If my math skills haven’t totally withered, I’m amazed to say that I have written for PRINT magazine for almost 45 years, since I was around 25. Before that, at around 17, I was a reader. Ever since I joined my first periodical as an illustrator/cartoonist, PRINT was on someone’s desk or shelf. It was the magazine to look to if you wanted to learn something about the sandbox you were playing in. When I began making pictures with the goal of publishing them somewhere, I didn’t know much about what I was supposed to know or how to learn it, but I figured PRINT offered a clue.
The one-word title seemed so ordinary. But like Life, Look or Time, PRINT spoke volumes. Printing something was not as easy then as it is today. Not everyone had access to a printing press, copy machine or even a mimeograph. To be in print at all was a sign of validation. Anyone could draw a sign or type a letter, but to be in print demanded some person—editor, art director, whoever the gatekeeper was—found some value in what you had created.
There were many publications that the print-wannabe could strive for acceptance. I wanted my work to be printed in Art Direction magazine—and came damn close, too. But PRINT was the creme de la creme of “trade magazines” for the field. When then-editor Martin Fox eventually opened the gates to me, I was so nervous and insecure that it took over a year to finish my assignment. I do not recall what it was, but I’ve maintained a full run of the magazine and hope during the next few months to find that first piece and much more.
In 2015, on the magazine’s 75th anniversary, I authored a book titled Covering Print: 75 Years. 75 Covers. It was not well advertised, barely distributed and quickly fell “out of print” (otherwise known as OP). Which is a shame. Not just because of the work that the editor and I put into it, but because it was an extremely valuable, if incomplete, record of the evolution of graphic style, form, content and personality. The 75 covers covered many areas of the social and aesthetic concerns of their respective years (and those to come); they addressed what was occurring in the commercial arts world and, by extension, the popular art universe.
Digging through my stacks and boxes, I pulled out a few early issues that seemed very current to me. The predictable white male dominance is, of course, overwhelming. Some of the typography and advertisements suffer from aged aesthetics and ideas, but that nonetheless is what gives them a scholarly curiosity and historical relevance, especially as they continued through decades of change and upheaval. I hope that someday these issues won’t just be stacked up in piles and boxes, but will be digitized and in whatever cloud is invented by then so that everyone can have access to the news, commentaries, critiques, profiles and overall wealth of mid-20th–century to early 21st-century material that, paradoxically, today is only in print.
Note: The magazine’s very first cover (1940), below, does not reveal the title “PRINT,” except on the spine.