Digital Designers are Killing the Content!

by Kevin Hawkins on April 27, 2017

Magnify TextOne of two things has happened. Either my eyesight is completely shot or magazines have somehow decided that 8-point font is legible. Unfortunately, it turns out my eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be, and just about every magazine I seem to pick up these days appears to be designed by a prima donna or don who is killing the content because it’s impossible to read.

The hard truth for boomers is that somehow, magazines have decided to try and make Boomers adapt to them instead of the other way around. My guess is that if you visited a magazine publishing house, you wouldn’t find many 50-somethings and probably would find a lot of 20-somethings. Yet the biggest target for most printed magazines remains Boomers. Boomers are a magazine’s primary target market because they actually enjoy reading more than 140 characters at a time. Yet to this life-long marketer, magazines appear to be targeting Millennials and missing what they should be doing completely.

I am not a dinosaur

Now look, I am not suggesting that magazines need to be printed in giant-sized font. I don’t wear coke-bottle bottom glasses – yet. And yes, I know most magazines come in a digital form I could load on my iPad and scroll and zoom in to read the mouse-type. But forgive me for remaining a human that still enjoys the tactile experience: I like the touch of a glossy magazine, the turn of the pages. I also confess that I enjoy reading magazines in the John and for the digital age, that’s another reason I prefer the printed version: if I drop it into the toilet, it doesn’t cost me $400 to get it replaced.

Also, I’m a huge fan of white space. Apple digital and print marketing – from their emails, to their website, to their magazine ads – remain among my favorites: clean, clutter free, big white space. But at least I can easily read the text! But have you tried to read an issue of Entertainment Weekly in the last couple of years? EW was once my favorite mind candy, but it’s become unbearable. The font is often so small that you literally need a magnifying glass to read it, even if you have perfect 20-20 vision.

It gets worse

SWmagazineIf the popularity of using tiny font in magazines wasn’t a bad enough trend on its own, now I find the digital designers are doing stuff that’s just stupid. I picked up a copy of Southwest Airlines magazine April issue and on page 39, the page is in bright red with small black font. Are you trying to kill me? Did anyone teach these divas in design school that you never mix red and black with anything that is actually supposed to be read: it will give the reader a headache. I kid you not. Heck, I learned that in High School when I wrote a cover story for the school paper, which for Valentine’s Day, we printed the ink in red. No one could finish my story because it was too damn hard to read.

EW does this crap all the time. They screw around with how to make a story look cool so much that there is absolutely no attention given to the fact that people are buying a magazine to actually read the it. Or are they? Maybe today’s digital designers just think that all that matter is how things look – who cares if it makes it impossible to read. Well guess what? I care and I’ll make a bet that there are a lot of other people out there just like me that are getting sick and tired of people creating products that should be for us – because we are the best market for it — but being reshaped for a market that doesn’t give a flying rip about it.

Suggestion to the magazine world: Do some marketing research, and remember these facts about Boomers:

  • 80 million boomers are ages 50 to 68
  • Those 50 and older comprise 45% of the US population
  • The 55+ group has 75% of the wealth of America
  • 50+ group has $2.4 trillion in annual income, or 42% of all after-tax income
  • They outspend other generations by $400 billion a year
  • They are going to be richer, much richer: We are on the verge of the greatest transfer of wealth in history as the Greatest Generation passes $12 Trillion to the boomers

A final word

I also think that restaurants are doing the exact same thing. Ever look at a menu lately at a trendy new restaurant? The font is so small and thin – and the lighting is so DARK – I have to get out my iPhone and turn the light on. Ever had to do that? Come on restaurants and magazines, Boomers are your big ca-ching! Don’t make us adapt to you, you need to adapt to us.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Gellman April 28, 2017 at 11:01 am

I couldn’t agree more. Then again, I may very well BE a dinosaur…

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Richard Mendenhall April 28, 2017 at 11:28 am

You nailed it with this article. I thought I was the only one seeing, or better said, not seeing what is trying to be communicated.

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Phil Wood April 29, 2017 at 1:46 pm

The same thing happens with brochures, especially corporate pieces. The artist decides that it needs to be printed with pretty background photos, then slaps the copy on top of the photo, almost as an after thought. Then, no matter what font color they use for the copy, some of it is dark font on a dark section of the photo, or a white font on a very light section of the photo, making it totally unreadable.

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