Saturday, July 5, 2008

EW, Ah.

Got this week's issue of Entertainment Weekly and immediately knew something was different. Unlike most pop culture mags (and previous issues of EW), there wasn't much type on the cover. Just the masthead, a bit on the feature, and a line of this-issue subjects at the top of the page. Usually you find eighteen chunks of info scattered all around the face of a celebrity with no room to breathe. A few pages later, I noticed more things had changed and alas the Editor's Letter confirmed I was looking at something new. (click on the images for a larger view)

Led by John Korpics, former design director at InStyle & Esquire, there's definitely a more buttoned-down feel to the pub than ever before. Most notably recognized by the use of line rules on just about everything. Take this Contents page for instance. The old (left), single column layout was easy to thumb down the page numbers to find the corresponding article I wanted to read. The new (right) layout splits the main sections into 3 columns (separated by line rules), but the page number & sub-section titles are similar in color value & type weight, making it more difficult to find what you're looking for. They might have figured this out somewhere down the line, because the page numbers are larger in the footer. We can only wait to see how the top half of the page will be treated in future issues.

The treatment in the reviews section raises a lot of questions. First off, the section headers are treated in a respectful and modular way, which I really like. Secondly, the designers have decided to forego clever, film-specific headlines and just use the film's title when preparing a film review. This is one for the writer's to fight about. If the critic was the one writing the headlines, they may like the fact that now they have one less thing to write. If there's a writer at EW that just lost his job writing film-specific headlines, he's probably a little disappointed. And, I'm not sure how Ad space has changed, but I doubt there will be less of it. Although, the addition of line rules to separate copy columns may mean they need more room for copy...

EW designs a lot of really great charts. There has to be someone on staff eligible for the Guiness Book of World Records for most number of clipping paths made for a publication. I will say that my least favorite chart is the most important one in the magazine. Critical Mass. The chart that lists current run films, the review grade from various critics in the biz, and their overall average. The funny thing is that instead of tracking the grades across the line for each film, they are tracked down the list (alternating yellow/white) per critic!? I don't know about you, but I'm not checking the chart each week looking to see what Dana Stevens from gave recent films. If I did, I'd probably have the site bookmarked to review every Friday anyway. This chart should be tracked across each film, to easily thumb across, "Iron Man, B+, A-, A-, B, B, B.....Ok, sounds great." And finally, it is.....but they've added a new color to still track by your favorite film critic...if you have one. Sounds political to me. Note the use of line rules, and also how the 'backstory' sub-section is now treated.

Lastly, I want to talk about the Guest Column page. Again, note the new header treatment that's been carried through the mag. The section still maintains a 3-2 column structure from before. What I like about the changes is how the color matches from Title to Drop Cap. It's a powerful 1, 2 punch that keeps the story connected and keeps me reading. Not sure how strict they'll be on the use of photography or illustration for the guest columnist pic, but I hope they leave it open to either. And how could I forget to add....Note the use of line rules. Come on guys, I'm sure we can all figure out where a sentence moves to on a page.

Does anyone know what the italic typeface is? That is killer!


Anonymous said...

I couldn't disagree with your assessment more -- this version of EW seems to be totally tabloidized (I just made that word up). Plus headers seem way out of scale (large) and the exclamation points on the H!t L!st is horrible.

sorry -- but I like the old design infinitely better. but that's just me.

Jason said...

I agree that the exclamation heavy H!T L!st is ridiculous too; but it appears you only read the positive things I said. I also discussed some things I didn't like too. It's not a great redesign, but the things that work, work very well. Thanks for reading & commenting.