Designed To Be Wanted

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.