I did not join the chorus of designers calling for D. Scott Davis’s head on a pike when his company redesigned Paul Rand’s UPS logo in 2003. Designers produce—for the most part—ephemera: ads, news, and information—stuff that has a useful life, ages and is replaced. The sentiment in favor of a classic is understandable, but a logo is a tool, not a monument. I doubt Rand believed his logos would be as useful in the 25th century as they were in the 20th.
While I find too much reverence for the ghosts of design past a little hard to take, nevertheless, Kimberly Crofts over at Publication Design makes a few good points about the current Esquire cover, which riffs off of a George Lois original. She describes the new version, which is one of several this year meant to celebrate the magazine’s past as tasteless. I wouldn’t go nearly as far as that, but it is a sad if unintentional comment on the state of the contemporary newsstand cover. What had been, in Lois’s hands a wry visual take on contemporary culture is reduced to satire, cheesecake and affectation.
I am a fan of the current Esquire design, but editorially, their past is quite a bit better regarded than their present is likely to become. They would have done better to “tribute” Lois by producing a cover of substance rather than sex and celebrity.
George Lois, who is quite a bit less charitable about the state of the newsstand come-on than I am, talks about cover design in Designing Magazines, the book.
Lois’s original from 1965
The current cover, May 08