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The Tyranny of CMYK


Jandos Rothstein By Jandos Rothstein
10/13/2008 -16:05 PM

Back when I was a young magazine designer, folks used to talk about “builds” in between swiping at each other with their Xacto knives (all good fun of course). Now I know what you’re thinking, but there were no blocks or bricks involved—“build” is a color term. Say if you wanted a green, you’d build it out of cyan and yellow, maybe also throwing a little black or magenta in there to tone it down a bit. In this way, nearly any color could be simulated on the page, and magazines could develop individual color schemes that would help, along with type and grid, to brand a magazine. Lately CMYK (or the slightly tweaked CMYK look) has become so hot that it’s become hard to pick up a major newsstand magazine without seeing the printer’s primaries used unannealed on the page.

I would like to chalk the trend all up to Adobe’s difficult-to-use tools for defining colors, leaving inexperienced designer relying on program defaults, but the trend has afflicted the best, oldest and least compromising of magazine professionals. Top: Pentagram’s redesign of Radar; above: Fred Woodward’s GQ; immediately bellow: Janet Froelich’s T. The look certainly is vibrant and refreshing—but now so overused that it seems likely to burn itself out in the next couple of days.

And why this trend now? Maybe it’s the easy access to transparency effects (which Woodward in particular has made hay with) available in every program which has allowed anyone with the Creative Suite to channel Bradbury Thompson (below).

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Buy Jandos' new book!]


Jandos Rothstein By Jandos Rothstein -- Folio: Contributor

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