New Look, Old Truths
The issue you hold introduces a new design for Commentary, as the rather dramatic difference in the appearance of the cover may already have indicated to you. As was true of the three major redesigns that preceded it in Commentary’s 63-year history, the changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary.
This is a fresh coat of paint, a spring cleaning, a bit of moving the existing furniture around the house. It is not an effort to reconceive, reposition, rethink, or re-anything about Commentary.
Inside, you’ll find that articles now feature subsidiary headlines for the first time, to offer you more information about the piece you are going to read before you begin it. And we are now using “pull quotes” (or “readouts”) in the course of articles, also in the hopes of providing greater clarity to a reader about the piece in which they appear.
Most striking, perhaps, is the use of color and ornament. Headlines, pull quotes, and initial capital letters will appear in color, the first sustained use of it in the magazine’s history. Ornamental patterns also appear throughout, from the cover to the first pages of each section in the magazine. (The new design is the work of Roger Black and his colleagues Miriam Nicklin and Foster Barnes, along with Commentary’s art director, Carol Moskot.)
Why ornamentation rather than all-out illustration or photography? We wanted to make it clear that Commentary will remain what it has always been: a magazine in which words are paramount and therefore will not be in contention with any other means of communication on the page, as they are in so many other publications whose visual aesthetic sometimes seems to overwhelm every other aspect of presentation.
In addition, Commentary is a monthly uniquely concerned with the great tradition that grows from the Hebrew Bible, and I found myself oddly conscious throughout the design process of the commandment forbidding graven images, “any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
The most substantial change you will find in the back of the magazine. We are inaugurating two new sections that will henceforth take the place of Books In Review and Observations. The first new section, Politics & Ideas, features essays on and reviews of works on matters political, ideological, and historical. The second, Culture & Civilization, is the place to find writing about fiction, literary biography, the lively arts, and the popular arts.
“New Look. Old Truths.” That phrase, which will appear on our promotional material in the months to come, really does represent what we were trying to do. I hope you think we have succeeded.