The Age of 'Reason'

Nick caught Erik as he was just coming off The Economist redesign, where he had spent over a year thinking about magazines and how best to present challenging ideas and strong opinions. Susanna was also free, just having finished a stint as head of New Media at Goodby Silverstein. We all met in Jane and my offices in Berkeley, and Erik, Susanna, and Nick really hit it off.

My "role" in the re-design? Nominal. I threw in my two cents every so often when I was asked, put Nick's publisher in touch with the print broker who really helped us at the start of Wired, and I ran off some of the early color page proofs on our color printer. Otherwise, it's been Nick, Erik, and Susanna's great collaboration.

Anything else that comes to mind?

Irony 1: Back at the beginning, Lanny Friedlander used Helvetica throughout the book for the hed and body text. He used Helvetica because it's the ultimate rational typeface, perfect for a magazine called Reason. By Reason's 25th anniversary, there was not a single word set in Helvetica in the issue. The re-designed Reason uses Erik's ultra-rational Meta, in both its hed and body faces. Reason returns to its roots.

Irony 2: Lanny Friedlander's Reason used bleeding-edge technology, and so does Nick's. The bleeding-edge technology in magazine production in the late 1960s was IBM's Compositor. It was a glorified Selectric typewriter that could generate columns of text, including Helvetica. It enabled one-man bands like Lanny to make credible magazines for no money. Nick's bleeding edge is that Reason is an entirely virtual magazine, created entirely in cyberspace over the Net. It has no editorial office; instead, its editor-in-chief is in Ohio, its layout artist is in Phoenix, its photo editor is in L.A.—and it was re-designed in Berlin and San Francisco.


Return to Cynthia Cotts's Press Clips column.

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