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Redesigns

The Squire of London

10.09.07 | 1 Comment

Ok, I concede that I’m a little behind the curve on this—between the tramp steamer that carries the magazine drop shipment from the UK, and my various backlogs, it took me a while, but I had to write about the redesigned British Esquire. Editorially, BritEsq. tends to prove Mark Twain’s quip that explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog (it can be done, but the frog dies in the process) also applies to bawdy writing. Tiny portions of naughty are annealed with a Niagara of soul-searching and angst on the pages of BrtEsq. Is it painful? Let’s just say that reading 900 words on the ethics of wanking off to the memory of a dead friend is in itself a form of self-abuse. But while the writing often walks a fine line between nasty and tedious, the design balances extremes much more gracefully.

The art director, David McKendrick, uses the custom-designed “Esquire’07,” a relatively unadorned-sans, except for its extravagantly ornate swash capitals that he judiciously adds to feature headlines, and less judiciously adds to cover teasers (where at small sizes they can be a bit much). The result inside is much the same as Bill Smith’s refined use of Avant Garde on the pages of Mean magazine—they add a little spice to what are otherwise rational, orderly and pleasing but simple pages. But the type isn’t the only place that finds balance. In the FOB and BOB colors are used for much the same purpose—adding zing. I’m not a big fan of colored headline type—but here it doesn’t seem cheesy, probably because the bodacious pastel pallet is the only place where the simple and uncluttered design turns extravagant.

I should add a qualifier, the colors are wacky where the magazine runs color. Like the old National Lampoon, Esquire runs a section on uncoated colored paper in black ink only—on traditional peach and baby blue stocks. Some of their choices for these sections—including art and food reviews seems odd considering those are two topics that benefit from full-color repro, but on the other hand US Esquire doesn’t attempt serious criticism at all these days, and it is otherwise refreshing to see the understated look that monochromatic printing provides.

But—and I really want to know—what’s Ann Coulter doing in there? I thought she was us Yank’s particular cross to bear….

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