Finding some heroes of the “Zeros” coverage

The aughts in review

End-of-the-year issues are a beloved institution in our business. Small wonder: they bring together two of our favorite things – lists and sweeping generalizations. So it’s a bit surprising that the end of the decade called variously the aughts and the uh-ohs has produced so few really special special issues. Let’s take a look.

Time weighs in on “the decade from hell” (hint: it starts with 9/11 and ends with all of your friends out of work) with a timeless/obvious image of a crying baby. Better is their video of the making of the cover. Meanwhile, Newsweek counters with a smartly-done interactive, titled “20/10: The Decade in Rewind.”

New York mag’s cover line found something good to say about T.D.F.H., namely that “The World Did Not End.” They invited a group of designers to take a shot at the topic and ended up with separate covers for newsstand sales and subscribers. The former, from the Swedish Fellow Designers studio, is a colorful typographic treatment of the “bubble” decade, but I much prefer the inventive subscriber cover from Todd St. John at Hunter Gatherer. It’s actually hand-made (think woodshop not Photoshop). A slideshow shows the work in progress.

Also notable are covers from Matt Owens and Jonathan Gray of gray318, both of which add a little conceptual muscle to their interpretations:

Rolling Stone art director Joe Hutchinson paired book-design god Chip Kidd with type-design god Jim Parkinson for the cover of their special on the best songs and albums of the decade. The result is both simpler and more elegant than some of the covers above, but somehow less memorable, too. Much as I listened to it, I’m not sure I buy Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” as song of the decade, either. (Nominations for more-deserving songs, anyone?)

Libération, the French daily based in Paris, was redesigned this year and has produced striking covers ever since (it’s a return to glory days, design-wise, for Libé, but that’s a subject for another column). Their decade review is a striking combination of stylish typography on the cover and ilustration on the inside spread.

Next up, a couple of covers in the key of g. On the left, the cover of the g section, the daily newsprint magazine of The Boston (G)lobe and a look back at the 100 most defining moments in arts and culture from the past decade, designed by Greg Klee. On the right, the cover of the g2 section, the daily newsprint magazine of The (G)uardian and a look ahead at the most defining moments in arts, culture, and society for the next year (designed by Andrew Stocks). Both are interesting typographic covers tweak the logo. Old England? New England? You decide.

Some papers teased the review of the decade out across the last week of the year. The Indianapolis Star kicked off with a page one centerpiece display the day after Christmas, then switched to a wide rail on the front for the next six days. While less flamboyant than the approach taken by some other newspapers, there’s a pleasing consistency to the presentation of the rail and jump space by design director Ryan Hildebrandt with help from A1 designer Amanda Goehlert. I also like how they kept the focus on local stories.

The National Post opted for a poster front, but with a typographic collage that encourages readers to spend some time untangling the weave of topics and catch phrases from the decade. Deputy Managing Editor for Design and Graphics Gayle Grin tells me that this approach played out across mutiple section in that day’s paper.

The Washington Post also took advantage of multiple sections in a single paper to create both best- and worst-of-the-decade sections. Style & Arts, designed by Susanna Sanchez, did the best while Outlook, designed by Kristin Lenz, took the worst. Both are solid efforts, though perhaps they missed an opportunity to create something greater than the individual pages by sharing more common elements in typography and the use of images. Side note: only the WashPost would name the Sarbanes Oxley Amendment as a worst and expect their readers to know what they were referring to. You’ve gotta love those inside-the-Beltway readers. The Post also had a nice interactive feature, a collaboration between designer Kat Downs and writer Joel Achenbach.

Notably, the Post steered away from massive numerals in their treatments. The double-barrelled zeroes are are eye-catching, but they leave designers scrambling to fit in content around the visual hook. The New York Times tried to have it both ways on their OpEd spread. They asked ten well-known writers to tackle one year each from the decade and wrapped it all in a giant goose egg. If there was a Nobel Prize for Avoiding Widows and Orphans, designers Aviva Michaelov and Kim Bost would be headed to Stockholm next year. Read the pieces here.

And finally, perhaps my favorite piece from the Times was Philip Niemeyer’s hilarious OpEd chart of the decade broken down into categories like “noun,” “fear,” and my favorite, “newish.”

That wraps up both the review of the reviews of the decade and my first column for SND Update. I plan to write every month or so, covering creative solutions in magazines, newspapers, or wherever I find them. Comments, column ideas, and examples of cool stuff you saw or did are welcome. E-mail me at [email protected] and thanks.

Dan Zedek is the Assistant Managing Editor for Design at The Boston Globe and was site chair for SND Boston in 2007.

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