Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Evolution of the Splash Page

In many lifestyle and fashion magazines, the core features are located in an advertisement-free zone towards the end of the issue, rather like the feature film following the previews. In the publishing industry this zone is referred to as 'the well.' Few magazines handle the well more beautifully than Martha Stewart Living, both in terms of its stylistic presentation and in terms of its theme.

To introduce the well, the editors at Martha Stewart Living have have always provided readers with an enticing splash page, a sort of photographic invitation to explore the features that lie beyond. It is a gateway, a quiet beckoning to come inside (or go outside!) and linger for a little while.

Below I've selected some summery splash pages from past issues of Martha Stewart Living to demonstrate the evolutionary motifs the editors have employed to get us readers all set to dive into this welcoming well!
From the beginning, Martha Stewart Living has introduced its well with a splash page. The early pages included a photograph - a lifestyle moment - with a reflective, almost poetic paragraph of prose to further expand on the feeling of the month or season in question. This image, above, is from the summer 1994 issue of the magazine. The paragraph reads: "Our needs are simple now. A couple of chairs. A large, sturdy tree. A patch of sunlight dappling the shade. This is the season when life moves outdoors and everything seems easy. Friendships deepen over casual dinners. The coals on the grill go cold, but the conversation lasts well into the evening. By fall, we'll have it all figured out." The MSL splash pages maintained this style of presentation throughout the 1990s.
By 2003, the editors had decided to shake things up a bit. Throughout 2003 and 2004, the splash page became a more informative addition. The popular "Do You Know?" column had moved from the front of the magazine to the splash page itself, featuring interesting facts about the month or season in question. To offset the factual element, a creative tableau of the season's best offerings was arranged.
In 2005, the editors had yet another approach: a seasonal representation against an all-white background with the word of the month somehow incorporated into the scene. For this August, 2005, issue the editors had a sand castle built and used small flags to announce the month on each of its spires and turrets. Another example was calligraphy on an invitation, or embroidery on a linen napkin.
For their 15th anniversary year, the editors looked back to locate some of their favourite imagery from the magazine. Each month, an editor would select his or her favourite image for the splash page and explain why it was chosen. For the June issue, collecting editor Fritz Karch chose this image of an assistant food editor with an apron full of berries picked from the grounds of Martha's home in East Hampton, Lily Pond Lane.
In 2008, it was pared-down simplicity. One word was chosen for each month by the editorial team and then a photographer would interpret that word. In this case, "Breezy" was beautifully represented in a photograph by Katherine Wolkoff.

In 2009, we see a blend of almost all former elements: a thematic representation of the season (shells and sand) but mixed with text. In this case, it is a list of things to do, a table of contents of what can be found in the pages beyond.

Back to simplicity and fun this year! The editors had special wine labels made to spell the word "Living." Set artfully on a table, the suggestion is that of a free-spirited but elegant party. The white space used in the image provides scale in the most ingenious way. Does anyone have a favourite splash page from years past?

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