Vice Magazine Redesign

The redesigned Vice Magazine is an informative, dynamic package of news, entertainment and retina-searing imagery, blurring the line between the linearity of print and the randomness of the web.

Vice is often described as akin to being punched in the face. With the redesign of the magazine, we aimed to refine that analogy. A punch in the face is painful and shocking but it’s also over quickly—we feel that Vice Magazine can comfortably deliver that punch in the face, but also leave a lasting impression.

The main tenet of the new design is the rhythm and story pacing we brought to life in this magazine’s pages. In a flash of lightning and creative brilliance, we realized that the magazine should emphasize a polarity of views and ideas, and have its loud and quiet moments, not unlike a Pixies song.

We used this idea of contrasting tones not just in graphic design, but also in how we structure and editorially present content—by grappling with the extremes from either side of the spectrum, rejecting mediocrity and banality. This dichotomy is evident when, in the same issue, we publish work from established artists with agency representation like Bruce Gilden, as well as photos by emerging artists like Rose Marie Cromwell. This same loud/quiet principle is at work when we contrast long-form, narrative writing with short, informative articles, eschewing run-of-the-mill content that neither informs nor substantiates.

The Vice philosophy of editorial design remains unchanged: keep it honest. We choose not to over-stylize the design or editorialize too much, because the content speaks for itself and the new design works to facilitate and enhance that message. We treat the subject matter without passing judgment, and tread carefully to not denigrate the subjects or make fun of them. In this case, we kept our irony in check when showing pictures of chador-clad Somali women on the beach. Back to that aforementioned dichotomy—in the same issue, we also show pictures of young Americans on the beach, not wearing chadors—in fact not wearing much at all, the theme of the photo shoot being “Tan Lines”.

We needed a new way to visually support Vice's strong editorial voice, so we created a new exciting custom font, Vice Gothic, designed by Elizabeth Carey Smith from Vice Gothic is our new workhorse, its ultra weight supplementing and building upon Trade Gothic, while adding unique identifiers in forms of alternate characters and ligatures. The magazine's typographic toolkit was further enhanced by the addition of the geometric sans serif font Proxima Nova by Mark Simonson and the modern slab serif font Sentinel by Hoefler & Co. For all you type nerds, our choice of Sentinel, besides it being a wonderful, versatile reinterpretation of Clarendon, is a subtle nod to our past when we used LinoLetter Black as the main headline font.

The front of the magazine was reconstructed to be more informative and dynamic than ever, with an expanded news section consisting of infographics and short, punchy articles. As we are aware of an ever-shortening attention span, we complement stories with illustrated factoids that help with scannability.

The feature well, with longer, multi-page articles was redesigned to further reflect the loud/quiet concept. Like a Norwegian spa for words and pictures, there are distinct treatments for different types of stories. For example, quiet, contemplative stories like fiction excerpts now receive more room and generous margins for the words and pictures to breathe, while loud, expressive stories that need to speak up now have devices like sidebars and pull-quotes that help break up the information into impactful chunks.

The redesign was influenced and informed by the changing landscape of today's media. Experience has taught us the power of the story, regardless of how it's consumed—on paper or on screen. On the new pages of Vice, we'll still take you to that weird, sketchy part of town, but we promise not to let go of your hand—squeeze hard!

Oh, and you can see all of this (and more) in the glorious retina-searing clarity of the tablet version of Vice Magazine. Come to the light!

Review: Apology—Winter 2014 Issue

Apology is unapologetic in its mission to introduce you to the most eccentric people, show you the most intriguing art and tell you the most interesting stories you’ll never forget.


Jesse Pearson, the man behind Apology, has an amazing ability to take lofty intellectual concepts and present them in a way that bypasses academia’s circle jerk, making them accessible and interesting for everyone. He’s an outsider crashing a society mixer and he wants you to come with and piss in their highballs. For example, take his dilemma about whether Apology is a magazine, a literary journal or simply “a very fancy punk zine”, followed by musings on whether referring to oneself as “punk” when one is nearing the age of 40 is “sad or noble?”. 

Apology the magazine, is the size and shape of a literary journal, so you are right to expect some serious long-form writing. It's not just words though—Apology is bursting with photos and illustrations strategically spread throughout its pages. 

However, the layout of the first photo portfolio, 11 New Photos by Daniel Arnold, had me fuming with anger. Photos are turned on their side in alternating clockwise and counter-clockwise fashion, so if you’re looking at one of the photos on the spread, the other is upside down, forcing you to turn the whole book around. Maddening, and it turns out, completely intentional. In the Editor’s Notes, Jesse explains how he likes “imposing on (me), the reader, the masturbatory tactility of having to turn this object around and around in (my) hands. Really.” 

