The past fifteen years have been a period of extreme change in the world of print magazines. With the birth of the internet and its culture of free content, and the ever-spiralling cost of printing and paper, the landscape of graphic design journals has become a rapidly fluctuating scene, littered with casualties, inventive independents that defy traditional publishing models, and constant evolution. You only have to look at Grafik’s own trajectory for an example of this. But, as can be seen from Laurence King’s new book 100 Classic Graphic Design Journals, such flux is not just contained to present day. The book, which chronicles design publications from their beginnings in the nineteenth century as guides for professional standards for printing and typography to current titles, is packed with narratives of change and innovation, shaped by two world wars, internal and external political pressures and rapidly changing technology.
“Early graphic design journals are the missing link in the development of the cannon and its style,” claim authors Steven Heller and Jason Godfrey in the book’s introduction. “They are the historical records of both lasting and ephemeral method and madness.” In many cases this is very hard to argue with. Because of the commercial nature of advertising and graphic design, journals and magazines are often the only places you can find early projects documented, as creative work often fades into obscurity after a campaign has run its course. But Heller and Godfrey also argue that the design journal had a much more active role in the profession’s early days and was instrumental in defining what graphic design was before the term even existed. Key titles like the US’s The Inland Printer, which launched in the 1890s, introduced the print industry to new art movements like Art Nouveau (largely through showcasing the work of America’s first graphic designer Will H. Bradley, whose own magazine Bradley, His Book also features in the top 100 list), dramatically upping the standard of the print room’s output and shifting the view of the discipline as a necessary by-product to an autonomous practice in itself.