New York magazine’s new Agenda

Posted inPrint Design Articles
Thumbnail for Bill Blackbeard's Final Splash Panel

There’s been some sadness around this office that New York decided to get rid of their High Priority feature, a half-page graphic that opened their listings section each week. Created by a different designer every issue, High Priority showed off the talents of designers new and established, with the only restriction being that the design be done in red, black, and white.* Chris Dixon, the magazine’s design director, jokes that they “ran out of typographers” after three years, but adds on a more serious note that High Priority had a tendency to be “a little removed [from what the magazine was actually recommending] for the reader’s good.” Agenda, which replaces High Priority, had been around on the magazine’s site for half a year before making it into print. It’s a more standard back-of-book opener (e.g., Entertainment Weekly’s Must List), and it also serves as another way to drive readers to the magazine’s website. Frankly, though I loved High Priority, I see Dixon’s point—Agenda is more accessible (if sometimes accidentally flipped over, since it now takes over a full page instead of High Priority’s half page).

At the same time as the appearance of Agenda, Dixon and his team also bumped the crossword puzzle a few pages and introduced a new back page infographic, Artifact, which the magazine’s editors describes as “pure observation, a moment grabbed and preserved.” Dixon adds that they “had been looking for the perfect end note to the magazine for a year or so,” and that “this seemed to be the best way to finish off the experience of the issue.”

Back pages are always tricky for editors, and a crossword was a standard cop-out (like the beloved puzzle in People). Even magazines that don’t do crosswords often choose a service-y or interactive feature, such as The New Yorker’s highfalutin cartoon contest, Martha Stewart Living’s cookie recipe, or Vanity Fair’s Proust Questionnaire. It will, I think, be hard to come up with an attention-grabbing infographic each week, and Artifact seems awfully like a step in a march toward an all-charticle-all-the-time magazine, as evidenced by the magazine’s (popular) approval matrix and the curve of shifting expectations. Personally, as a long time fan of Maura Jacobson’s puzzles, I’m hoping for a return of the crossword the back page.

*Incidentally, the only colors that Stephanie Green would wear in the tween book series Sleepover Girls. I’m guessing that Chris Dixon wasn’t a Sleepover Girls fan, but who knows? CLAIRE LUI