Stars of the Past

11.08.07 | 1 Comment


I recently came across an old, crumbling copy of Screen Album, one of many miscellaneous published extensions to the Hollywood publicity machine of the early 1940s. Best to photograph it, I thought—both because it was turning to dust before my eyes and because it provides an interesting snapshot of mid-century low-end photo-driven magazine design. (Say that three times fast.)


Looking at the curvilinear-framed boxes, type columns forced to shape, and other mindless typographical shenanigans throughout the publication, it reminded me of nothing so much as the early days of desktop publishing, when a new Quark capability or Photoshop filter could spur a minor (if usually misguided) design movement. Screen Stars is full of excesses—but I would guess that there’s little here that hadn’t been long-possible with photo-gravure (I think) or offset printing. Rather, in this case a range of cheap tricks—duotones, boxes, shaped type and double- and triple-burns are used to bring variety to inexpensive two-color printing. If only they’d thought to include a headline or two.


It may be that today, the ease of what once took a hell of a lot of math and planning to pull off—theses pages could be build in InDesign in mere seconds while the computer also brews a credible cup of coffee—has led to the current trend in favor of relatively austere pages.

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