i love print thanks in no small part to wallpaper*. (my print foundation: Mad, Smash Hits, New Scientist, i-D, The Face, Wired, The Wire, Sight & Sound, The Economist, Q, Rolling Stone, Foreign Affairs)
I first heard about Monocle when working with Tatweer on their International Design Forum (we designed a cool book edited by the folks at Bidoun). tyler brûlé was on the Advisory Panel but was far too busy with the impending magazine launch to contribute much to Dubai’s half-hearted (primarily headline-seeking in customary dubai fashion) government driven design initiative. i was excited. i couldn’t remember the last time i was excited about a new print publication (or i could but it felt like it had been a while: Bidoun, Nest, Anthem, Fader, 032C, Purple).
it was bold; aiming to combine the style (and voice) of wallpaper* with the economist’s vitality and some of the new yorker’s eccentric + wordy format. throw in brûlé’s inimitable design sense (4 sensuous paper stocks and a questionable manga-like insert) and how could you not have a sense of anticipation.
so a year and 11 issues later, what’s the verdict? the concept has legs. i like the idea of a thick, considered, (nearly) monthly tome that offers substantive, serious, thoughtful analysis. the execution lets it down though. tyler is justly proud that monocle is not a product of focus groups and surveys. it’s the singular vision of the editors. for me though, too much of the editorial is superfluous. it tries to surprise but the features are more often slight. it thinks it’s ground-breaking and daringly nonconformist but is in fact usually trivial and inconsequential. at times its features are needlessly long for the sake of breaking the sound-bite mould (newyorker-envy). and too often monocle stakes ground on the wrong side of an argument seemingly for the sake of being contrarian. the wallpaper-ish sections (C, D + E) are supreme. in summary: i haven’t gotten through one issue cover-to-cover although the first gorgeous 11 do have pride of place in my library.
monocle has continued wallpaper*’s ground-breaking advertorial experiments (porter bags, commes des garcons scents etc) although sometimes you wander who (advertiser or magazine) comes out on top. approaching the web as its own media entity was smart. monocle is style (and it is of course the epitome of style) over substance.
Intelligent Life and Portfolio launched around the same time as Monocle and all ostensibly target the same reader and advertiser. although i have yet to properly delve into an issue of Portfolio (an inherent anti-CN bias perhaps), IL (easily the ugliest of the three) and in particular the More Intelligent Life daily-blogs has become a staple of my daily opinion-intake.