I’ll raise a hand here and say this is a subjective one, everyone likes something different. So, be something different! The art direction on Australian GQ is so clinical as to give the appearance of robotic overlords having taken control, operating on a paint by numbers basis.
In fairness though, British GQ has an ace up its sleeve; it’s called Jo Levin. Jo has been the magazine’s director of chic for a long time, and does it so well a book called GQ Cool was published a couple years ago, highlighting her best work which went a long way to making every person in the pages look like a bonafide superstar, even when all the person staring back at the camera had managed was an ungraceful early exit on Pop Idol. British GQ’s writers are extraordinary, but, with a picture being worth a thousand words and all, Jo Levin gives the magazine a hundred thousand more each issue.
Overall, the layout and art direction in GQ OZ seems more an after-thought than a seized opportunity to extend the brand’s visual identity. I don’t know GQ’s circulation, maybe it does indeed lose money each issue and is actually the poor cousin of the rest of the publisher’s stable. If that is the case then there’s no attempt going on right now to hide that, but I don’t think anyone is capable of mounting an argument that GQ should ever appear second best to anything.
Much like the Editor, the Art Director needs to take that vision of GQ and wash that through the magazine. If you need glasses to read and don’t have them handy, then the colours and shapes on the page should still feel like GQ, and currently it has all the passion of of a senior’s pharmaceutical brochure. All the words used to describe the clothes on display (crisp, fresh, modern) should be employed for the layout. This will forever remain subjective, but if I may employ the words of Malcolm X on a far more trivial matter than he had in mind, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”
Still to come: audience & competitors.
Image courtesy of Simon Pais-Thomas, with thanks to Flickr Storm.
Update: I wanted to link all five posts together for easy reference, so here they are.