When you deal with a lot of people, along with the brilliant stuff comes very dumb stuff as well. Inexperienced voices should be forgiven but when the big and powerful make appalling statements you have to ask yourself how they ever got their jobs.
Here are some of the ones that have left me most incredulous.
10. “CRYPTIC HEADLINES DRIVE SALES.”
This very respected intellectual quarterly just couldn’t manage more sales in bookstores and it was clear that using a single vague cover line consisting of either one word or two (including the usual gerund) was the culprit. His response: “You don’t get it: people will be fascinated by the cryptic headline and buy the magazine to see what’s inside.” The magazine is still tanking.
9. “THE COVER IMAGE DOES NOT HAVE TO CONNECT TO ANYTHING INSIDE THE MAGAZINE.”
Referring to a photograph of two large cement balls as a cover image to illustrate a story about Alzheimer disease, a former publisher of Discover actually made this statement. The staff still talks (and laughs) about it.
However, he may have been half-right because the issue in question sold rather well in the end.
8. “READERS WANT TO SEE THEMSELVES.”
Everybody knows that buffed models sell fitness magazines. However, following a series of useless, confusing and expensive focus groups, this editor concluded that, “it’s clear to me that 45-year-olds want to look at people their own age, not at dumb models.”
7. “IMPROVEMENT CONFUSES READERS.”
Take this Midwest trade magazine, which looks like it was last redesigned in 1970 by the cast of Happy Days. The publisher finally agreed to a revamp. His anxiety: “I don’t want too many improvements because I think that a lot of readers will be confused.” OK.
6. “COOL DESIGN MEANS ILLEGIBLE TYPE.”
This is the conclusion that a very well-respected editor of several history magazines came up with. He’s forgiven because he was looking at Wired without his glasses.
5. “MAKE THEM WORK.”
The editor of a jewelry magazine actually said that when the issue of a clear contents page and flawless navigation came up. She was overruled.
4. “FOOL THEM INTO READING DULL STUFF.”
Confronted with a deadly article with no redeeming qualities, the managing editor of a legendary trade magazine seriously suggested that a headline reference Lindsay Lohan despite the fact that she was not mentioned in the article.
3. “LOOKING DIFFERENT IS BETTER THAN LOOKING GOOD.”
The art director of a big-time health and fitness title made an appalling presentation where every rule of good design was violated. Her response to people’s agonizing howls: “Don’t you want to look different?”
2. “MY READERS ARE NOT DUMB AND THEY DON’T NEED CAPTIONS.”
This is an exact quote and its author was the editor of a slick (now folded) West Coast gossip magazine.
1. “THE WEB IS A NUISANCE”
The 55+ editor of a city magazine refused to improve the magazine’s website. He said that he was afraid that people would go to the web and stop reading the magazine. Never mind that the web presents the best opportunity to attract a new, younger audience. And who said that you could stop progress anyway?
JC Suares has been working as a creative consultant for more than 100 magazines such as ESPN and Fast Company in the U.S. and Canada over the past 10 years.