Designed To Be Wanted

October 24th, 2007 | brainjuice

A magazine is a thing that must be designed to be wanted. That statement includes within itself postmodern approaches that create discourse on the notion of being designed to be wanted.

The crass extreme is The National Enquirer (ABC circulation = 1,063,470), the ultimate tabloid, its hideous logo tilted towards the right edge of the page, urging you to keep turning, bold headline typefaces screaming its gossipy bullshit. At the other pole is Granta (anywhere between 46000 and 80000), a chilled object of sophistication, there to be scattered on a coffee table, thence to become part of a minimalist white block, a design object on your shelf.

i-D Magazine, with its famous “wink” portrait covers, at once put-on and come-on, seducing with its knowledge of The New Scene and yet laughing at its transience. The Arts & Crafts conceits of The Believer, the subtle comedy of the covers, balancing hipster here and intellectual there.

These are things that are designed to be wanted. We are supposed to get pleasure from viewing and handling these objects. Things that are designed to be wanted do the job of drawing our eye to them on the newsagent’s shelf. And that’s the key.

Subscription sales are great, but they’re almost a closed system. To survive, new accounts must constantly be injected into it. And that chiefly happens through people finding a magazine on a rack and thinking, yes, I’d like to have this, and wouldn’t it be nicer if it was delivered straight to my house?

(There are other ways, obviously. I’m talking about this one.)

It starts with the magazine as object of desire.

Which makes sense in the context of the broader discussion, because science fiction is a literature of desire.


3 Responses to “Designed To Be Wanted”

  1. […] months ago, I was talking here about sf magazines. One of those posts was called “Designed To Be Wanted”. It’s something at which the sf magazines largely fail, and an illustration of such came […]

  2. […] made a comment today on his blog comparing the artwork on a couple of different magazine covers.  Warren Ellis has recently been on about cover design as well.  So I thought today, I’d look at the latest […]

  3. […] did not make me want the magazine. Warren Ellis’s words that magazines are objects that are designed to be wanted ring in my brain every time I see a new rag on the shelf. Anything with the words […]