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Time Out New York: Young, Loud and Scrappy!

One of the happiest developments in the past year has been the revitalization of Time Out New York. A new editor and art director have energized and refreshed the weekly city service guide, and the results are spectacularly apparent on the magazine’s bold, graphic covers. Directing the visual renaissance is art director Chris Deacon, who started at Time Out in June 2014; he previously worked as the group art director of Ink Publishing, and the art director of ShortList magazine, both in London. At ShortList he worked with Time Out editor in chief Terri White, who started her current job in January 2014. “She’s a fantastic editor,” says Deacon, “and we have a great working partnership.”
That collaboration has paid off. Time Out covers have become stunning mini-posters each week, transcending the traditional service format of the magazine. They pull in elements of U.K. music magazines and American altweeklies, with a strong but refined NYC tabloid sensibility. It’s all combined with stylish photography and illustration, and a nicely restrained sense of typography.
Deacon says that most of the covers are done in anywhere from a few hours to a few days, and it often shows. The cover design is fast and funky, with a brash graphic sensibility and a lot of general scrappiness. But everything is smartly conceived and crisply executed, and the overall look is smart and contemporary. Best of all, there’s now an energetic visual and verbal conversation with the Time Out readers that seems perfectly attuned to the magazine’s young, savvy audience.
Here’s a selection of some favorite Time Out New York covers from 2014, plus a short Q+A with Deacon where he talks about his inspiration and creative process.
What do you look at for inspiration for the covers of Time Out New York?
Chris Deacon: It sounds a little clichéd but I’m actually more influenced by advertising than by typical editorial cover design—the art of communicating a message in the quickest, smartest and simplest way possible. This approach wouldn’t work for all magazines obviously, but it seems a great fit for communicating a magazine like Time Out New York. Other than advertising, inspiration can come from all over. I look at book cover design, at old magazines like Nova and The Face, Pearce Marchbank’s great design on Time Out London in the 70s, and magazines like Bloomberg Businessweek and Little White Lies. And then there’s George Lois-era Esquire, his advertising work, graphic designers like Paul Rand and Saul Bass and even movie poster design.
How does Time Out New York‘s challenging budget and deadline influence the cover design?
Chris Deacon: We try and not let the budget sway us in the quality or creativity of the cover design. We’ve done plenty of free or cheap covers that I’ve designed myself or by utilizing the talents we have in the art department. This weeks “Holiday Survival Guide” was really exciting to do just myself. It cost us nothing and was great fun! But where money comes in handy is getting some really great photographers to give us something a little special when shooting a celebrity or a still life. As for the deadline, we have strict production deadlines so we’re actually quite far ahead on covers for the moment. It can get a little stressful juggling it all on a weekly, but once you get into a groove there’s always time to play around with the cover.
How would you describe the overall look and design of your covers?
Chris Deacon: Clean, confident, immediate, uncluttered, humurous, simple, glossy and sharp. I always think a good aim is to get readers to look forward to seeing the cover every week. I’d like them to be proud to read them on the subway or at work or wherever. I’d like them to not feel patronized and that they’re being sold something they want to keep hold of or even share.

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Terri White

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