New Launches

Personal Development

12.03.07 | Comment?


Unlike most glossies, Personal Development is not saddled with editors, designers, ad reps or business people. Instead, their masthead lists “Directors of Wisdom,” a “Mistress of Imagination,” a “Guru of Finance,” a few “Wisdom Wordsmiths,” some “Superheroes” (including both “Superman” and “Wonder Woman”) and a “Director of the Canvas.” I don’t know, perhaps all the fancy-pants titles led me to expect too much, but I found the product of all this wisdom and creativity kind of a letdown. (Sample advice: “to stay ahead of the game, you have to do well in life.”) Let’s just say Superman’s Daily Planet experience is little in evidence.

The magazine is full of Type-I missteps—oil and vinegar combinations—Impact with a florid script (PD uses a couple doozies), the use of florid scripts in the first place, inadequate margins, goofy 3D type effects and too many fonts—which run the gamut from geometric to old style to post modern and more—giving pages a bit of an alphabet soup effect. PD also forgets to include headlines and art on occasion, simply making signage and author portraits page-size in the front of the book. The odd thing though, is it isn’t all bad. The design has some interesting features too—the unusual horizontal format, which is used to advantage on the TOC and some astute type choices (though this may come from playing the odds). It’s almost as if whoever designed the original format left in a huff halfway through the job, and then someone’s cousin took over.

The copy blends business-speak and the sort of quasi-spiritual motivational gibber-jabber I have little patience for. (Does it show?) We meet one of the Directors of Wisdom, and the Mistress of Imagination in twin “publisher’s statements” (sorry to have to revert to outmoded terminology)—both wearing stylishly idiosyncratic dress, and the beneficent smiles of the fundamentally untrustworthy. Indeed, Mistress Laurie Moore, in recounting the inspiration for the first issue “much more than an idea…a gift,” says the magazine was conceived while traveling to Las Vegas to see the premier of the “motivational movie sensation Pass it On”—but is coy about noting that the glossy is published by the same company that released this direct-to-video offering. There’s also ads that look like edit and lots of repetitive and formulaic interviews with self-help authors—these are all likely advertorial of some sort though they are not identified as such.

If the copy could use a little full disclosure, the writing would also benefit from the touch of a good copy editor, or at least one of the wonder wordsmiths could invest in a thesaurus. Mistress Moore uses the word “imagine” five times before the end of her second paragraph. By the time I finished her column, I was, in my mind, begging her to “conceive,” “visualize,” “picture,” “conceptualize” or even “dream up.” But, of course, in new age circles such “power words” become brands and tools, and the good Mistress has hers. She could no more “envisage” than I could fly.

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There are few photographs in PD that didn’t start life in a stock catalog, but rather than launching into my usual rant on the evils of stock, I have to admit that in the case of this magazine they work just as well as they do on any Successories posters. The mundane, unconvincingly inspirational art you find at Photodisk combines with the text in the magazine as if they were born for each other.


As so many of the articles are about “owning your dreams,” about being uncompromising about getting what you want in life, not taking no for an answer, using new “tool kits,” learning the “art of risk-taking,” and developing “precise and exact vision,” I worry what a blow it might be to the gurus who founded it, if PD—like more than 50% of new launches—should fail. If that happens, the words of another Guru might help: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again….and then quit, no use being a damned fool about it.”

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