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All-Star Design

According to 26% of average car buyers claimed a magazine article, versus only 9% from a web site, would influence them in their CAR BUYING decision. 26% isn’t a big number in the grand scheme, but it does lend credibility to the automobile magazines. However, purchasing a car isn’t the only reason to pick up a car magazine; there are articles for the enthusiast, political issues, and editorials. Also, there is some good graphic design to be found.

The Automobile Magazine February 2009 issue has its annual all-star article where they name there top ten favorite cars for sale in the U.S. The design of this article is clean and crisp. The magazine is about cars, and as Jean Jennings, former editor and contributor, states, “We’re for cars. Big cars. Small Cars. Fast cars. Fun Cars. We’re for cars.” The layout of the all-stars article is a bold combination of text and high contrast photos that convey the look and performance of each car as a whole, something neither text or photographs could do alone.

Most spreads contain a dominating photo that spans both pages and a short explanation on why each vehicle was chosen. The layout is consistent for all pages except the cover, which varies only slightly. The common traits are black margins at the top and bottom, with a paragraph of black text over top a photograph. The cover page has the deck and headline placed over the image, with the headline cropped slightly by bottom black margin. The photo fills in all the space between the margins, and the folio in knocked out of the corners. The remaining pages have the headline repeated in the top margin, in smaller text, that is slightly cropped by the photo.

Black margins direct the viewer’s attention to the dramatic art. The text, though superprinted on the image, doesn’t distract, in part due to the high contrast of the photos, its size, and the limited amount used. It is strategic placement over a high key area ensures legibility. Another appealing touch is a series of white dots that break up the tension of the black margins. They add the slightest bit of contrast that balance and unite the images and margins. The headline repeated on each page, while unobtrusive, is not totally necessary since the layout is continuous throughout the article.

What raises the quality of the article presentation is the quality of the photos. There is a sense of passion that the high contrast photos convey, similar to Caravaggio’s use of chiaroscuro. Dramatic and bold the photos convey the thrill of driving the finest automobiles in America.

Consistency is a strength of this article’s design, especially when viewed as part of a whole. The font used for the headline, body text, and specifications, while different from each other are consistent with the design layout of the other articles in the magazine. This demonstrates that while choosing an all-star is serious business, Automobile magazine takes all of its articles seriously and conversely, by treating all of its articles seriously it lends credibility to their all-star picks.

This is successful design and functions far beyond making the information presented intelligible; it enhances the stature of the articles contents. With design like this I would hope that it also helps sell magazines, which is to the future benefit of Automobile Magazine readers.