After a few enjoyable pieces of fiction writing, including Amie Barrodale’s I Need a Doctor, I arrived at the insanity that is the replica of Aaron Cometbus’s board game Suckcesspool. In spite of it being entirely about local trivia from Pensacola’s punk scene, I would much prefer to sit with Kevin O’Leary at his Muskoka cottage and burn this, and all other board games, in a bonfire while sipping on some exquisite wine and laughing diabolically.

Next up is the article The Princess Diaries, which has one of the best designed opening spreads I have seen in a long time. It consists of a picture of the sculpture titled Princess, a 1915 work by Constantin Brancusi, a shiny, golden dildo which supposedly represents a princess craning her neck to look at her own reflection in the mirror, contrasted with two quotations about woman’s needs, one by Sigmund Freud and the other by Spice Girls, side by side. Pure genius.

Towards the orgasmic end of the magazine, there is a huge, throbbing, art portfolio titled Apologetic Climaxes, with works by classical and contemporary artists matched to hilarious effect. Witness some pairings below. 

Aurel Schmidt’s Lettuce Vag (2013) and Al Held’s Echo (1966)

Guido Reni’s Apollo flaying Marsyas (1620-25) and Sandy Kim’s Titty World (2013)

Michelangelo’s Dying Slave (1513-1416) and Linder Sterling’s Glorification de l’Élue (2011)

If all this great content is not enough to make you subscribe to Apology, the subscription page makes a very compelling argument. Apology is “cool”, smells good, will get you laid, and it’s just $, after all. You’ll receive a little package in the mail that is guaranteed to make you think some of the weirdest and most interesting thoughts you never thought you would have.

WEBSITE: Apology
BUY: Apology and Stockists
PRICE: $18
MEDIA: Print
FREQUENCY: Quarterly, or whenever Jesse feels like it

Next Issue—the next big thing for magazines?

With a bit of thought and elbow grease, Next Issue can become a real contender in the digital newsstand game. By offering only the best, it manages to cut through the noise of Apple's Newsstand, but the end product fails to match the promised quality.


Next Issue is an app that offers all-you-can-read magazines for a flat monthly fee. Five major US publishers (Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp. and Time Inc.) started Next Issue a few years ago, hoping to provide an alternative to Zinio and Apple's Newsstand. The service was made available in Canada in October 2013 by Rogers Media, offering access to 100 of the most popular consumer magazines for $9.99/month, or $14.99 for the same 100 monthly titles plus 15 weeklies. 

I started my Next Issue subscription with mixed feelings—I wanted it to be good, but I was preparing for the worst. At best, I hoped that the platform would offer a better experience than Newsstand, making some sense of the hundreds of magazines sorted only in the most general of categories. It turns out that my hope was  fulfilled, but not because of some radical new approach or fantastic new algorithm, but simply due to a limited selection of available magazines. I was here to download the latest Wired, not "Leisure Painter – The UK’s best-selling learn-to-paint magazine", or “iWeekly 周末画报 for iPad". No disrespect to either of those titles; it's just that I am not now, and probably never will be, interested in them.

At the first launch of the app, I was asked to choose my magazines from a full list of all 115 available titles, each represented by a fairly large thumbnail image of the current cover. Scrolling through an alphabetical list of 115 magazines may seem daunting, but it's actually quite the opposite. It's even kind of fun, since you know that the list is finite and that each magazine comes with a certain standard of quality, guaranteed by these large publishers. 

It was easy to make my first selections—I picked 12 magazines to start with, listed in the table above. If I were to subscribe to the same 12 magazines on Apple's Newsstand or individually through the publisher, it would cost $281.88, as opposed to $179.88 for a premium subscription from Next Issue. Clearly, Next Issue offers superior value for avid magazine readers.

Here is where the line gets a little blurred. See that last column on the right, the one that says either "digital replica" or "interactive"? That's going to be the key to Next Issue's ultimate success or failure. Out of 12 magazines I downloaded, only five had interactive editions, meaning that the print content had been redesigned specifically for tablets. Others were simple digital replicas (or page-flippers)—which is a glorified term for a straight-up PDF of the print magazine, shrunk to tablet size—an utterly useless thing. 

This is a picture of the same Bloomberg Businessweek article as it appears in the digital replica and as it appears in print. The print magazine opens on a two-page spread and only works if both pages are seen at once, whereas the tablet displays only one of the pages at a time. If you were to see just the left-hand page, you would be stuck guessing about who or what is on the other side of that speech bubble, and you would be justified in thinking that it was SpongeBob or some other creature from Bikini Bottom, not a surfer taking a selfie with a GoPro.

