The Beauty of a Snarky Jab: Spy at Twenty


A great review from Print this month of the new book, Spy: The Funny Years. It’s by Michael Musto, one of the people who Spy magazine, blessed be its long departed soul, would occasionally pick on from time to time — so he’s got great insight as to why the magazine still remains such an important milestone in publishing and, well, let’s say, tone. Where did all this snark come from that you read nearly everywhere (we’re looking at you, blogs)? Well, it was around before hand, but Spy made it cool and certainly changed the culture to deem it necessary. Musto also talks about the book from a design standpoint, talking about how it influenced so much of what you see today:

A board game posing as a magazine, Spy was always packed more tightly than Joan Rivers’s face. It overflowed with charts, lists, floating photos, and maps, all cramming minutiae into your brain while at the same time challenging you to absorb every column inch. As Steven Heller writes in the chapter on the magazine’s look, “Spy’s design prefigured the Web in terms of the multiple entry points and levels of information.” And it was classy — mainly because, as the magazine’s first art director, Stephen Doyle, explains, “The serif type, the letter spacing, all this 20th-century publishing history that went into it gave it the authority it needed to be as sarcastic as it was.”