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Art Direction, Magazines of Mystery

Teaism

05.21.08 | 1 Comment

Tea comes with a lot of visual associations, but from the Japanese tea ceremony to the silver tea set and tinkling of china cups, the common link is ceremony and elegance.

Little of that expected aesthetic is to be found in the current iteration of Tea: A Magazine, which uses typefaces, colors and grid erratically in its haphazard effort to honor the world’s favorite beverage. I often marvel at the magazines that focus in on single flavors: Cigar Aficionado, for example—maybe you like cigars, maybe you even love them, but do you really want to commit to receiving 1500 oversized pages about them in the mail every year? I don’t think my hot beverage of choice is worth reading about (Black Coffee: Just Drip, No Flavors Added Monthly just doesn’t seem like it it would garner any readers, but others, like Chile Pepper, which I had thought had folded is still going strong. It works as single-flavor glossy because it’s really more about how the chocolate pudding tastes with peppers, than the peppers themselves, and tea seem a topic equally lilkely to inspire content. CP looks, if not beautiful, then at least like what you’d expect it would: a menu for TGI Fridays. T:AM seems to cover tea’s various constituencies in its editorial mix, but the design is studied ugliness: goopy, clashing, pastel colors, out-of-the-box Quark Scotch rules, intersecting frames, and an excess of drop shadows and other type effects. There seems to be a smell of mothballs about the design—not Jasmine.

Sure, there are lots of glossies out there that are just out of sync with content as this one, but most of those have problems that go deeper than design. T:AM may not be editorially brilliant but it is finding a variety of stories around its narrow focus. It is a magazine you can look at and say that this could be a real honey.

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