From the Editor: Design of the Times

Next year, this magazine, the oldest city magazine in the nation, will celebrate its 100th birthday. When you’ve been around as long as we have, it’s easy to get complacent, or mired in your own history; you have to make sure you’re always moving forward. That’s why, in anticipation of our 100-year anniversary, I wanted to redesign the magazine. With this issue, we unveil our look for the 21st century, under the auspices of design director Michael McCormick.

When I first met Michael a little over a year ago, he had just returned from his first-ever trip to Los Angeles. “Oh my God,” he said to himself when he landed at LAX. “This place looks just like Los Angeles magazine!”
When Michael told me that, I was considering whether I should hire him; the anecdote sealed the deal for what has become a terrific partnership. It told me, first, that he’s an absolute freak when it comes to magazines: He lives, eats and breathes them. (When he’s not talking about magazines, he’s reciting the lyrics of show tunes, his other passion.) Second, it dawned on me that while I’ve always preached that our stories need to reveal the city to itself, I’d never sparked that conversation internally vis-à-vis how we look. We needed a redesign that updated our aesthetic yet also paid homage to our storied past — which, it turns out, is an apt description of where Philadelphia is right now: a modern city on the move, with a cherished history. So the issue became: How can we make our magazine look and feel like our town?

A year ago, that became Michael’s mission. He moved here from Indianapolis, where he was the award-winning art director at Indianapolis Monthly, and immersed himself in Philadelphia, with an eye toward capturing our ethos in design. “I quickly found that Philly is at a crossroads of sorts,” he says. “Walking to work, I’ll pass the Liberty Bell and a glassy new building that touches the sky. That tension of old vs. new is all around us. The rooted-in-family, Rocky Balboa-esque character is now standing on a street corner next to the hipster transplant from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Both are calling the city home.”

Michael argued that the magazine’s look should have the same tension. “The key word is contrast,” he told me. So he chose, for example, typefaces that have roots in newspapers and turn-of-the-century architecture to create a historical feel, and updated them with modern design accoutrements. The result is a clean, simplified look that harks back to the heyday of literary magazines like this one—but with modern twists throughout.
I believe Michael is at the forefront of a return to design in magazines that is classic, understated, and driven by the needs of you, the reader. You’re busy, and we’re humbled by the amount of time you spend with us each month. The least we can do is make the magazine as easy to navigate as possible, while still delighting you with our photography and type treatments.

This magazine would not hit newsstands each month were it not for the hard work of managing editor Ashley Primis, who makes sure copy actually gets out the door. But she’s also a talented writer and editor, particularly when it comes to food, given her stellar culinary background. (Before joining our staff, she was a cook at the Four Seasons’ Fountain Restaurant, under the great chef Martin Hamann.)
This month, in addition to writing for the Good Life and Taste sections, Ashley filled in for food editor April White, editing Maria Gallagher’s review of Tinto, Jose Garces’s new restaurant. April is writing a cookbook with Garces, to be published next year by Lake Isle Press, so she recused herself from any connection to the review. Look for more Primis bylines in the future.