From: Peggy Wilkins <email@example.com>, 09 Nov 2002
Subject: Changes: Layout and Design
I feel that the look of PLAYBOY is very important: it is a significant factor in the feeling readers get while reading/viewing the magazine, and in evoking this feeling, it helps identify what PLAYBOY is about. Ideally, all layouts should contribute to an overall "feel" for the magazine. Looking at recent issues, I see layout/design styles that seem at odds with one another. Some of the layout/design is also a bit unattractive. Let's look at the current (December 2002) issue for some examples.
There is a category of feature that has a very austere, sterile, square, old-fashioned look: Interview, Advisor, reviews, Next Month, etc. At the opposite end of the spectrum are features which can be a bit overbearing in appearance: they are laid out in multiple fonts and font sizes, multiple colors of text, background images under the text, odd angles, large sections of all caps, and pictures strewn randomly about the page. For examples of this latter type of layout, look at How to Save Your Ass in a Scandal (pp.74-77), Live From New York (pp.104-106), and Centerfolds on Sex (a real winner of a feature, I think; p.151). Sometimes this works well, but most of the time I think it doesn't: it tends to be jarring and doesn't flow well. Then there is the whole Playboy After Hours section, which has the sterile text layout combined with rectangular (translation: severe looking) mini-feature blurbs; i find this particular feature visually quite unattractive. It's much too square (in both senses of that word).
I would enjoy seeing a more attractive layout/design throughout the magazine in general, and in the recurring features in particular. I feel this would contribute subtly but significantly to the experience of reading the magazine...
I definitely suggest an overhaul for the look of the Playboy Interview: it looks precisely the same today as it did when the feature debuted in 1962! While sticking to the original layout does emphasize the venerable tradition that is the Playboy Interview, it looks old-fashioned and so contributes a tired feeling to the magazine. I would love to see some color photography, career pictures of the interview subject (this provides excellent context), maybe even a full page, formal portrait done by a skillful portrait photographer. A break from the 3-column format might be nice as well.
A look at interviews in some of the foreign editions of PLAYBOY would offer some ready-made alternative presentations for evaluation. It would definitely be worthwhile for the US edition to take a serious look at those and critique/adapt.
From: Albert Joson <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 13 Nov 2002
Subject: Future of PLAYBOY
Some of the layout and design in the magazine needs a major makeover. Some of the spreads—mainly the ones that Peggy mentioned—look a bit too "circusy" or "cartoony". Being someone wanting to go into the magazine layout thing, my favorite magazines (besides PLAYBOY) are the arty mags like Flaunt and Blackbook. It would be wonderful to see Playboy use a layout similar to these mags, but put that PLAYBOY style in the mix.
From: Peggy Wilkins <email@example.com>, 18 Jul 2003
Subject: The August Issue
Donna> While I disagree with Peggy about changing the format of Donna> the Interview - I think sometimes you don't mess with what Donna> is iconic - at least not when you are changing everything Donna> else.
I would think that a reason to keep the classic Interview format is that it evokes the memory of a great tradition in its appearance. I know that no one will dispute that the PLAYBOY Interview has been a wonderful feature over the decades. That's good, but what if the Interview becomes something less than it was in the past, as it has in recent years? Where's the strength in keeping up appearances, if the substance doesn't back it up?
I hope it will be strong in both appearance and substance. Changing the appearance doesn't mean that the tradition will be forgotten. Keep the appearance and lose the substance, and it will be forgotten (or at least dismissed).
I have enjoyed some of the foreign edition interview formats, and to me they look more attractive because they fit in better with other, more modern layouts. To me, part of the issue is making the magazine look good as a whole. To have parts of it look very modern, and other parts very old fashioned, presents a problem in giving the reader a sense of coherence and visual flow.
I am not wedded to the notion of updating the layout of the Interview, but I do think that updating it could be a win overall. But to me the more important thing is to preserve the spirit of the Interview over its appearance.
From: Peggy Wilkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>, 26 May 2003
Subject: Challenge to PLAYBOY's editors
A good way to accomodate added content such as expanded reviews would be to make the magazine physically larger. For instance, why not make it slightly wider? This would increase available space for columns. A smaller font could also pack more information in the same amount of space, and the added information would be obvious even just on casual inspection by flipping through the pages. Use a font that would look better in a smaller size; improved appearance would be a bonus.