The New York Times Magazine’s annual innovations issue arrives this Sunday, stuffed with big ideas ranging from planet-saving bugs to futuristic family reunions. The magazine’s crack design team took the theme to heart with an innovation of its own: an ambitious split run of four covers, each featuring a (gasp!) reimagined version of the Gray Lady’s famed blackletter logo. Design director Arem Duplessis graciously provided us with an advance look at the bold cover quartet, pictured here. Working with art director Gail Bichler and designer Sara Cwynar, Duplessis tapped a selection of design firms and individuals to overhaul The New York Times Magazine logo and matched them with Chris Nosenzo’s illustrations of four of the 32 “innovations that will change your tomorrow” featured in the issue. The “smart teeth” cover has a rinse-and-spit spirit, with a blurred-ink logo by Christopher Clark, while “power shirt” is partnered with the jaunty geometry of Non-Format. For “Cuddlebot,” Nosenzo’s robo-cat plays nice with Magpie Studio‘s fractal-shrouded caps, and “perilous play” finds its match in a playfully pixellated logo by Alex Trochut. Read on for our Q&A with Duplessis about this innovative cover project.
Is this the first time the magazine has (temporarily) overhauled the NYT logo?
Arem Duplessis: There have been tweaks over the years. In 1967 the paper’s former design director, Louis Silverstein, removed the period at the end of The New York Times logo. Apparently it caused a major uproar. Later down the line typographer Matthew Carter made some adjustments, but as far as I know, this was the first time the logo has been changed this significantly. Temporarily, of course.
How did you select the four participating firms/individuals?
We started with a large group of people we’ve always wanted to work with, maybe twenty firms/individuals, and then we narrowed it down to the eight people we felt would give us the best range and the most unconventional approaches. Our final group was pretty eclectic, it included an advertising agency, an interactive designer, a typographer, an illustrator, and several designers and studios with clients ranging from Coca Cola to Chanel. There were some pretty great ideas, four made the cover, and the others are featured in the interior. We’re also posting the submissions on our site, which will feature logos that were not seen in print.
What brief did you give the four participants?
We gave the participants a lot of freedom. The brief was that they should rethink the form and application of the magazine’s logo. This process could include the use of technology, found materials, an illustrative approach, or any other number of approaches. The only thing we didn’t want them to do is to take the existing logo and just tweak it a bit, there had to be an idea behind it and or it had to look different. The goal was for the logo to announce to the reader that we are experimenting, we’re rethinking what’s possible with our cover and the interior.
Looking inside the issue, was there a particular “innovation” that caught your eye?
There are some great innovations in the issue, but my favorite has to be innovation #31: “Robopetting.” Petting a living animal reduces blood pressure, but our busy lives dictate way too much, including not having a pet. But have no fear, “smart fur” is headed to a store near you. With just a few inches of faux fur, which includes built in sensors that mimic the reactions of a live animal, you too can live a healthy life. Creepy but efficient.