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Haven’t We Seen You Here Before?

WWD reported this morning that creative director Richard Christiansen is leaving Radar and taking his entire art staff with him to form a new ad agency. To be honest, we’re a bit relieved. Christiansen is known for many things—his work on Colors, the award-winning ABC Carpet & Home campaign, etc.—but we started tracking him full-scale when Suede debuted last year with one of the boldest and most fun designs of any magazine we’ve ever seen. The mothership described it thusly:

A beauty and travel story showcases products floating in faux snow-globes; the calendar section is a photo of brightly colored pencils with events printed on them; the letters page is a bright green bulletin board mock-up with reader missives tacked to it; and Suzanne Boyd’s editor’s letter pops out of typewriter that looks like the lovechild of Emilio Pucci and Jackson Pollack.

The visual language of Suede was feminine and urban and completely original, and we were in love. Christiansen’s work on the most recent issue of Radar, however, has trouble rising above the level of pastiche—a problem which seems to plague the entire magazine. Kurt Andersen, sounding particularly disappointed in his New York review, has already called Radar “a wholly recursive exercise in recombinant magazine-making” and a “sampled and remixed cover version of another magazine,” taking pains to point out Radar‘s appropriation of Spy‘s famed floating photographic heads. But Radar‘s design borrows far and wide, from sources that extend from Andersen’s own turf (New York‘s undulating “Intelligencer” collages ) all the way to ELLEgirl (slanted cover text, masthead, and editor’s letter). (Click to enlarge)

Perhaps the first issue of Radar would have worked as a cultural commentary if it was obvious Roshan and Christiansen knew they were cribbing from their contemporaries. (We would have especially liked to see even more inspiration from ELLEgirl, with Chris Tennant confessing things like “When we’re working late, we make paper dolls” and Mim Udovitch revealing her fave nail polish picks). But as it is now, the design seems lazy.

Like Andersen, we are withholding final judgment on Radar, as it’s unfair to judge a debut (remember the first episode of Seinfeld?) However, we’re hoping that editor tweaks and a new vision will bring Radar to the heights to which it obviously aspires. (We’re intrigued by the news that the second issue’s cover was designed by George Lois.) And as for Christiansen, well, we can’t wait to see what’s next.

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