Future Magazines!

Well, I officially live in the future now. In the airport waiting for the plane ride home from spring break, I bought the recent version of Vogue to flip through. And by flip through, I mean flip through on a screen, because I bought it on my iPad! It did take quite awhile to download on the airport wifi, and in fact it was only thanks to a flight delay that I managed to download it all. I spent hours in flight reading the articles and looking at pictures, like always, but also on checking out what Vogue has done to bring its beautifully designed print magazine into the digital world.

In general I was impressed with how well Vogue has created a very nicely laid out digital magazine, which worked well in both horizontal and vertical layouts. I do think that they could take more advantage of the new digital medium though, both to create new ways to interact with the content and also to enable some of the traditional interactions with a physical magazine. Below are my observations in more detail.

Suggestions for Improvement:

  • DOG EAR: I found myself wanting to bookmark pages to return to. Not just to mark the place I left off, but more to mark my favorite images or articles. With a physical magazine I dog-ear probably a dozen pages that have either a look I like, or something I want to look up later on the internet or show a friend, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to do that with the digital version.
  • MAGAZINE CLIPPINGS: Similarly, one of the great things about a magazine is the ability to cut out an image or tear out a page, either to collect, show someone, perhaps even collage. It would be great if Vogue provided someway to clip images, say pin them to Pinterest. Or have a way to create a collage of your favorite looks, like the new app Mixel.
  • DANGEROUSLY EASY: I think Vogue is losing a great opportunity by not linking pictures, especially advertisements, directly to items in store websites. Other apps, like the Anthropologie app, are already taking advantage of the ability to put links anywhere on the page to make it dangerously easy to buy something you like the look of.

Job Well Done:

  • INTERACTION: For their article on antidepressants Vogue opened with an image of carefully arranged pills in a variety of shapes and colors. As you looked at it, some of the pills slowly appeared and disappeared, adding a pleasing little detail that was enjoyable to notice and experience for a minute. Unlike old blinking advertisements that were some of the most annoying visuals to ever come to a screen, the slower speed and subtlety of this image were enjoyable, and a smart use of the new capabilities available to designers. Although I don’t think it’s appropriate for every page, I do wish they’d used details like that more.

  • While less of a delightful detail, I thought it was smart of them to include a few embedded slideshows in their article on the Ritz Paris. It enabled them to include additional pictures and captions without cluttering up the page. However, I did get a little confused about what I was supposed to click in order to go through the images, so that interaction could be made a little bit more intuitive.
  • LAYOUT: I was impressed with the wide range and versatility of page designs that seemed to effortlessly switch from horizontal to vertical orientations. Vogue had a wide variety of layouts, with plenty of pictures from full bleed photographs to smaller images with cut-out backgrounds. In some of the image heavy layouts, they had the text in a single narrow column that scrolled while images on page were pinned in place (with a small word to indicate the scrolling interaction).
Horizontal Layout
Vertical Layout
  • TYPOGRAPHY: In general the type was clean, elegant, and on brand. The beautiful crispness is of course thanks to the iPad 3’s beautiful display, but it does add a sense of elegance. The crispness was lost a little bit in the advertisements, but I assume that was due to image quality that was kept as low as feasible to keep the file from being even bigger than its current .4 gigs. I liked their use of a variety of drop caps to add variety to the typography. On the other hand, I liked that they had section headers that stayed in the same place and size throughout the magazine in both vertical and horizontal layouts, which added a nice continuity. I’m definitely curious as to how they make all these layouts.
  • NAVIGATION: In general I thought their method of navigation worked pretty well. In addition to small indicator words for scrolling, a few full page layouts that were perhaps less obviously scroll-able had a well placed arrows that matches the ultra light sans serif to help indicate when a scroll was needed. For many of the longer articles the scrolling snapped to specific page breaks instead of having unbroken scrolling. The overall method of navigation was to flip from one story to the next by swiping sideways, and to flip through the pages in a story by swiping up and down. It makes sense, but it’s also so ingrained to flip a page sideways that I often found myself accidentally switching stories when all I wanted to do was flip pages.