Let’s Talk Design

We all hate it, but we all buy it from time to time. It’s every female’s guilty pleasure purchase at the grocery store, along with a box of cookies and a tub of chocolate-chip cookie dough. And it’s this love-hate relationship that preserves Cosmopolitan as one of the most popular women’s magazines in the country.


What’s to hate, you might ask? Well, the design for one thing, especially in the October issue featuring Kate Hudson on the cover. As a regular reader, I did not notice previous issues with such obvious problems, but this month’s issue did not shine in all its possible splendor.

In addition to the problems I had with this issue, there was the added hassle of a misprinted mess. But printing problems aside, the quality of many pictures was just not OK. Celebrity photos were printed at a sub-par level making them look dull and not as glowy as usual. 

Flipping through the glossy, the design never really picked up. It remained pretty sub-standard—nothing superb or spectacular to catch the eye.

Some of the spreads weren’t as bad as others: “The Truth About Hooking Up” had semi-cool graphics with its typewriter theme. The title was printed in a serif American Typewriter-esq font that was splashed across the main jump spread. The font gave the article a touch of interest and ambiguity, kind of like an old-school detective story. And with a color palette of red, black, and white—the design did jump out a bit. But not that much more than others, or maybe it only popped because the others didn’t.

Other layouts were not near the level that Cosmo’s design should or could be. Some pictures didn’t have a high enough resolution, so they looked odd when juxtaposed with pictures that did. (This is not even including the celeb photos that were badly printed). There were fuzzy pictures placed next to pictures that were obviously good quality. Meaning this was not a printing problem. If one photo could have a high enough resolution, why couldn’t the others? 

Most spreads displayed the usual boring boxy look, and designs looked like they were put together as a complete afterthought. No glam or zing to be found. OK, maybe “Hollywood’s Make-out Map” was a little spicy, but the celebrity heads cut into circles and connected by thin red lines got pretty confusing.

Actually, Paul Mitchell’s “Sustainable Style” showed off a really nice design with magnified photos of hair products. The Paul Mitchell layout used a smooth sans serif typeface positioned nicely to complement the images of blow dryers and flat irons, creating sleek angles and lines. But why do I have to look to an ad for a vivid example of good design?

Overall the design was just lazy. It wasn’t really clean or crisp, and it didn’t bring anything new to the table. Glamour added 3D glasses for its text and images in this month’s issue—making its design virtually pop out at the readers. Esquire used an innovative technology to publish a flashy electronic cover in September. So, for this publication to be leading in the fashion, sex, and everything else department, it needs to step up the graphics game. The design director isn’t sitting right under the editor-in-chief on the mast head for no reason—art is a major part of Cosmopolitan, so how about a design revolution?

–Danya Shaikh


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