Friday, 9 September 2011

How 4 magazines stuck to their core personality when responding to 9/11

If your best friend's personality dramatically changed, you'd get confused, maybe put off and perhaps stop seeing each other.

The same goes for magazines brands. Every magazine should have a unique and consistent personality, a voice through which it tells its stories. Editors and designers should treat these values with care, any modification could lead to an alienated readership.

The production of every element of a magazine should be dictated by its core personality traits. Tone, angle, design, story and picture choice should be led by a magazine's brand values, making it easier to decide what should and shouldn't be published. Translated to the point of sale, regular readers will be able to recognise the magazine quickly and new readers will understand what the magazine is all about immediately.

Understanding a magazine's core personality is vital when responding to extraordinary circumstances.Ten years ago I was living and working in New York as an art director for Popular Science magazine. Magazines responded to the attacks in many ways. Here I highlight how 4 titles displayed their core personality to present the 9/11 attacks in completely different ways.

Time produced a special one-off issue. Time is a news weekly and its cover reflects this. Lyle Owerko's image shows exactly what happened - the reality and horror of the plane crashing into the the South Tower at 9.03am.

The glossy celebrity monthly is an insider's view to the world of pop culture and current affairs. It puts celebrities on a pedestal and treats readers to lavish, superbly lit photographs by top photographers like Annie Leibovitz, Mario Testino and Herb Ritts.

Vanity Fair's quick reaction to the attack was a one-off special edition. Jonas Karlsson set up a temporary studio at ground zero and photographed the emergency workers in grainy black and white. A style that presented the workers as heroes, photographed in the same way Vanity Fair would present a celebrity in its pages

An intellectual weekly magazine that reviews, comments and satirises contemporary culture and current affairs. Every issue features an illustrated cover by a well known artist. The September 24th issue featured Art Spiegelman's silhouetted twin towers. A poignant homage to those lost at ground zero. At first glance the cover looks completely black, but on closer inspection the 5th colour black reveals the ghostly outline of the towers.

Launched in 1967 by Jann Wenner, Rolling Stone mixes rock music, politics, comment and culture from a left-leaning standpoint. The magazine is still heavily influenced by its owner-publisher, his personality runs though out each issue and he still signs off the magazine.

In the days after 9/11 many Americas started wearing a stars and stripes lapel badge to show their unity and patriotism. Jann Wenner was no different. Struggling to find a suitable cover image, Jann had his 'flag pin' photographed by Davies + Starr on a simple white background.

All four magazines stuck to their core values when responding to the world changing events of September 11th 2001.

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