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New Launches

Mergers and acquisitions

11.19.07 | Comment?

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Introducing Man About Town, the graphic lovechild of McSweeney’s, GQ—and possibly ABA style—when I opened the spread above, I was briefly afraid I had been served. MAT, a new British biannual, mixes color fashion plates in with its gray, uncoated, and devilishly difficult-to-photograph text-driven pages. (In other words, sorry about image quality with this post.)

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I love effectively-done black-and-white pages—color is often used like frosting on a Safeway cake—there to obfuscate a lousy product. With B&W, photography has to be excellent, ideas must be substantive, and the design must vary without the vibrant hues that many designers feel is a key part of what they do. Good B&W pages find power elsewhere—and there’s a lot of juice to be had in structure, pacing, contrasts and scale. MAT succeeds in offering a rich pallet of pages despite the monochrome printing and limited type selection—in part due to its tabloid-size—but mostly due to effective page design—if not always effective typography.

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MAT has a lot of words, but it isn’t really a reader’s magazine. Pages invite appreciation on any number of fronts—but despite the presence of articles that might interest me (not everything in the book is clothing and stinky perfumes), I found myself oohing and then paging on to the next thing. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing—lots of successful magazines thrive despite text that might as well be greeking. The difference is, I retain some suspicion that MAT’s editors might be up to something other than gapping advertising. But I’ll never know, the articles are too drab and typographically uniform to spend time with. Mixing an occasional bold sans serif in with all the text type or using white space more strategically would go a long way towards making pages more inviting to a reader.

The blog Things to Look At gives a small, tantalizing look at another British and excellently-designed Man About Town which suspended in 1968.

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