In Rolling Stone, another digital replica, I was interested in reading a story about Sleater-Kinney/Portlandia's Carrie Brownstein. I really was interested and I tried really hard to read it, but I had to give up because of all the work that's required to make the printed page legible on my tablet. The constant pinching, panning and having to move my fingers out of the way. Reading words is hard enough, right? Well, this is like being waterboarded with them.

As it stands, I am still undecided about whether I'll keep or cancel my Next Issue subscription. If all 12 of my selected magazines had proper interactive editions, it would be an easy decision, but I have no use for digital replicas, at least not until print magazines start designing all articles as single pages with body text set in 16pt type or until I have a tablet that matches the size of a magazine spread. Which might just be around the corner.

WEBSITE: Next Issue
APP STORE: Next Issue App

PRICE: $9.99- $14.99/month
PLATFORMS: iOS, Android, Windows 8

Review: Toronto Life, March 2014

After wallowing in digital replicas, Toronto Life puts on its big boy pants and gets the iPad edition right. You can hate Toronto Life’s unabashed elitism but you’ll love its journalistic excellence.


This issue marks the reboot of Toronto Life’s tablet presence. Up until now, all they had was a clumsy Magazinecloner page-flipper digital replica, but they finally launched a proper interactive digital edition designed specifically for the iPad. 

Full disclosure: I have a love and hate relationship with this magazine—I hate its elitism and pretense, but I love its journalistic excellence and integrity. I realize that the rest of Ontario and the rest of Canada would be perfectly happy to leave it at “I hate Toronto Life and Toronto in general”, but they’d be missing out on some excellent features that really are more focused on “Life” than on “Toronto”.  

As we should expect, within the first few pages we find a link to a viral Rob Ford video on YouTube, the Jamaican patois one. The accompanying editorial commentary is opinionated, but seems to be mostly compassionate and is gratefully restrained and pretty mild when compared to the vitriolic writing in other Toronto-centric liberal media such as the Star, blogTO, Now and Grid. This is a pretty solid example of Toronto Life’s journalistic integrity, whose editors chose not to stoop to the lowest lows that seem to be the norm when discussing Rob Ford, an easy target if there ever was one.

Speaking of lows and highs, this section also features Toronto’s Ego Meter, which is re-imagined as an interactive infographic. It turns out that the biggest ego boost this month was Drake hosting Saturday Night Live, and the biggest ego bruise was the 10.1% jobless rate, second worst amongst all other Canadian cities. Ouch.

So, according to the Ego Meter, Toronto was both vain and lazy this winter, which to me is quite understandable, considering the ice storm of the century, covered in great depth in this month’s issue. The opening page uses a neat trick that is an interesting change from the usual small button that’s placed somewhere on the page that you have to “tap to read more”. The full-page photo is partly obscured by a box containing the headline and intro that you have to close to see the full photo. This works so much better—there is just about the right amount of information in this box that can be easily digested without it getting in the way. 

The rest of the article has some stunning photographs from the storm aftermath, combined with six great stories like giving birth by flashlight, being trapped in an apartment and having a 1,500 pound tree crashing through the roof. This article was a particularly compelling read that I could easily relate to because I also have a story from the ice storm. I was nearly crushed by a 10-foot tree branch encased in ice that come crashing down from the top of the giant oak next to my house. The power had been out for few days and seconds before this branch came down, I was standing in the backyard stringing a power cord from my neighbour’s house. That’s Toronto living for you—we have to be on the lookout 24-7!   

As is the case with the actual city of Toronto, a large part of Toronto Life magazine is devoted to food, culture and real estate, and the iPad format really works in their favour for these sections. Reading about Scotch eggs and other pub grub is that much better if the text is served with yummy food porn. The same goes for peeking inside other people’s homes, so rather than having to stare at thumbnails of someone’s living room, trying to make out what’s in that painting, you can now get an exclusive photo tour with large photos in great detail.

You don’t have to be a Torontophile to enjoy Toronto Life on iPad, a well-crafted app that manages to tell stories, inspire and show the best of big city living. It will find its way into your jaded heart.

WEBSITE: Toronto Life
BUY: Toronto Life (Interactive Edition) on the App Store 
PRICE: $5.99

Straight from the horse’s mouth: VICE Magazine Fashion Issue for iPad

Vice’s annual Fashion issue came out a few weeks ago. If you like fashion, sex, magnetic sketch pads and hairy women we made this for you.



Read about the iPad exclusives we included this month:


If you haven't seen it yet, right now would be a good time to download the iPad version here: