The Baffler #22 is the first full color issue in its history. That’s pretty monumental, especially since most color magazines are now entering their digital stages. I asked John Summers, editor-in-chief and Patrick J.B. Flynn, design and art director to shed some light on the the new and reflect on the old.
Your latest Baffler (No. 22) is not only the first in full color, but it now looks like The New Yorker on steroids. Why the change?
Patrick Flynn: Since its inception in 1988, The Baffler has changed graphically in both subtle and dramatic ways. In the past, the journal was published intermittently, with sometimes more than a year passing between issues. The Baffler is now published regularly, three issues per year. As the publication’s designer and art director, I’m tasked with improving a structure in service of writing that presents itself in constantly evolving patterns. The nature of the journal requires flexibility and insists on continual augmentation in the design. The Baffler requires change, if only to make each issue more wonderful than the last. Now that color is on our palette, our potential for visual flair broadens, offering further depth of expression in new ways. Issue number 22, to me, reflects the exhilaration of being able to work with a full palette of color in order to more subtly and, in some instances, more fully portray the magazine’s ideas.
You’ve added so much prominent illustration, with some of the best of the vets—David Johnson, Arnold Roth, Brad Holland, et al. What is the rationale for what amounts to a resurrection of conceptual illo?
Patrick Flynn: I’ve admired and worked with many of the artists before, especially while I was art director of The Progressive. These artists are some of the best minds in the business. Bringing their talent and knowledge to The Baffler not only broadens our horizons, but contributes to the journal’s high level of social criticism, political analysis, and satire. The art ensures that the journal will command visual attention. Most importantly, I love illustration, especially political graphic art, as a means of communicating ideas.
I’ve seen a digital copy, but you are publishing a print version as well. What do you see as the viability of the latter?
John Summers: Shall I say very viable? Our art and criticism express our spontaneous indignation and incredulity at what passes for common-sense definitions of viable; the conditions for spontaneous indignation and incredulity aren’t likely to change anytime soon; ergo, our printed magazine will flourish. As you can see, I try not to think about it. We have a contract with MIT Press that’s set to keep us in print at least until 2016, by which time Hillary Clinton will be president and our work will be done.
Finally, what is your mission as editor of The Baffler in 2013?
John Summers: Since we are successfully publishing a print magazine of powerful images and unpopular thoughts—realizing an idea whose day has supposedly come and gone—I wouldn’t mind hiring dozens more editors, writers, and artists, paying them all Wall Street salaries, and setting them loose on the subject of American power, all the way to the end of the line. Otherwise, my mission is to avoid mission statements and related forms of windbaggery.
Mark S. Fisher
For more Steven Heller, check out Citizen Designer: Perspectives on Design Responsibility, one of the many Heller titles available at MyDesignShop.com.