12 independent magazines with clever, imaginative illustration

by Grace Wang in May 2018
Art & designFilmIllustration

Illustration can play a huge part in defining a magazine’s visual identity, giving independent titles infinite ways of presenting their own narrative But what are the different ways graphic expressions are used, and what purposes do they serve? For this roundup, we look at some of our favourite independent magazines that carefully consider the role of the illustrated image on the printed page.


Nous magazine
Exploring mind culture and empathetic thinking, Nous magazine fills its pages with risograph-inked imaginations that visualise their contributors’ jumbled-up thoughts. Trident Press, the Manchester-based publishing collective behind it, is also constantly coming up with cool projects, like this illustrated guide to risography.

From hand-sketched floor plans to digital blueprints, architecture and illustration might appear as the most obvious editorial duet, but few titles pair the two as seamlessly as Lobby. Putting the drawn image front and centre, their characterful illustrations help to interpret Brutalism, contemplate space and visualise history.


Little White Lies
When Little White Lies first started, illustrations helped produce images to accompany pieces that featured movie stars who were difficult to access. Drawn portraits also let the editors steer clear of overused press shots, producing a unique visual aesthetic that, along with an unassuming tone of voice, makes it one of today’s most popular independent titles.

Beneficial Shock!
Yet another unconventional take on cinema, Beneficial Shock! has original rumination on film. Each issue follows a theme (take a look inside the ‘Mind’ issue), and between longform articles it presents a wide variety of artwork, from clean-lined iconography to wacky crayon expositions. beneficialshock.com

Shelf Heroes
Side-stepping serious criticism and the big name interviews, Shelf Heroes is a film magazine made by people who simply love movies. Packed with personal responses to cinema and illustrations-as-self-expression, it celebrates good (and not so good) films one letter at a time. As editor Ben Smith tells us, “The contributions to Shelf Heroes are less about the source than the artists that create them.”

So Young
Like its cinematic contemporaries, So Young uses drawn images and collages to bypass cheesy press shots. The music magazine pairs band interviews with painted portraits, cut-and-paste mood boards, and crude drawings, enabling editors larger artistic control to produce a more distinctive aesthetic. (See also the now folded Rough Trade magazine.)


Das Mag
Through lovely, pared back illustrations, Das Mag is a literary magazine that knows how to balance text with visuals. Take their infographic estimating the cost of living like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, which cleverly connects a standalone image with a neatly organised receipt (above, at 01:03).


Weapons of Reason
Similarly, the image-making in Weapons of Reason breaks down complex issues into digestible nuggets of information. Playful iconography dances between the text, helping you navigate the big ideas on the page, while colourful infographics cut through mind-fogging statistics or jargon.

A fold-out zine that opens into an A1 pin-up, Posterzine selects one illustrator to showcase for each issue. Their works are presented alongside an interview with the artist, offering insights into the design industry and their creative inspirations. It is published by People of Print, the website and directory for illustrators, designers and lovers of printed matter.

Dedicated entirely to illustration, Mincho nosies around the personal projects of established artists to uncover a trove of quirky, surprising designs. Each issue centres around a visual theme, and their latest edition brings graphic expressions of the performing arts to the printed page.

Singapore-based Eyeyah magazine wants to encourage creative skills in children. With the belief that children are “visual learners”, the publication uses eye-catching graphics, puzzles and activities to introduce kids to contemporary creativity, while teaching them about topical issues like the dangers of the internet.

No Brow
No Brow showcases the most exciting illustrations, comics and graphic novels. Fantastical full bleed spreads and jump-off-the-page characters create theatrical, dramatic scenes, and we love marvelling at the skilful, detailed works in this hardback publication.

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