All About the Brand | Best Magazines 2018

With magazines going online-only, some publishers are emphasizing the brand rather than the print product. Nonetheless, new journals continued to debut in that format in 2018. Here are ten of the best. 

Nothing quite equals the irony of the 2018 announcement that Print Magazine will no longer appear in, well, print. In a breezy website notice titled “Cheers to the Next Evolution of Print,” the journal announced it would cease publication and instead focus “efforts on the elements of the Print brand that resonate most strongly with our consumers.” In addition to Print, a number of other longtime print standards either folded or went digital-only in 2018, including Teen Vogue, ­Sunset, the Village Voice, and, after its final issue in ­December, the Weekly ­Standard.

These transitions serve as stark reminders of the economic environment and consumer culture that continued to challenge magazine publishers last year. However, in a growing pushback against the concept that “print is dead,” voices from the publishing industry, as exemplified by the Print news, attempted to refocus the conversation around brands. While the concept of branding was certainly nowhere near new in 2018, it has grown stronger in the industry as the primacy of print is no longer assumed. Within this framework, by counting brands, rather than titles or publications, a portrait of a healthy industry emerges.


The measure of this health is the long-term sustainability of approximately 7,000 entities. Numbered in print titles alone, this figure is in steady decline. However, within an industry in flux, there remains a fixed core—whether embodied by continuing print titles, online-only titles, or branded online presences—that is steady in number, indicating sustained consumer interest.

The move away from print is not without critics. While the industry would like to expand the discussion beyond print, others view the loss of that format as an intractable problem for magazine publishers. As industry analyst David Hepworth put it, “Once you let paper go, you’re just another website. You’re just more space junk floating around out there.”

Despite the very significant economic challenges publishers of print magazines face, new titles continue to be launched in that format. The ten featured here represent high-quality initiatives debuted in the past year, each with a precise subject focus. For some of these publishers, introducing print is a strategic extension of their brand, an outcome many will celebrate.

Peter Koonz is Continuing & Electronic Resources Librarian, Schaffer Library, Union College, Schenectady, NY

AIGA Eye on Design. 3/yr. $60. Ed: Perrin Drumm.

AIGA, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, introduced Eye on Design in 2018, with invisibility as the theme of its in­augural issue. A succinct characterization of this magazine is nearly impossible: it is eclectic, confusing, brilliant, and endlessly interesting, containing among other things a comic strip, photos with digital filters, a marked-up page from the New York Times, sideways words, white words on black background and black words on white, upside-down text, and circled text. Its strange design is completely satisfying, its articles wildly creative—and, in issue one, it presents a unique visual feast of the invisible.

American Whiskey. q. $24.95. Ed: Rob Allanson.

Frequently our enthusiasms have surprising depth. Such is the case with whiskey, as American Whiskey demonstrates. Setting out to celebrate “the whiskeys of America,” this glossy, heavily illustrated magazine covers a wide swath of whiskey topics with charm and quality images. The inaugural issue includes articles on the definition of American whiskey (laws and traditions); the best bars in Charlotte, NC; suggestions for the proper whiskey for specific cigars; what cheese pairings to choose; artisanal distillings; and tastings.

Basis. s-a. £7.50 for the inaugural issue. Ed: Alexander Kahl.

The first issue of Basis is true to its tagline: “Exploring life and art through conversation.” Articles take the form of discussions structured around insightful questions posed to artists, the text scattered among generous and beautiful reproductions of their work. In juxtaposition to the invisibility theme addressed in Eye on Design (above), issue 00 of Basis contains the sideways-printed quote, “Sometimes you have to become visible for others to feel visible themselves.” Printed on quality, glossy paper, Basis, a welcome 2018 start-up, has very high visual appeal.


Drugstore Culture. s-a. £12.74. Ed: Matthew d’Ancona.

