Can a serious font succeed?

After declining sales and declining standards with Conor McNicholas at the helm, the NME has undergone a major facelift and an editorial repositioning under the direction of Krissi Murison. The new editor of one of the music world’s legendary publications certainly talks the talk, as evidenced by a great interview in Monday’s Guardian, but can the redesigned magazine walk the walk?

nme laura

It’s certainly a striking new look, whichever of the ten covers you happen to end up with, even if Laura Marling‘s drooping fag isn’t the greatest stylistic decision I’ve ever seen. Most of the ten are worthy cover stars (Kasabian can piss off though) even if I’d have been a little more impressed if someone like Marling had got the cover in a normal week. Everywhere I went today, there were plenty of Florence, Jack White and Kasabian covers but less of the others. To continue to use Marling as our example, I saw one copy across a massive city. Still, I’m being picky.

The new main font is best described as ‘serious’ and, whisper it, it does bring back a few memories of the ill-advised and short-lived Q redesign from eighteen months ago. In Monday’s Guardian piece, Murison talked of focus groups wanting the NME to be "heavyweight." I can’t help wondering if that, rather simplistically, played into the font choice. That said, I think it looks rather nice, if not especially urgent. Pages seem simultaneously airy and ‘busy’, deliberate space contrasting with little fact sections and overspilling reviews. The idea seems splendid, even if the initial execution is a little cluttered. The format for the ten features for the ‘State of Music Today‘ piece is excellent: simple, clear and easy to read. It looks authoritative, informative and, unusually for the NME, like it’s designed with a slightly older reader in mind.

Praise be for the continued presence of the muso-baiting Peter Robinson and the reintroduction of a singles review. The redesigned news section is perfectly satisfactory, although the notion of a big piece on the big story, entitled ‘The Main Event’, is spoiled by it being yet another puff piece about The Libertines. Album reviews are now considerably less garish, though little else appears to have changed. ‘On The Road with…’ looks promising, a little like the main live review in Q where the journo has spent time with the act prior to the gig in question. All jolly entertaining stuff.

nme florence

However, while much of the effort seems to have been concerned with making NME a publication to take seriously, the letters page is a bit like Jonathan Ross‘ appearance at the Brits. For a start, it is trying far too bloody hard to be cool and, secondly, it might think it looks good, but it appears to have got dressed in the dark. We just want largely inane missives being ripped apart and mocked by a rotating collection of NME staffers. Putting ‘From’ and ‘To’ before each letter AND reply, is just rampant twattery. Oh, and just call it ‘Letters’ again, please. Sadly, nothing from Kinross in this week’s mailbag.

‘We Want Answers’ is now ‘Speed Dial’, which is a marginal improvement in name despite there being no discernable change in content. The usual ‘music that matters to me’ page is now called ‘Pieces Of Me’, while the ‘Talking Heads’ bit is basically the old section they got rid of that used to have a regular column by Mark Beaumont in it. Only without Mark Beaumont in it, sadly. But with Kate Nash guest writing this week, even more sadly. ‘What Rock’n’Roll Has Taught Me’ has been binned in favour of entertaining quiz feature, ‘Does Rock’n’Roll Kill Brain Cells?Johnny Marr is a fine first contestant and this does have the potential to dig up some cracking anecdotes from music royalty.

In conclusion, it looks largely lovely and I genuinely believe that Krissi Murison is capable of great things as NME editor, having already improved things greatly in recent months. The change is not as massive as you might be expecting and a lot of it seems to hinge on a typographical shift, but it’s nice to see someone aiming high. How many of these changes will still be in place in six months? Who knows, but there’s plenty there to enjoy and if you’ve not purchased for a while, now might be the time.

From: Just Played
To: NME

Good work. But, next time you put Laura Marling on the cover, wait till she’s finished her cigarette.

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One thought on “Can a serious font succeed?

  1. Yikes! That’s the first time I’d seen the Florence cover. Looks like I’ve just spilled her pint and she’s going to set her Mastif on me after telling me to ‘do one’.

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