A Wee Study of Magazines

I noticed Monocle magazine, Cereal magazine and Kinfolk magazine in many of the new bookshops I visited this time in Beijing (February 2016). They seem to be popular there. Even more popular than in the UK which is interesting since the headquarters of Monocle is in London, Cereal is based in Bristol and Kinfolk’s main office is in Denmark. I wonder why.

Whatever the reason, quality magazines are celebrated in Beijing, as well as other printed publications. Print is definitely not dead.

I’ve been reading a reference book called Designing the Editorial Experience recently and it equips me to look at magazines in a new way. I discovered that my love of reading is partially a love of good editorial design – hence my “judging a book by its cover”, as well as by its accompanying pictures and illustrations, font type, size of page margin and paper texture etc.

I got three magazines back from Beijing this time, Lens, C’est si bon and With Eating.


– The Passion in Tranquil Corners (by China Citic Press)

CONTENT: This is a pretty new photography magazine. It’s packed with people’s life stories, accompanied by high quality photos. It has no photo-taking tutorials, camera equipment tests, competition or exhibition news. There are 180 pages made up of 7 stories focused on one person or one family, plus one collection of photos of 1915, with not a single advert. Each story is a full and in-depth narrative, ranging from about 10 pages to 30 pages. The content of the stories are not limited by time. In this sense, it’s more like a book.

One thing confusing is the credits. Some of the photos are not credited. Authors of the stories all have Chinese names which I presume are the editors or contributors of the magazine. But it’s not clear if the articles are interviews or translations. If it’s a translation, who is the original author? For a magazine focuses on photos and documentary-style articles, it seems to be a major and surprising issue.

DESIGN: Headlines are relatively long, sentence-like. No subhead. Headline and straight to body text. The body text is neat and clean, with one column, no pull quotes. I don’t like pull quotes. Of course it contains a lot of photos. The captions have clear connections to the images. Again no credits. The design through out the book is unified, but looks a bit plain and lacking in variation. The paper is relatively heavy, feeling like sketch book pages.

If pictures dominate a page, let the pictures speak and let the page be clean. That’s my preference. The hard thing is to have a mixture and still keep it pleasing to the eye. I’m not very good at it. Maybe I’ll be able to finish our wedding album when I master this skill. At the moment, the album is way to expensive since I only want one photo on each page…

A Study of Magazines

A Study of Magazines

A Study of Magazines


With Eating

– Men in the Kitchen Issue (by China Citic Press)

CONTENT: About food. I have to confess I decided on this issue purely because of its title. Men in a kitchen, tick…

DESIGN: Almost every headline is long and sentence-like. Maybe that’s the new trend? It has a category tag (“kicker”) and a subhead / lead-in (I can’t quite understand the difference). It has clear credits for photos and text. The body is in two columns. The images are varied in sizes. The captions and images are clearly connected. Some of the captions are quite long. It’s decorated with pull quotes. The design throughout the book is unified, but visually exciting with plenty variation and features. The paper is heavier and firmer than normal glossy magazines in the UK, and has a matte touch between fingers. Pretty unique.

The first thing I notice was the page margin. I like the fact that it’s smaller than usual. The text font size is quite small too. They’re some of the big differences I notice with this magazine. I decrease page margins only when I try to squeeze more text onto my CV. So instantly, I feel like the magazine has a lot to say. It gives me an impression that it’s really good value for money and it does take a long time to read.

A Study of Magazines

A Study of Magazines

An example for step by step instructions. A good balance of image and text. It’s for simple dishes I presume. It’s hard to fit Mary Berry’s cake recipes in this format, I imagine.

The pages have a layer of fine dust on them. Any idea why?


C’est si bon

– The Room of One’s Own (by Wocheng Company)

CONTENT: This one is published in Taiwan, on the subject of space of one’s own. It’s a monthly publication, and has an event calendar, recommendations of new books, films, music and market etc.

DESIGN: It has category tags. Headlines go straight into body text. No subheads, no pull quotes. Clear captions are indicated with a tiny diagram which I like. Clear credits with a small block of text introducing the author and the photographer. Some of the captions and credits texts are displayed top to bottom in traditional Chinese style, which is very rare in Mainland Chinese literature now. The identity is wholeheartedly Taiwanese.

On some pages the blank space is too big and photos are not big enough. But that’s just my preference. The inconsistent layout of the pages is my biggest problem. But that might be done on purpose. The structure of the magazine is like this, firstly, there are a few 2 to 3 page reports on recent events and random topics. They are mostly in two column format, apart from one article, which is a bit confusing. Secondly, a few Special Features. All three of them are in their own different types of page layout. Thirdly, the main focus of this issue: people’s home space. There are six articles on six homes, finally in a consistent format: top third of the page is for photos, middle third for photo captions and blank space, bottom third for text. Then fourthly, an essay on a road trip. Fifthly, day trips to a few different farms around Taibei. Sixth, three articles introducing local music and DJs. Lastly, art related recommendations by various people.

A bit confusing for me.

A Study of Magazines



About the photography.

This was the first time I took photos of magazines in this way. It was really hard work jumping up and down on chairs – I now understand why photographers stand on ladders and shoot things on the floor! I tried it with food before. But that was even harder because I was always hungry so couldn’t be bothered to do much styling.

It was done with daylight coming from my right with no artificial lighting – you can tell from the shadow. My mocha coloured wall cast some dark shadow on the top right corner. I didn’t use a tripod. My biggest problem (apart from health and safety) was there were no straight lines! I couldn’t make left page line up with right page. nor top with bottom. I wonder if people use iron or something to shoot perfectly neat photos? But I really enjoyed it.







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