OK, so First Things is an ugly magazine. I mean, nobody is going to say, “Wow, that’s a beautiful design!” about the pages we print.
Of course, there’s something coolly uncompromising in its ugliness: We’re about text , man, and here’s the text, and if you want pretty pictures, then go someplace else. Even the heavy rag paper we use—the current magazine’s one nice design element—has always had about it an element of cool assertion: We’re a journal , not some glossy fashion magazine.
But . . . but . . . maybe it’s time to make a change. Twenty years is a long time for any magazine to stick to one design. Besides, (1) that rag paper we use is howlingly expensive (glossy and matte paper are much cheaper), and (2) we’re getting more and more color advertisements, which print poorly on rag stock, and (3) for the last five years, First Things has been stuck in a circulation range just above 30,000—as though we’ve hit a barrier that, in our current design, we can’t find any way to break through.
So I’ve been thinking about a redesign—and wanted to ask what everyone else thought. Got some ideas? Got some comments?
It’s a deep rule of publishing that you can’t make a change, no matter how good, without some readers complaining. (Fr. Neuhaus used to joke that Jim Nuechterlein, the great longtime editor of First Things , was so personally conservative that he would have objected to the movie downloads alterations on the second day of Creation.) But, I think, we can weather some complaint. The question is, rather, what the changes should be.
The Atlantic has redesigned recently. I don’t like it much, but I could be wrong. Commentary has redesigned, too. Standpoint seems interestingly laid-out. The New Republic ? Paris Match ? American Crafts ? Vogue ? Architectural Digest ? What magazines, and what magazine elements, do you like?