1984: Pop Music’s Best Year Ever, from Billboard Magazine

Having spent many years working at Entertainment Weekly, New York, Vibe, and Details, I’ve been involved in creating more magazine editorial “packages” than I care to remember. Designing those multi-page, late-closing projects is always a challenge, especially because they tend to be way over-subscribed with content and images. I’m very happy to see this striking music anniversary feature, 1984: Pop Music’s Best Year Ever,  in the current issue (November 1, 2014) of Billboard. It’s a rich, visually-textured collection of pages, as bright and engaging as the musical and cultural time that it chronicles.

The 1984 package was designed by Patrick Crowley, under the guidance of Billboard creative director Shanti Marlar and design director Nicole Tereza, and aided by photo editor Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez. The content is a mix of contemporary interviews, charts, cool back-in-the-day photographs, and a never-ending white-on-black timeline that weaves its way through every page.

In addition to lots of vintage photos, there’s an opening collage illustration by Matt Herring, mini-illustrated portraits by Joel Kimmel, and spot illustrations by Remie Geoffroi. The design is a smart mix of 80s and 00s influences, giving the pages a retro flavor, but a modern look. Everything is nicely defined, with clean articulation, and there are plenty of refined details throughout. This package is so dynamic and well-blended that it almost makes me nostalgic for the 1980s (kudos to the editors for including one of my fave bands from that era, Hüsker Du!)

If I have a beef with the design, it’s the very long and visually oppressive introduction, reversed in white out of black on the opening spread. The amount of text and its graphic treatment belie the pop enthusiasm of the following pages. Still, once you get past the first spread, this package is a pure visual treat.

The Billboard art and photo team who worked on 1984: Pop’s Music Best Year Ever
Creative director: Shanti Marlar
Design director: Nicole Tereza
Senior associate art director: Patrick Crowley
Associate photo editor: Lorenna Gomez-Sanchez
Photo editors: Samantha Xu and Amelia Halverson

(Above): Illustration by Matt Herring

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Cover review: Billboard