|Reid Miles (left) and the retro art redesign of Details magazine|
When art director Robert Newman arrived at Details magazine in 1998, the current editor Michael Caruso immediately decided on a redesign. The magazine at that time was read by 18 to 20-year-olds and had a skateboard graphic appearance. A downtown fashion style magazine, Details was acquired by Condé Nast and retooled as a magazine for young men. The readers abandoned by Rolling Stone and raised on cable television music videos.
Caruso told Newman he wanted more classic look that would appeal to readers in their mid-20s. A big fan of the Blue Note jazz record designs of Reid Miles, Robert took out his collection of the old 78 album covers and described his plan to use them as a point of departure in a retro art redesign.
The look of these albums describe the visual style and new way of life. "That look helped us crystallize the voice of the magazine," remembers Newman. "It was hard to tell where you were in the magazine" he says, “some sections and features weren't even in the same place every month. Michael wanted a more sophisticated architecture and the retro design of the Blue Note style fit the bill.
Newman adapted his blue note look for the section of the features in the magazine. You can see the cool jazz influence throughout the headlines and graphics. Type is stacked and stretched across horizontally and catches a pullout quotes seemingly cut with scissors all provide the feeling of the blue note record era. Materials organized in broadband and arrows in the black-and-white photos are tinted and cropped drastically all in the blue note style.
The spread for the best of 1998 (top right) combines all these effects with it is type in active visual point of entry. "We use Photoshop, but try to make it look like it was done by hand” says Newman. Newman's Details redesign had the hot energy of its target readership. One spread for the ska band the Mighty Bosstones (above) has a caffeine energy of the music itself. "To a certain extent, Details was a rock 'n roll magazine,” says Newman, "we didn't want it to be too cool and had to look like rock 'n roll. It can't be old men in suits looking sophisticated.”
Back then, the magazine relied on sophisticated surveys to quickly get back feedback from the readers, and this quick flowing instantaneous graphic approach was well-suited to this process. “This is the print counterpart to the visual stimulation of television,” remembered Newman. Can anyone find a redesign more perfect than Robert Newman's retro art approach in 1998?