T: The Magazine That Doesn’t Want to Be

T: The Magazine That Doesn't Want to Be

design_spring_05.jpgIt’s been nearly a year since the Times magazine combined its style supplements and bound them together under the “T” logo. The mothership spoke with T editor Stefano Tonchi last year around the time of the launch, and Tonchi mentioned that part of the reasoning behind T was that readers weren’t making that necessary connection from “Fashions of the Times” to “Home Design,” and so on, and that T would create a stronger brand identity—as well as drawing many of the Times‘ star culture critics onto one masthead. If that was the sole mission of T, we certainly won’t begrudge them. As we flip through the issues, there are those starry bylines: Cathy Horyn, Pilar Viladas, Tyler Brule, Suzy Menkes. And we do think the gothic T logo elegantly does its job as a unifier.

But why is that we can barely drag ourselves through an issue of this magazine? We’re convinced that the look of the magazine is partly to blame, especially when you consider how much more appealing the online version of the magazine is. The Times has the money and the talent to make T a force to be reckoned with, but it seems they’re just wasting their resources. They’ve solved the problem of turning scattershot titles into a recognizable brand, but the design is so haphazard that it seems like whoever’s behind the wheel just doesn’t care.

T doesn’t have to be Dwell or even City. It doesn’t have to be porn for design or fashion obsessives. But reading it shouldn’t be such a challenging experience: The design should be more sensory, more intuitive, less schizophrenic. As it stands now, the photos are either too small, or so big they look like ads. The headlines are disproportionate. The edge of the type is too ragged. The text somehow overwhelms the page despite being nearly impossible to read. And in general, the magazine is too beholden to the orthodox aesthetic of the Times and the Times magazine to become any sort of player on its own.

The problem is mostly in the front of the book. This generic layout could be found in any tech or men’s magazine; this travel piece has the most unclean design we’ve ever seen, and it seems that the effect of white space wasn’t even a consideration. (Click to enlarge; apologies for the crap scans)

The magazine gets easier on the eyes as it goes. Spreads like this should happen more often:

Maybe it doesn’t matter. T, unlike most magazines, is unfettered by the whims of the newsstand. More than a million readers will see T even if it gets thrown out with the Old Navy inserts and the Automobiles section. Tonchi himself has said things like, “I’m not here to compete or play the games of W or Visionaire or Vogue or that kind of magazine.” But the thing is, we’re not graphic designers (though we’re also not blind)—we’re readers. And shouldn’t the magazine of the paper of record at least be a joy to read?