Saturday, September 27, 2014

Radio (Bad) Times Covers

Once upon a time I lived in a house where the Radio Times was delivered through the door every week. I used to shudder every time I caught a glimpse of its cover lying on the kitchen table or sofa, and promptly turn it over. There are plenty of ugly magazines out there on the shelves, well, most of them actually, but there's something about the Radio Times, which has a long tradition of having lovely illustrated covers (mainly in the 1930s) and even has an awards night for them (apparently without irony) that makes their ugly covers especially hard to bear. There's also a £25 hardback book, The Radio Times Cover Story (official).

It's partly their complete lack of imagination and partly the nature of the beast: though still called Radio Times, it's mostly a TV-listings guide, and features horribly contrived, ugly TV characters on its covers. Famously, I don't own a TV (I know, I know, I could watch it online – but don't) and find it an ugly, overbright, overloud medium – facets the Radio Times echoes (when I did watch TV I admit to looking forward to the bumper Xmas edition). If you're forgiving them slightly for having to churn out a whole magazine on a weekly basis, then I direct to you Time Out magazine (also a listings guide) in the 1970s (even today it's not that bad), where designer Pierce Marchbank managed to turn out great designs every seven days.

Thankfully I'm not the only one thinking this: Mike Dempsey has a post about it in his Graphic Journey, which is mentioned in Modern Magazines are Rubbish by Martin Colyner, published in Varoom! magazine, Winter 2011/12, issue 17. Dempsey's highlights covers from RT's past, including beautiful covers by illustrators Frank Bellamy (1972), Peter Brookes (1973) and Ralph Steadman (1977). In 2012, RT went against its current grain and featured a David Hockney painting on its cover with no straplines. Oh Bliss!

Previously on Barnflakes:
Everything is four stars

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