Time Out's Cover Story

By london_will Last edited 165 months ago
Time Out's Cover Story

There's something about living in London that means one occasionally descends into a visceral, knee-trembling hatred for something. The way that tourists stand stock still at the top of Tube escalators. Gum on bus seats. Oxford Street on a Saturday.

Perhaps in other cities people would respond in healthier ways and grow as a person - in Madrid, they'd say manana and have a nap. In Oslo they'd get blind drunk, write a play about how pointless everything is, and hang themselves. In Los Angeles, they'd mention it to their analyst and sue somebody.

In London, however, there exists the epitome of the British habit of getting insanely worked up and cross about something and then not mentioning it to anyone for fear of making a scene. There's a lot to get worked up about - modern life, especially modern life in London, contains a lot of crap things.

So sometimes we focus on minor, trivial things and focus all the assembled anger and frustration we feel onto them - if we didn't we'd either explode or become a passionate crusader for some cause, like being nice to donkeys, installing a speed bump on a certain road or encouraging people to believe that what ails this country is that some people have darker skin than others. And that wouldn't do, as the British find passion rather embarrassing. That's why we're the country that invented the tea cosy.

Anyway, all this pent up passion has to go somewhere, and in London, sadly, it often gets directed into hatred. For most people it's relatively harmless hatred directed at gum on bus seats, lime trees, or tea cosies. Sometimes it turns into horrible extremism. For this Londonista, today it is focused on this week's Time Out cover. (Pictured above.)

Time Out used to be a good-looking magazine, one that plainly valued design. Lately this has fallen to bits, and nowhere is this more evident than the cover. Despite having great photographic material to work with, the newest covers are horribly confused and cluttered with competing coverlines about what's in the magazine. There's little sense of hierarchy, and although presumably this clutter is supposed to represent a sort of cultish anarchy, it's more like having a nursery school screaming at you.

But the most recent number, featuring Nick Hornby as guest editor, represents a nadir. It's the sign of a design studio in full intellectual retreat to have him holding up a meaningless sign, obscuring his face. Again, presumably it's trying to put across an anarchic, fun, young "wahey, watch us pushing envelopes left, right and centre", but it comes across as not only utterly joyless and stale but also as a clear clue that the only envelope they're pushing contains an application form to be re-admitted to art school. Assuming they attended in the first place.

The poverty of ideas exhibited is really breathtaking. A recursive cover. It's only been done 98,117 times before in 2,136 formats. Let's do it again.

Don't misunderstand this. I'm sure Time Out is staffed by wonderful, talented individuals who are not only extremely good at magazine design, they're also lovely to know and kind to donkeys. And you have to admire them for even attempting the sisyphean task of writing down everything that's in London every week - in terms of content, TO is a bible (although it tends to be a bit preachy, just like the Bible).

Also, we're wide open to a charge of hypocrisy, since Londonist isn't the prettiest site on the web.

But we don't get paid to provide this, and TO does. Bad design by people who are paid to do it is regrettable, but far from being a crime. Lazy design foisted onto a city that deserves better is a different matter.

(On the subject of poverty of ideas at Time Out - but completely unrelated for legal reasons - it's fascinating to notice how similar their new "The Big Smoke" section is to Londonist's predecessor, The Big Smoker. Similar name, similar logo. Amazing coincidences. Great minds plainly think alike. Where do they get their ideas?)

On edit: It's been pointed out to be that this cover could have been Nick Hornby's idea and had little to do with the TO staff - if this is the case, please disregard the above piece.)

Last Updated 05 May 2005