Drugstore Culture is unique, from its paper­back size, postcard insert, and mid-­volume photo spread to its content and mission. The Editor’s Letter in the in­augural issue notes that “cinema will be to Drugstore Culture what rock was to Rolling Stone in the Seventies.” Movies are the anchor around which culture, arts, and politics take form. The content is eclectic, and the first issue includes a look at how video game streaming is mixing up our culture, a portrait of actor Steve McQueen, celebrity lists of top films, and a portfolio of photos from the “golden era of Elaine’s restaurant.” This small magazine is crafted to be carried in the back pocket and whipped out for brief bursts of ­enjoyment.

For:. 3 issues/yr. $20/issue. Ed: Katherine Durgin-Bruce.

For: is published by Ultravirgo, a graphic design and branding agency whose clients include nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations, and the Knight Foundation. It concentrates on “projects that improve lives”; the opening issue features the theme of growing older. The magazine is heavily illustrated and includes photographs, drawings, and montages. Articles in issue one take on aging and fashion, urban design, Colombia peace advocates, artistic exploration of facial wrinkles, a conversation with Jimmy Carter about a full life and human rights, and fighting against ageism. As with several titles in this best-of list, For: is a graphic design project at heart, but it comes with the explicit goal of helping others.

Gossamer. s-a. $38. Ed: Verena von Pfetten & David Weiner.

For those looking for that one magazine to take along to the next Big Lebowski fest, Gossamer is the choice. Subtitled “For People Who Smoke Weed,” this new entry describes itself as a magazine for “discerning and curious individuals who just happen to smoke weed or are open-minded enough to hang out with people who do.” The publication is substantial and as delightful and eclectic as you might imagine given its mission. It is heavily illustrated with both color and black-and-white photographs, with each new page and each new article seeming like a personal discovery. In addition to the print magazine, Gossamer has a robust website.

In Her Studio. q. $49.99. Ed: Christen Hammons.

With a large format and illustrated with numerous photos, In Her Studio looks to inspire by sharing “the spaces and stories of creative women.” The creativity depicted is impressive, but what is perhaps most inspiring is the look into the studios or work spaces that each woman has devised. The layout intersperses feature articles with recurring sections, such as In My Studio, Creative Confessions, and A Studio DIY, making for delightful discoveries throughout the generous (160 pages) issue.

Retro Fan. q. $38. Ed: Michael Eury.

Nostalgia for simpler times is common. To satisfy that yearning for days past, Retro Fan seeks to “explore pop-culture history through insightful, nostalgic, and fun articles and inter­views.” For anyone who grew up in the 1960s, 1970s, or 1980s and misses those days, there will be a lot to like here and more than enough to start you daydreaming. Among the offerings in the opening issue are an interview with Lou Ferrigno, followed by a pictorial essay on Hulk toys; a spread of Andy Griffith Show collectibles plus a section on Mayberry, including a Retro interview with Barney Fife’s girlfriend Thelma Lou; and more. Collectors, as well as those seeking a blast from the past, will enjoy.

Strung: Life at the Treeline. q. $29.95. Ed: Tyler Justice Allen.

Strung announces itself as a magazine with “an unyielding passion for things untamed and a penchant for ambitious wandering—with a decidedly modern perspective.” Printed in large format (12" x 9.5"), this magazine emphasizes photography and contains minimal advertising. Articles in the premier issue cover travel and trout fishing on the Scottish borders, a recipe for braised venison shanks, and a photo feature on Montana pheasant, among others. The pieces are well chosen, relatively brief, and solid reads. But the photographs! They dominate and are magnificent and inspiring.

What Women Create. q. $52. Ed: Jo Packham.

Prepare for some enjoyable confusion when you dig into the WWC series of magazines. What Women Create joins a list of sister titles, including Where Women Create, Where Women Cook, and Where Women Create Work. Each seeks to incite women to greater creativity or success. Create is subtitled “Inspiration for Your Imagination,” and each article, written in the first person, is accompanied by color photos and tries to motivate women to use their hands, producing crafts, ­calligraphy, food, or a community garden. 

This article was originally published in Library Journal's April 2019 issue


Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing