Name a science magazine that does not look like an academic journal or a hobbyist periodical. If that took you a while to answer, let me introduce you to COSMOS.
From the land of Frankie and flat whites, COSMOS promises to explain ‘The Science Of Everything’ once every two months. The issue I will be walking you through is dated August-September 2015.
Before its revamp in the February-March 2015 issue, COSMOS sported a safe, traditional cover – red masthead and vertically-placed cover lines. I haven’t come across older issues so I can’t comment on the content and layout inside.
Then came Studio Round, a design-driven consultancy based in Melbourne, injecting much contemporariness through the infographics, diagrams, pull quotes and overlapping elements. The cover looks gentle on the eyes, which leaves the image doing most of the talking.
Flip the cover and you are served with the table of contents. Compare that with other commercial magazines that begin with 20 pages of ads.
Expected sections follow; the imprint, editor’s letter and reader’s feedback. From what I read in one of the reader’s letters, the magazine had a hard cover for its first redesigned issue. That’s something worth treasuring!
The first section – Digest – contains short articles of the latest discoveries in the scientific world. The use of light green background and combination of serifed and non-serifed fonts in the body copy is a subtle design detail. The little icons marking each topic is neat, too.
Then there are feature articles in collaboration with universities and organisations. Nothing spells credibility than having specialists and educationists writing for your magazine.
After Digest comes Viewpoint. Four experts shed some light on the seemingly normal questions we humans have casually wondered, like what’s the point of cutting carbs from our daily diet.
I have a soft spot for magazines with a dedicated photo essay section. It’s nice to take a break from all that reading and give your eyes something to gaze blankly upon. This section is called ‘Holodeck’, and what you are seeing are Yttrium atoms through a scanning transmission electron microscope. (Yttrium is an element discovered in Ytterby, Sweden)
Puns are not something I appreciate, unless if it’s done simply and non-humorous. Just like this cover story title on space junk!
The matter is explained in ten pages, punctuated with digital renderings of loose objects hovering just above the Earth’s atmosphere, figures of man-made objects in space, as well as possible solutions to clean up the mess.
Closer to Earth is the next article investigating the forgery behind fossils. Not surprisingly, they come from China, along with melamine milk powders and resin eggs.
Continuing the fakery is the a feature on artificial meat. All in the name of science, to some…
Spectrum, close to the end of the magazine, relays pop culture pieces, including book reviews, lifestyle features, and even the good ol’ crossword puzzle.
The addition of a science fiction piece accompanied with illustration by Gatsby adds a ‘lifestyle’ element into the magazine. This story explores the possibility of having a productivity tool in the form of a drone-like device, called a ‘Jobbot’.
You won’t find ads of fancy hybrid cars or fossil fuel companies talking about ‘sustainable energy’ in COSMOS. Instead, template-y ads on science courses in universities and related events sparsely appear around the beginning and end of the magazine. This may signify the neutral stance of the editors, not dictated by the messages from corporate sponsors.
COSMOS heavily invests in educational programmes, as shown through COSMOS LESSONS. It’s their brand of multi-platform learning aids aimed to increase interest in science among school children. A rather neat initiative, I must say.
When I come across ads on current technology trends, I’d wonder how funny it would be to see it again, 30 years down the road. What will the 3D printer evolve into in the future?
COSMOS has the right combination of academic content and popular topics appealing to a wide readership, with a hint of contemporary indie-mag aesthetics. The clean art direction, accessible writing style and wide coverage of all things science makes it a treat to read, keep and re-read.
I’ve spent some time online trying to find a page that specifically mentioned or reviewed COSMOS, but nothing came up (aside from winning Gold at Melbourne Design Awards, and that’s just for the website design). For a well-designed and reputable publication, I am surprised that no one is talking about it. I hope this post reaches out to magazine enthusiasts out there. There’s a lot of good stuff coming out of Australia!
The new look of COSMOS magazine via COSMOS
Issue: 64, Aug-Sep 2015
Editor-in-Chief: Elizabeth Finkel
Cover photography: ESA / SPACEJUNK3D, LLC
Origin: Toorak (Victoria), Australia
Cover price: AUD12.95
Special thanks to Faraliza for helping me to acquire this magazine