I'm sorry. I really tried to read every word of the redesigned Before & After magazine. But every time I turned to the next spread, my head started to ache shortly thereafter.
Where to look first?
What to read first?
I don't know!
What flow mechanism is there to direct my eye? A backwards "6" and later a "Z" were the flow mechanisms I learned. Neither is present on any of Before and After's pages.
This issue takes as its single theme the design of a "look" for a sporting goods reseller. Pages 2 and 3 jump right in with an explanation of the history, culture, and tradition of sports, along with sporting references to sight, sound, taste, character, voice, and touch (yawn). I finally decided this was to be a brainstorming exercise, but I'm not sure....
Pages 4-7 address type and logotype, and pages 8-13 cover style concept and designing print material and a web banner. Page 14 contains an obviously "planted" letter from a reader with a response doing little more than promoting the new Before and After. Page 15 contains a couple of tips, one a step-by-step how-to -- but nothing like we were used to seeing in B&A.
There do appear to be some good tips on each page, but I didn't absorb them because I was so distracted by what else was going on. And the magazine severely overuses metaphors -- in image and text. B&A publisher John McWade explains:
I counted eight other direct metaphors that were IMHO too cutesy. And are such metaphors necessary? McWade defends this by saying:
Well, sorry, John. I don't agree. What designers have you been hanging out with?
On the back page, which obviously should be read prior to opening the magazine, McWade explains the revised B&A:
I was confused. Their site points out which parts of a spread are the index, narrative, and lab -- but shouldn't that be made clear in the magazine itself? And I didn't see any connection being made between what was said in the index and what was happening in the lab area.
OK, so you might be thinking I am resisting change. No...I'm always open to new ideas, but I don't understand where this magazine is now coming from and where it's headed. The prior 29 issues offered before-and-after examples and precise instructions on "How to design cool stuff," as the subtitle says -- suitable for all levels of designers and able to be applied to a variety of projects. Maybe the subtitle should be changed to "How to design cool stuff -- but first figure out what we are saying"!
Oh, and one more thing... Publication frequency is changing from 6 per year (when was that?!) to four per year (ha! we'll see!).
I'm sorry. This redesigned Before & After leaves me cold. And that's exactly what I said when I asked them for a refund on my remaining subscription of six issues. I used to anticipate the next issue of B&A, wondering what new effect I would learn to apply in Photoshop or what new design element to try in PageMaker. Now, I won't miss Before & After at all.
University of Missouri-St. Louis
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