Time Magazine: Visual Language & The Written Word

In its June 22, 2015 edition, TIME magazine debuted a new look, it’s third in almost as many years. It’s purported purpose was a simpler format, easier to read and the integration of its multiple platforms—digital, video, mobile and print. Even with these apparently functional and tactical goals, the magazine’s senior editors—journalists all, wordsmiths, reporters, storytellers who strum the power and nuance of words to evoke images and make meaning clear—collaborated with visual linguists—typographers, font creators, graphic designers—to harness the evocative power of visual language.

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Visual language runs the gamut from typography and calligraphy to colors, symbols, photos, illustration and memes. What is so powerful with the affect of these non-verbal communicators is that they are loaded with cultural and historic meaning that makes the message, in whose service they are engaged, more powerful, more meaningful and more memorable.

From commercial applications like the color pink on Owens-Corning insulation or the gingham atop a jar of Smuckers preserves, to the culturally symbolic Star of David, the cross, any flag, the swastika, the caduceus, to the stereotypes of leprechauns, sombreros, cowboys in white hats or black hats, visual language delivers meaning wordlessly, emotionally, unequivocally.

 
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TIME magazine’s editor, Nancy Gibbs, spoke to their engagement with visual language.

“We enlisted typographer Kent Law, who through months of collaboration gave us all a profound new appreciation for the art of the font. For headlines we are introducing Duplicate Ionic, designed in a style with roots in the 19th century and commonly used in early newspapers.”

“Duplicate Ionic inherits this air of trustworthiness,” Kent Law says.

Gibbs continues, “For the body copy, Kent created a brand-new typeface, which he has named Haffner. It was designed to be elegant, understated and most of all, easy to read.”

These elements of visual language in support of the over-arching visual style of the magazine deliver a core element of the magazine’s brand meaning: telling great stories knowing that time is valuable and TIME should help its readers use it well.

Damen Jackson