I.D. inspired me back when I was an industrial design student, searching for inspiration and a point-of-view on the outside design world. Blogs were still finding their way, so the monthly appearance of my subscription was an exciting event. Years later, I.D. exposed me to the firm I currently work at, through an article on gravitytank's process in the June 2005 issue. It was one of the first things I had read about gravitytank
, and could certainly be credited with my initial interest in the firm.
The magazine has had it's ups and downs over the years, but in recent years had really hit a stride both in reporting and in art direction. The spare & straightforward photography style that they started to use a few years ago, had really started to form into a recognizable aesthetic point-of-view. I love how they stopped trying to over-glamorize the objects in their pages, instead casually placing them in empty rooms, leaning against other products or photography equipment, cords casually appearing in the corners of shots-- and then lighting them in a wash of even strobe flash. It was democratizing and beautiful. It had a vision. Blogs just don't produce art direction like that.
Sure, I.D. was losing a lot of it's uniqueness-- with lifestyle magazines reporting on design, blogs breaking the latest news, and an American industrial design industry that's in serious transition-- but the fact remains that there are no other publications in the world reporting on design the way I.D. did. Other design publications spread their focus to other disciplines (like urbanism, architecture and dwellings) but they rarely step behind the scenes to talk about the designers, their workspaces, and their processes.
Perhaps most unfortunate is the loss of an American voice on industrial design. England has Icon
, Japan has Axis
, Italy has Abitare. To lose that voice is to lose a record of the current zeitgeist of US design, to lose a critical voice of the industry it reported on, and to lose a champion for design-at-large.
Of course, this is certainly the darkest times for the publishing industry. When major newspapers and magazines are dropping weekly, I suppose it shouldn't come as a surprise that a somewhat niche magazine would also struggle for advertising dollars. I was always a little amazed that the majority of the advertising in I.D. seemed to come from design consulting firms and design service providers-- not exactly high dollar advertising. Was there never an opportunity to approach big money "lifestyle" brands to advertise in the US's premier design magazine? Isn't their target market those who read this type of periodical? (I should mention that I.D. has let my decade-long subscription lapse multiple times in the past few years without so much as a renewal notice. Not exactly a good subscriber retention strategy.)
Innovation zealots may excitedly exclaim "Print is dead!", but there's definitely some serious irony in the fact that a magazine about the culture of objects is now ceasing to exist as an object.
We'll miss you, I.D.-- hope to see you again soon.