This may be odd for an avid photographer, but I am far more interested in magazine illustration than magazine photography. Probably because of the sameness of so much editorial photography, especially in university magazines that can’t afford the more creative shooters out there. For years I have harbored a dream of an all-illustration magazine — no photographs. It won’t happen at Johns Hopkins Magazine, where the art director would probably walk off the job, and if she didn’t shoot me, any one of a dozen Baltimore photographers would. Even the ones I consider friends.
But thanks to that smart bunch at Dog Ear Consultants, also known as Mo Harmon, Dan Morell, and Patrick Kirchner, I can indulge my illophilic fantasies on the website of Herself, a fashion magazine with no photography. Nada, zilch, bupkus. No pics, only illustrations. I think what they’re doing is fabulous.
The magazine as a form has existed for hundreds of years and has been wildly successful. And some magazines have kept that same form for hundreds of years and been wildly successful. Why do we need to reinvent the wheel?
Because there’s value in creating unique products. And not only because, as creative professionals, we’re all special little snowflakes and we need to be seen as such, but because being unique has value to our readership. Your schools have a distinct ethos to them. Your alumni are makers, problem-solvers, healers, or aesthetes. You need to make a magazine with content and structure that speak to those things that make your institution what it is.
But, again, that’s the hardest part. The big ideas aren’t easy. But if you are sitting there thinking, “Great, but there are no new ideas left in magazine publishing—we’re all simply refining the past,” then we’d say, “You can’t smoke those clove cigarettes indoors, bub,” and then we’d have you take a look at this.
And then they link to the fashion mag.
Stanford Medicine used to do this thing I always wanted to imitate. They’d dedicate much of their feature well to a theme, with two or three linked stories, and turn the whole package over to a single illustrator to do the art for all the stories. I loved it. The science quarterly Nautilus comes close to my dream, with minimal use of photography.
Someday. When I have my own magazine, maybe.