Mag+ vs The September Issue

I’m a fan of BERG, and so was excited to discover this video of Mag+, a digital magazine design concept they created for Bonnier. BERG’s Jack Schulze talks about what people like about printed magazines… things like the of significance the cover (and our long-term memories associated with them), the sense of completion when done with the magazine, and the balance between text and images.

And they’ve developed a great looking demo. The video shows the prototype magazine in use in a variety casual settings. The UI dismisses cliche’s (like the page turn transition), and strives to be something new and digitally relevant, while holding on to traditions that make magazines appealing.

But, In the end, I don’t think their concept truly captures the spirit of magazines. It feels much too structured. They show a fixed-layout approach — that lacks the graphic and structural diversity and flexibility that print magazines offer. And the concept doesn’t address interactivity of content at all. But it’s a thought-provoking attempt at a very difficult problem.

It may seem unrelated but… this past weekend I rented The September Issue, a documentary about Vogue magazine’s editor, Anna Wintour, and the production of their September 2007 issue. Seeing all the work that went into the issue’s editorial was inspiring — giving me a new perspective on fashion and what that magazine does. And, I was amazed at the physicality of their process. It wasn’t clean or digital. Instead, it was a jumbled (but very organized) mix photos, layout walls, stacks and stacks of inspiration images, and binders of collaged photos, text, post-its, and hand-written notes. This production process comes across in the printed magazine, too.

As digital designers work to re-invent magazines, we should look to the editorial and creation process for inspiration. Not only does it offer a wealth of untapped back-stage content, but it contains the seeds for what the UI should be. Digital magazine UIs shouldn’t be a one-size, one-design, fits-all solution — but something far more flexible. They need to embrace the diversity of content, and experiences, that magazines offer.

The September Issue