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New York Magazine — Mini Analysis

May 23, 2012

Am starting once again to think about magazines and how they’re constructed, which I’ve tried a few times in the past but haven’t really perfected in school.

Started looking at New York Mag, which is probably my favorite magazine design — really loose, always legible, and fun.

It’s tough! It’s definitely a tricky one.

Because it’s late, and they actually have a million rubrics, I only looked at three sections.


Front of Book. 

I know this fancy terminology from Kate. Sorry for the poor quality of this photo!

What can we see here:

  • same text
  • lines on sides of text, between column
  • heavy bar on top
  • white space on top where the title goes

Crucially, all front of book stuff has these features, even if it’s not squarely in the “Intelligencer” format:

(I know it’s front of book because of the contents page.) Looking at this page is helpful as well, because you can see what stays the same: the space up on top, the heavy bar, and the titling of the rubric (“The Money”) (similar to “The Intelligencer” , though a different font.)

Some things differ — double lines separating the intro and the article and no lines on the outside. My guess is that since the intro is so long, they want to use double lines instead of the single line used for The Intelligencer? No clue about the outside lines — probably it would just be too much.


Kate’s terminology for the next section is the feature package. I have no clue if this is how NY Mag thinks of it, but  I am absolutely obsessed with NY Mag’s handling of its features so let’s look at this.

Basically, as I’ve long suspected, each feature has a resolutely separate style (expressed most clearly in its accent typography.) There’s the Ray Kelly article, big condensed all caps red (and b/w photography); Vapor article — with the black Helvetica (?) all caps and then the color pops; and then there’s the third feature which is a bit of an outlier as it seems to rely mostly on the illustrations to distinguish it (and falls back on NY Mag typography and the heavy bar) on top.

Still, the text is the same; the lines are there between the columns and and outside the text box.

Then there’s the reviews section:

The reviews of course confuse the whole thing — there’s no more lines between the column, all of a sudden, but the genre  (“books” “theater”) is boxed with a very thin line — comparable to the hairline between columns.


What have I learned?

  • Seems like ONLY the text face and the column grid is the fundamental thing keeping this thing consistent. Which actually goes tremendously far.
  • Columns are pretty flexible: seems like a 12 column grid, with 2 and 3 columns being the most standard ones. There’s a lot going on with the columns I’m not really sure I get yet, but it’s most advanced stuff.
  • Apart from that, each section has its own template with a few section-unifying characteristics
  • Section-internal characteristics are in a coherent language across the magazine I.e. the boxes of the reviews go graphically with the between-column lines; both of these go with the heavy bars.
  • Overall, it feels like there is a commitment to about 1/3 of each page not being text. There are text committed pages and the Review pages here are veering towards 40-50% non-text but overall, it’s about a third?

Okay. So that’s cool…. next “O”?



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