Private typeface for Esquire UK
As gentlemen’s magazines go, Esquire has always held its own at the classier end of the market—more Cary Grant than Hugh Heffner—and, as its strapline declares, it is for “men who mean business”, which leads us to expect something rather dashing and Savile Row-like in demeanour. Indeed, under the new art directorship of David McKendrick (whose excellent design pedigree includes time at GTF, North and Wallpaper*) Esquire has found a new visual direction that rekindles the simple elegance it had in the 1960s for a contemporary audience. The September issue’s redesign sports a new bespoke headline font courtesy of very talented new young Swiss typographers BP Foundry. “The brief was to do a headline font that would have a classy and graphic touch but would still fit in a relatively strict and functional layout,” says Maxime Buechi, co-founder of BP Foundry, “so we based it on a Grotesk that we had already designed and worked on a series of ‘swashes’ and alternates. We drew inspiration from swashes like those you can find in classic fonts like Caslon or Minion.”
The Esquire logo has also been redrawn and, together with the new font, McKendrick hopes this will establish an independent visual voice for the magazine. “We want Esquire to own its look,” he says, citing the Guardian and Self Service as examples of editorial design instantly identifiable through their use of type. With an approach to the structure and layout that is more in keeping with book design, McKendrick draws on his own design background to lift Esquire’s design out of the quagmire of homogenised glossy mag design and more into the realm of the journal.
McKendrick also cites as an influence George Lois, the art director who catapulted Esquire covers into the halls of editorial design fame in the 1960s and early 1970s: the conceptual approach from that era’s covers is something you will see emulated in Esquire’s new covers. The problem of cover lines that dominate too many magazine covers these days is partially (and rather cleverly) sidestepped by McKendrick—two versions of each issue will be printed and a beautifully uninterrupted cover will go to subscribers (who don’t need to be yelled at from newsstands). For a fascinating view of all Esquire’s covers, from the very first issue of October 1933, which featured a watercolour illustration of four strapping outdoor gents cavorting on a canoe (innocent times and a marked contrast to the latest cover featuring Michelle Pfeiffer shot by Rankin), visit the cover gallery at www.esquire.com
Text by Angharad Lewis, published in Grafik magazine, October issue.