Object Lesson

 

Baby Got Botox

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I'm not embarrassed to admit it. I had a little work done over the holidays. Nothing drastic, mind you, just a nip here and a tuck there. Take a close look at this issue of ARCHITECT, and you'll see the results.

What compelled me to go under the knife? ARCHITECT celebrated its first birthday in November—too young in most circles for plastic surgery, unless you live in Brazil or work in the entertainment industry. If I've learned anything during my career as a producer of archi-porn (as the community of architectural editors, journalists, and curators sometimes refers to its product), it's that you have to stay fresh for your audience.

Throughout the past year, said audience has taken the time to send us letters and e-mails expressing strong opinions about the magazine. We love the feedback, of course—whether positive or negative, it means the readers are paying attention—so we decided to solicit even more and meet with architects of all stripes this summer at lunches in Denver, Raleigh, N.C., and St. Louis.

“Treat this lunch like a design review in architecture school,” we asked the participants. “Imagine that we, the editors of ARCHITECT, are the students, the magazine is our studio project, and you're the jury giving us a crit.”

Did our freshman exercise earn us an A+? Actually, we were pleasantly surprised to find that all the architects in attendance had positive things to say about the magazine. Everyone seemed to appreciate our basic editorial premise: supplementing the conventional architecture magazine coverage of new projects with information about the people involved and the processes they undertake. They valued the focus on business and technology, the occasional looks back at the history of architecture. All in all, they seemed to find ARCHITECT both useful and entertaining. Or so they said.

But we were looking for more than a pat on the back. We were honestly expecting—even hoping for—a few jabs as well. So we pressed our lunch companions a little, and ultimately they opened up about what they wanted to see in the pages of ARCHITECT: more critical writing, livelier graphic design, bigger detail drawings, stronger distinctions between magazine departments.

We cross-referenced their comments with the results of an independent reader study that we conducted around the same time. And the quantitative responses to the survey corresponded directly with the qualitative feedback from our lunches. We had a mandate, and we got to work.

The news section is no longer pea green. The Q&A on the last page now has room for more lengthy interviews. And several individual departments have been reformulated, redesigned, and grouped together. Our art director, Aubrey Altmann, deserves high praise for taking the original design, by Abbott Miller of Pentagram, to the logical next level.

If we've done our jobs right, you'll barely notice a difference. Like good plastic surgery, changes to a magazine should be subtle: getting rid of a few wrinkles and emphasizing its very best features. This magazine might look a little fresher, more well-rested, but it should still look like the ARCHITECT you know and, hopefully, love.

 
 

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About the Blogger

Ned Cramer

thumbnail image Ned Cramer is editor-in-chief of ARCHITECT, and editorial director of ARCHITECTURAL LIGHTING, ECO-STRUCTURE, and METALMAG, published by Hanley Wood, a Washington, D.C.-based business media company. Prior to joining Hanley Wood, Cramer served as the first full-time curator of the Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF), where he organized public programs and exhibitions such as "A Century of Progress: Chicago's 1933-34 World's Fair" and "New Federal Architecture: The Face of a Nation." At CAF, projects under Cramer's direction received support from foundations and corporations such as Altria, Boeing, the Driehaus Foundation, the Graham Foundation, and the McCormick-Tribune Foundation. He speaks regularly on architecture, design, and related issues. The Avery Architectural Index lists nearly 100 articles with Cramer's byline, many written in his former capacity as executive editor of Architecture magazine. The recipient of an Arts Administration Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, Cramer has held positions at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Menil Collection in Houston. Cramer is an alumnus of the Rice University School of Architecture. He was born and raised in St. Louis.