Pop Culture, Parody, and a Paint Job

As a longtime subscriber to Entertainment Weekly, I’ve been burned by its redesigns before. While I’d eventually adjust to and embrace the magazine’s new look, this was only after an initial painful period of withdrawal and feelings of abandonment. 

Then came this summer’s revamp, a complete overhaul of departments, graphics, even fonts. Columns and staples like the Must List were rearranged with reckless abandon, making for frustrated flipping and awkward transitions throughout the book. 

Several months later, it still stings. What was so jarring in July is still problematic in the Oct. 3 issue.

What made this makeover so infuriating was its blandness, especially in the front of the book. The table of contents is virtually unrecognizable, now consisting of expensive commissioned illustrations on a stark white background.  Call me crazy, but I’ll take a photo and pull quote over a cartoonish rendering of Carrie Bradshaw any day.

The fate of “Feedback” was even worse. This dry letters page looks like it could have been cribbed from another publication completely. EW is an entertainment magazine – why not make this section more befitting of that aesthetic?  A single film still from The Clone Wars does not an interesting page make.

The trouble comes down to a slavish devotion to a bland new design grid, which only gets worse in the reviews section. What was once a measure of this magazine’s mettle is now barely more than a collection of sidebar-style snippets.

It’s not possible for every release in EW’s wide spectrum of coverage to get its due. But making every short review the same shape and size, lined up in a row, smacks of pandering to a perfectionist page designer. 

I’ll concede these sections are easier to follow without the constant need to turn the page to continue reading. But it would be helpful if the writers and designers could strike a more happy medium, maintaining a clean layout without sacrificing content. 

In spite of these continuing design kinks, the Oct. 3 issue still maintains EW’s essence: excellent entertainment journalism.

The cover parodies the already-infamous New Yorker illustration featuring Michelle and Barack Obama living out every stereotype with which they’ve been associated.

The stars of EW’s take?  Everyone’s favorite fake news pundits, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, complete with giant Afro wig and traditional Muslim garb, respectively.

This cover and these subjects show a stroke of genius on EW’s part. Who better to comment on the ridiculous(ly entertaining) elements of this election – and even recreate one of said elements – than the very men who revel in the ridiculous on a nightly basis?

Despite my qualms with EW’s changing look, I remain a fervent fan of (and hopeful future contributor to) their innovative content.  Though it may be difficult, I’m willing to overlook a flawed design as long as I’m still entertained weekly.

— Katie Nowak


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