US: The Paperback Magazine premiered in June 1969. Edited by the preeminent music critic of the day and Village Voice contributor, Richard Goldstein, US was published by Bantam Books, which was then owned by Random House. Although edited and art directed in the manner of an underground or alternative newspaper, its affiliation with mainstream publishing was a critical cultural milestone in the descent to the seventies.
US #3 (below) was its last number. For a more detailed look at the first two issues go here. US was an interesting experiment that caught the tail end of the underground press wave and featured some of the best writers from the alternative culture. #3 was also a transitional issue.
Cloud Studios, featuring Peter Bramley and Bill Skurski, the first designers of The National Lampoon, took over the design from John Ger, art director for the first two issues. The new design was a bit more ad hoc-paste-up-looking, with type straight from the Compugraphic typesetting machine, and many of Skurski’s surreal collages.
US was part of a small trend in paperback magazines or book-a-zines, including Evergreen Review, that attempted to wed the scholarly journal with mass-market paperbacks to conventional periodical. The trend fizzled. The pleasure of a magazine or newspaper is its attention grabbing scale and size. Nonetheless, the need to communicate to a mass audience (of varying sizes) prompted a lot of fascinating approaches — and US deserves its place in design history.
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About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →