day get to Baltimore to try out the tuna tartare at Morton’s or the lobster corn cake at The Oregon Grille.

Use of Photography

This magazine is packed with photos. (A far cry from my recent review of photo-less Commentary!) Every shape and size, every page (almost), and generally very good. A few photos were lacking, like the opening one on the contents page where the light was too hot on the subjects’ left side. But overall, the photos of food were appetizing, of people were intriguing, and of home interiors were stunning.

Use of Illustrations

These guys use a few illustrations, especially in the steakhouse story. They’re good and they fit the look of the magazine. But Baltimore Magazine is much more into photos than it is illustrations.

Relevance to Intended Audience

Baltimoreans probably love this magazine. It has something for everyone who lives there. I imagine a lot of arts events and restaurants get attended because of this magazine.

Integration with Website

The website houses tons of information, just like the magazine. It has features, blogs, videos, a dining section, an arts page, movie reviews and more. And Baltimore is one of those smart magazines that lists its website address as its folio, so page after page after page directs readers to the web.

Flow, Story Hierarchy

The magazine starts off with things to do and ends with even more things to do. On the whole, it’s organized well and topics are pretty easy to find. I don’t like Baltimore Home Magazine being tucked away inside these pages, though. I don’t know the history there — was it a standalone that got folded in? Or is it a section they’re trying to launch into its own magazine? Either way, it feels hidden and strange.

Paper Quality

At 208 pages, plus covers, this is one thick little magazine. It’s heavy with ads, so Baltimore Magazine must have a reputation for building a good following that advertisers see the value in. The paper is rather hardy, but my copy was wrinkled throughout, especially in spots with heavy ink.

Overall Opinion

With 103 years of practice, Baltimore Magazine should be strong, and it is! It celebrates the city and encourages its people to get out and do things, to be involved with their community. That’s how local/regional magazines should be. For the warehouse full of information, for the interesting writing and for the boatload of photos, I give Baltimore Magazine an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review