Now and Then: Vintage and Contemporary Magazine Covers

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Culture is an ever-evolving beast, it’s true. We may not be completely sure where it’s going, but we do know where it’s been, and how better to track our progress than by looking at the changes in the most popular (and enduring) lifestyle and culture magazines in American culture? We’ve already taken a look at redesigned book covers, but magazines are a more immediate reflection of our selves – like advertisements, they’re a reflection of a cultural ideal. Plus, well, they’re fun to look at. Click through to see the vintage covers and contemporary redesigns of your favorite American rags, and let us know if you think we’re changing for the better or worse.

Founded in 1933, the good news is that Esquire has always been the cheeky, irreverent magazine it is today. The bad news is that that little clay man lingered far, far too long in the magazine’s design scheme. Recent issues are ultra-modern and typography-heavy, which we very much enjoy. They’ve even played with things like electronic ink and “the augmented reality issue,” so we think they’ll be coasting on through the digital era.

GQ was launched in 1931 as Apparel Arts, a men’s clothing industry insider magazine with a very limited print run. In 1957, it was transformed into a men’s quarterly consumer magazine, and the name was changed to the much more chic and layman-friendly Gentlemen’s Quarterly after nine issues.

Vogue was founded in 1892 (this is its very first cover!) as a weekly publication. When its founder, Arthur Baldwin Turnure died in 1909, Condé Nast assumed control, turning it first into a bi-weekly magazine, and then, in 1973, a monthly publication. Vogue went through many looks – some of them much sillier than you would ever expect for the famously snooty magazine – before arriving at its stately serifed logo and celebrity couture covers.

Oh, The New Yorker. You knew what you were doing right from the beginning, didn’t you? We all know what the original New Yorker cover looks like, so this is the second issue. Since so many artists contribute to the covers of this iconic magazine, we’ve decided to compare it to a Jorge Colombo cover from early this year, drawn on an iPhone. Modern technology, yay or nay?

New York Magazine, originally published in 1968 as a competitor to The New Yorker, also seems to have had its logo down pat from the very beginning, though the designers have expanded from the straight photo and top bar covers to all sorts of creative solutions.

National Geographic, which started publishing issues in 1888, didn’t start putting pictures of any kind on the cover until 1959, or some 760 issues in. In fact, it was a largely text-based publication until the January 1905 issue, which featured several large photographs of Tibet and started the magazine on its course to being the graphically renowned publication it is today. They’ve had that yellow bar since 1910, though.

Rolling Stone, we’re not speaking to you. You know what you did.