Meanjin goes extreme makeover

Meanjin, one of Australia’s longest-running literary journals, was until very recently a small and serious-looking tome that sat incongruously in the magazine rack at bookshops. It looked like hard work. I say ‘looked like’ because I could never bring myself to buy it. But a recent foray into the bookshop revealed that Meanjin has changed – and thank the bejeezus for that. Suddenly it’s something I feel inclined to pick up and browse, nay read. It’s still small, but actually looks interesting. Perhaps even fun. We have Chase and Galley to thank for the design, some examples of which are reproduced here for your viewing pleasure, and editor Sophie Cunningham to thank for the editorial (and the new direction, bien sûr).

I voice a quiet protest, however, at the bewildering array of fonts and headers used. There are about six different body-copy fonts used and an equal number (or more?) for the headers, which are all quite nice, but create a sense of confusion and visual cacophony within the pages. Sometimes the fonts and headers are used to demarcate sections, like the fiction section, but then elsewhere they seem to be rather haphazard. I suspect the idea was to create a journal that looked accessible and cool, instead of textbooky, and I like this in theory. In practice I’m not convinced it works. What does work, though, are the double-page spreads with cute pics used to mark each new section (below). A nice touch.

But it seems not everyone likes the pics. Bill Perrett described them thus in the Age on Saturday: ‘Essays, fiction, poetry and so on are divided into discrete sections, each announced by a kind of kiddie-pop image – probably coolly ironic to those with eyes to see, but in danger of being mistaken for tweeness by the rest of us.’ I think we can safely rule out the ‘coolly ironic’ tag for these pics, since they in no way resemble Vice (a magazine that is so achingly ironic that it gives me brain pain to read it – aside from the hideous fluorescent colours and mandatory shots of trashed people semi-nude that grace its pages). That leaves twee – and hell, everyone knows twee is the new black.

:: Arwen ::



Filed under Books, New

6 responses to “Meanjin goes extreme makeover

  1. Simon T

    I really like the new design, it’s bold, hip and fresh. Having the ToC on the back page is brillant. Am glad that Sophie is not averse to overhaul its look. I don’t mind all the different fonts, as long as they are easy to read. I find some of the sans serif fonts a bit hard on my eyes. Another thing: the end of the sentences are too close to the page gutter. Sophie said they would increase the font size in the next issue and also make sure the gutter problem won’t happen again.

  2. Yeah, the ToC on the back is really great – you can refer to it easily and it looks good.

    I don’t like sans serif fonts in body copy… but I guess if the font size is increased it will at least make it easier to read.

  3. Simon T.

    Wait until you see the latest issue (2008 summer)…I think if I do something like that for Print Production, Stephen might fail me.

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  5. Simon, if you are referring to the second colour being too faint I agree there’s a problem. We’ll only be going with a bolder second colour in the future. And for reasons I’m not sure of some of the type is too faint. Again, it should be sorted by the next edition. The font size has increased on the essays, and the font for fiction has changed.

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