Magazine of the Week

Welcome back, everyone! Spring break is over and it’s time to get down to the hardest work of the semester: Crunch time, before the end of the academic year.

This week’s magazine is Surface. I chose this issue because it’s one of the few titles on our Display shelves which depicts a woman of color (WoC). It’s sad that this should be notable, but it is. I’m going to write more about that issue later this week, but for now, here’s more about Surface.


Surface was founded in 1993 by San Francisco publisher, Richard Klein. His partner, Riley Johndonnell, was the original editor and art director. It was originally a tabloid format, published 10x/year, and focused on the night life and art scenes of the west coast. Gradually the focus shifted towards global avant garde design of all kinds, it’s current topic. In 2004, Klein attributed the magazine’s success to the growing design consciousness of Americans, citing examples of product designers and architects who have become celebrities during the magazine’s tenure. By associating the title with the work of these designers, Klein hoped to establish Surface as a brand synonymous with contemporary design.




One way Klein accomplished his branding goal was to launch the Avant Guardian issue, which featured the finalists in their fashion photography competition. This contest and issue ceased in 2015. In 2005 the title moved to New York City. More recently, Surface began a travel agency and developed city guides. The publishers work with a series of hotels and real estate developers. The title also advertises launch parties designed to give projects an initial glamorous splash.




Between 2009 and 2014 the title changed financial backers several times. The current version, the title produced by Surface Media, was established in 2014, under CEO Marc Lotenberg and editor in chief Spencer Bailey. The title is now published 6x/year, and each issue has a particular theme. Like so many of their print competitors, they also make use of their online component, for more frequent updates on their larger themes. This site includes products for sale by companies with sympathetic aesthetics. The company also consults on custom video and publishing projects.



Bailey’s projects include a new focus on fashion, with Valerie Steele, head of the Museum at FIT, collaborating regularly on fashion coverage.

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What are you selling?

Last week when I was working on how to research America in the 1950s, I came across a ton of wonderful ads in the magazines I photographed. I thought they were too cool not to share some of this great ad imagery with you this week.

Last week I was flipping through Fortune magazine and Harper’s Bazaar, but since I am often looking at our titles, I have some great images from other mags because I love them. They show all kinds of things about our culture: not just fashions and styling, but also ideas about what we, the consumer, need.


A good example of a need we don’t have much anymore is this ad for women’s gloves. Until the 1970s, women were expected to wear gloves for formal occasions such as job interviews and church.

This ad is also notable because it is in the style of (or perhaps drawn by?) the legendary fashion illustrator Rene Gruau.

Last week I also included an ad for girdles and corsets with boned elastic. We no longer wear lingerie that is that heavily structured, but that style represents the return to an almost Victorian look that fashion took in the 1950s.



I mentioned before (when it was MoW), that Fortune was one of the most highly designed magazines of its day. This is especially visible in its advertising.



Here’s another object we don’t use anymore, the typewriter! Even as recently as the 1990s, students often got an electric typewriter to take to college with them. Personal computers replaced those beginning slowly in the 1980s. By the early 2000s, many universities expected incoming students to have their own as a matter of course.







Speaking of personal computers, I also found an ad in March 1956 Fortune magazine for Sperry Rand for a Univac, which was an early computing system. But it took up a whole room and could really only be afforded by a university or large corporation. The producers used a serious sales pitch in an effort to convince anyone to buy the expensive and unwieldy devices.






But ads from the 1950s were whimsical, too, and show off the design aesthetic of the day. Like this early ad for a Volkswagon Beetle. Aimed at a very different market than Volkswagons are today.







Fortune, as a business publication, had advertising with a business-to-business flavor. And it carried ads for things we take for granted, like cellophane. Cellophane really became popular in the 1930s, but WWII likely slowed down availability of the film for wider commercial use.







Another B to B title we have is Apparel Arts, which was published for the menswear clothing industry. This ad shows a salesperson using industry fabric finishes to upsell piece goods to a female customer. This is from a time when department stores still did alterations on newly-purchased clothes, and sales people had were expected to work closely with customers to direct their purchases. And women often bought their husband’s clothing.





Stop by after break and take a look!

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Technical difficulties and spring break

FIT campus was deserted yesterday because of spring break.

Hi, everyone,

Welcome back! Over the weekend our college IT team migrated our entire server room to a new building, which necessitated moving and upgrading all of our systems. This is why we have been invisible since last Friday. But we’re back now!

Because it’s spring break and quiet around here, I thought I would leave you with some old MoWs to look through. Over the next few weeks, I have some other cool articles planned, as you will see.

Image by M.P. King, MN State Archives


I’ll be reviewing a bunch of books by Nancy Zieman, as a way of paying homage on the occasion of her passing last fall. I’m also working on a post about the proliferation of independent magazines which began in a single person’s living room. I’ve got a few interesting titles to highlight there.



Image from Fisher Scientific supply house



I’ll will also be writing about synthetic fibers and their discovery in the 1940s-60s, and a short bio on the House of Versace. Lots of cool stuff to look forward to, but I still have to write a lot of it!







First I thought I would send you back in time to some of my favorite Mags of the Week. Something old…

Something newer…

And something to write home about…

Have a wonderful spring holiday!

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