Below are some images I've selected of popular food magazines - Martha's included - that have fallen victim to this trend. I say 'victim' because after several years in practice this trend has become cannibalistic. The image of food tossed 'rustically' onto a platter or cheese board is no longer innovative or eye-catching or even pleasant to look at. It is visually polluting the newsstands with too many stacked sandwiches, rows of cookies, pyramids of corn and slabs of grilled meat. Each of the food magazine covers below illustrate, I think, the overuse and saturation of this kind of imagery in the food-publishing industry. Frankly, I think it is time for it to go away. I find it confusing to the eye, cluttered, almost anti-design. And I don't like it - especially not on Martha's covers, which used to be so perfectly styled and beautifully rendered to appear effortlessly elegant. Perhaps you will agree with me, or perhaps you will take a different view. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts!
For the readers - a group I will always vehemently defend, because, well, I am one - it is nullifying to the curious and beauty-seeking eye. Perhaps there is no solution to this. Perhaps magazines are doomed to copy each other and outdo each other by basically cannibalizing each other and morphing into replicas of the competition. I have no advice for these publications, to be honest, because I understand they are all essentially in business to make a profit and will adopt trends, copy competitors that sell more copies and hope that they too will see a profit in return. But identity is lost. Brand recognition is lost. It truly is in the best interest of these publications to own their unique identities by remembering what made them great in the first place and kept their readers enthused. It certainly wasn't by slipping into ubiquity.
DOING IT RIGHT
Here are four food covers that I think do a beautiful job of maintaining good design while simultaneously keeping brand-recognition alive and making the food look appetizing and interesting. Each cover is distinct and identifiable with unique and innovative design details. Clockwise from top:
- The diminutive title of "sated" recedes to let the cookies take center stage. There is no visual clutter and the subheadings are kept to a bare minimum.
- Cuisine did a beautiful job with this cover: a cooked oyster is arranged in a heart shape so that the central theme appears clearly centered: "I (heart) Summer." The words I and Summer are carved into the wood of a dock. It's creative, modern and pleasing to the eye.
- Martha's July 2009 issue is one of my favourites. The two ice-cream cups are nicely arranged on a napkin and a closer look reveals that the spoons are in fact tiny cookies: carefully considered details!
- Donna Hay rarely disappoints with her covers. They are classic and timeless but still modern, reminiscent of Dutch paintings but with a contemporary and minimalist twist.