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Redesigns

Bon Appétit

01.17.08 | 3 Comments

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I don’t like writing about redesigns unless I have examples from both before and after, but Bon Appétit’s new issue is too stunning to resist making a few comments. And, while I can’t get as specific as I would like about what changed—drawing only on my vague memories of the dry, stuffy and antiquated previous incantation, I can say that my sense of the old look was confirmed by Barbara Fairchild’s editor’s statement in which she writes: “Our redesign was (quite) overdue. (Really, I mean I’m talking decades here, people—we were still using vintage 1989 Pagemaker templates—it wasn’t pretty).”

So, confident that I will doubtlessly see pages from the old BonAp posted on the walls of once-great restaurants for at least the next 20 years (and can equivocate later if necessary), I will move forward.

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The new Bon Appétit certainly looks fresh, although, typographically at least, it’s not doing anything particularly new. The signature fonts seem to be some version of Garamond and a slightly modified Gill Sans—although the banner is a slightly out-of-place clarendon. The random colored letter and diacritical mark in the flag (that, along with random italics) was everyone’s favorite type trick circa 1985. Nevertheless the new look seems graphically clean, confident, and current—and a tremendous contrast from the old.

Bon Appétit

What’s extraordinary about the new design is not typographical but in the way food is depicted. Most food magazines take a “zipless lunch” approach—food is presented as perfect crystallized moments—either monumental and luscious on a platter; or just as that first exquisite slice is being removed—if the reader would value seeing the interior. Instead, the new Bon Appétit catches its meals in progress—or even after they’ve been well-picked over. Remarkably, the site of the joined battle (or the carnage afterwards) doesn’t leave the reader with the feeling of cleaning up after a party to which she was not invited, but instead as part of the celebration. The food keeps its appeal—perhaps even has more appeal because the viewer can know (unlike as is so often the case) that the vitals are real.

Bon Appétit

The launch issue takes a look back. Now, “Best of the Year” issues lend themselves to a fair amount of stupidity silliness, and Bon Ap is not immune from the curse. The cover package reveals that “fish” (yes, just “fish”) was the “ingredient” of the year in ’07, and “french fries” was the “indulgence”—hey, I’m cool, I ate both those things last year! Once or twice at the same meal. The new feature-well also seems overly formatted, though that may be because it’s all turned over to the cover package. Next issue there may be some new tricks up their sleeve.

Bon Appétit

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