Sep 14, 2013

My Favo(u)rite Magazine: Ramparts, January 1970

This is my entry to the My Favo(u)rite Magazine project, created by Jeremy Leslie and Andrew Losowsky as a benefit for myself and my family. After collecting 87 entries from a stellar collection of magazine makers, Jeremy and Andrew asked me to send along my favorite magazine. I responded with the following, which they smartly edited to fit. Here’s the full, unedited version!

Ramparts, January 1970: This was likely the first magazine I ever bought that wasn’t Mad, Creepy, or a comic book. Forty-plus years later, I still have my copy and I still draw on it for inspiration. Ramparts was like no magazine I had ever seen. Underground and political newspapers and publications from that time were filled with passionate, riotous design, multiple typefaces, scratchy artwork, and muddy photographs. This issue of Ramparts was simple, cool, and understated, using just one typeface and a generous amount of white space. The design seemed at odds with the magazine’ edgy political editorial content: stories about the Black Panthers, the Chicago 8, San Quentin prison, the environment, and best of all, Jefferson Airplane. To a 16-year-old infatuated with the New Left and the student revolution, this was a heady and intoxicating mix. I didn’t understand all of Ramparts, especially the design, but I spent hours and hours reading it and trying to deconstruct what they were trying to say. I paid special attention to the ads, which were as provocative as the content, featuring psychedelic and revolutionary posters (and naked women!), books by writers like Eldridge Cleaver, and much more that you wouldn’t find in the copies of Life and Time that my parents got at home. I fell in love with the magazine and especially with Dugald Stermer’s strong, simple design and powerful graphics. Although Stermer had left Ramparts the issue before this one, his assistant, John Williams (who also designed the first issues of Rolling Stone) continued his visual vision. I immediately rushed down to one of the cutout magazine stores in downtown Buffalo. This was a place where newsstands dumped their magazines when they went off sale date. The news agents would rip off the front cover logo/masthead and return it to the distributors for credit, then they’d sell the magazines for pennies to the cutout store, who would sell back issues for 10 cents or a quarter. I bought all the old copies of Ramparts that they had, most of them still with the cover logos. And I started my subscription a couple months later. (Ramparts image courtesy of Babylon Falling)

My Favo(u)rite Magazine is a benefit project to help raise funds to cover extensive medical bills (and living expenses) following a serious accident I suffered earlier this year. Copies are available from Magculture.