“What’s the greatest magazine of all time?”

by Grace Wang in September 2017
Art & designUpdate

Entries for the Stack Awards close next week, but what will our judges be looking for when their big brown boxes of magazines arrive? What are the magazines that have excited, inspired and moved them the most over the years?

We asked them to get their critical faculties in gear and name the greatest magazines of all time in their respective categories. These aren’t the magazines that will win awards this time around (we won’t know those until the ceremony on 20 November) but rather, the magazines that have left a lasting impression on them over decades of magazine reading. From bold art direction to masterful editorial, scroll on to see the top picks from a selection of our judges.

Steven Heller, MFA Design, School of Visual Arts
Category: Cover of the Year


“To choose the best all-time-ever-independent-magazine-cover is like asking for me to recall the most delicious meal I’ve ever had. But since you’ve got me thinking about food, the most tasty cover in my memory of all time ever has to be the South issue of the Push Pin Graphic by Seymour Chwast from 1969. It is simply a little cut-out circle under the title The South. It captured the danger and courage of the Civil Rights movement in the United States at that time. It was a simple design with deep emotional resonance. Of course, it was self-published but went out to more than 2000 readers and is today as powerful as when it was conceived.”

Gail Bichler, design director at the New York Times Magazine
Category: Magazine of the Year


“I love Eye Magazine. I had a subscription to it back in college and still have back issues of it dating to the early 90s. In my graphic design classes at school I was learning the basics, and much of the focus was on the craft of graphic design and the history. Eye was a curated window into contemporary graphic design and design thinking. Both the writing and the design of the magazine itself were top notch. When I started teaching design in 2003 I found myself digging through old issues, rereading articles that I remembered and looking for material for my students.”

Will Hudson, founder and director of It’s Nice That
Category: Art Director of the Year


“I’m not afraid to admit I am more often led by the design than the content when it comes to buying magazines, and the collection I’ve acquired over the last 10 years has many notable names to choose from. The one that stands out for me is Matt Willey. From the first issue of Plastique magazine I picked up in 2007 to his work on Elephant, MAP, YCN magazine, PORT and Avaunt, there’s a confidence in the design that complements the content perfectly, and a sensibility in the commissioning that makes it look far simpler than it often is. All of this feeds into his work for the New York Times Magazine, which unsurprisingly, is probably the best creative team working in publishing today. Hopefully he’ll still find time in the years to come to maintain his work within the independent magazine sector so Stack readers and subscribers can enjoy it!”

Tom Edwards, executive producer of Monocle 24 radio
Category: Editor of the Year


“Considering the brief (choose an inspirational and longstanding influence, the best at what they do…) the more I thought about it the more I realised there was only one candidate: Ian Hislop of Private Eye. This was probably the first magazine I read regularly (my dad’s copy, as a kid) and remains the only title (despite other flirtations) to which I have maintained a lifelong subscription.

PE is a great story with booming sales built on an enduring commitment to their unique and brilliant print product. Hislop is a proper journalist, en exacting editor, a fearless satirist and an inveterate lancer of over-inflated egos in every realm. And he’s been doing it for decades… He has to get my vote!”

Barbara Rowlands, Magazine Journalism at City, University of London
Category: Best Use of Non-Fiction


“There’s so much brilliant writing in independent magazines, but I keep on coming back to Delayed Gratification. It’s a great antidote to blink-and-you-miss-it news, illustrated with photographs that linger with you and graphics that tease and delight. I teach news and it’s great to come back to stories that have been consigned to the newsroom bin. The students love it and when I lend out copies they come back (if they do) tattered from multiple readings.”

Simon Armstrong, book buyer for Tate Modern, Tate Britain, and Tate Liverpool
Category: Best Use of Illustration


“I have too many ‘favourite’ magazines, but in terms of illustration, it has to be Refill Magazine. Refill was born in Australia in 2003, the child of Matty Burton (who is now Creative Chief at Google Zoo Asia-Pacific) and Luca Ionescu (now Director of Like Minded Studio). Refill Magazine lasted a mere five issues and no one particularly remembers it now, but for me it was a revelation. It was an exciting, fresh and dynamic showcase of all the best illustrators and graphic designers of the moment.

I ordered and stocked a few copies of the first issue while working at Magma bookstore in Manchester. Magma were the only place in the UK to stock it. We had a glorious run of sales, and the series peaked at issue three with a collaboration with Nigo of A Bathing Ape.

Refill magazine was also an education in what was now becoming possible in the early 2000s with the internet. You could live anywhere on the planet and gather the work of the very best artists, designers and illustrators, make a magazine, then find a keen audience for it on the other side of the world.”

Put your magazine in front of our judges – enter the awards by 29 September and yours could be their new favourite…

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