It took SURFACE one hundred issues to evolve into a decent publication. My past experience with this title was largely unmemorable, but now with the new art direction by Noë & Associates and a reshuffled editorial team, SURFACE today is pleasant specimen to be displayed on a coffee table, as well as to be read.
It takes seven advertisements to get to the table of contents. Here, it lists how the content is divided into departments.
This is the first time I see the Instagram handles of an editorial team being published in the masthead. I’m not sure if it’s a wise decision.
Spencer Bailey (Instagram: spencercbailey), the Executive Editor, introduces the new additions to the magazine alongside a group of images taken on his iPhone in the making of the section ‘101 Things of Summer’.
The early pages of the magazine act as a feed of design news with approachable headlines.
The succeeding section is a still life series of fashion accessories placed among 40ml liquid dispensers, earplugs and other travel essentials on an X-Ray machine belt.
Another themed fashion spread is ‘MILE HIGH’. The intro page sports a sky-blue gradient, a trendy design element that looks best when used sparingly. This double-page spread bridges the matte and glossy paper sections.
The blurb for this spread hints a trio of art enthusiasts packing for their trip…
… with photographer Pete Deevakul capturing fashion items styled by Nicholas Whitehouse. It’s an abstraction-fest.
Another gradient section divider prepares the reader for the overwhelming suggestions of activities for the summer.
Since that this issue covers two calendar months, the 101 THINGS section has conveniently compiled the seasonal events, places, publications and people to look out for.
Aside from the comprehensive content, SURFACE has its hardware covered. There are at least four different paper stocks used in this issue (a subsequent issue had a textured cover). One can see traces of fibres in the matte white paper stock, while the off-white paper section has a classifieds-like feel. The pages with a blueish tint were actually shaded with ink, which you can see in the image above.
By comparing #101 with older issues, I have noted these key improvements:
1 Choose your sponsors / advertisers carefully
The old SURFACE was embarrassingly big on ads of nightclubs, photography studios and unheard-of fashion brands; some in low resolution.
2 Stop copying others
The shortest way to describe SURFACE was ‘Wallpaper* wannabe’. At some point, they even had an asterisk in their masthead!
3 Move to New York
Can you think of any notable titles based in Los Angeles? Neither can I. New York’s where the things that matter happen.
4 Don’t overly art-direct
Sometimes, an item stands out best by being the way it is. So why not shoot it in the most natural setting? This is exemplified through the Gallery section (curated by Bettina Korek, photographed by Lesley Unruh) where selection books were shot with a hand model, providing a sense of scale and connection to the reader’s own hands.
5 Stop cataloging, start curating
The old SURFACE was stuffed with images from the manufacturers of the product, which means you’ll see the exact shot in other publications. These days, SURFACE picks only the noteworthy, leaving more pages for other articles (and much-needed white space).
One last look: edge of pages in CMYK. An accidental or intentional detail?
Issue: 101, July / August 2013
Executive Editor: Spencer Bailey
Cover photography: Grant Cornett
Origin: New York
Cover price: USD9.95
Further reading: SURFACE’s Executive Editor’s blog.