Matthew Carter in the pathetic Esquire

4 October, 2014

This post comes in short parts:

Part 1: Esquire – Most Uncreative Magazine of the Year

Esquire UK has a special “Black Book” biannual edition that is a “style manual for successful men”. This issue produced the the strongest visceral reaction I’ve ever had to a major magazine. I was shocked to see the lazy trend following, lack of any taste, creativity, or unique style from these guys. Art Director Nick Millington, Deputy Art Director Peter Ainsworth, and Designer Anup Parmar should all have their computers confiscated and thrown into the Thames. None of them should be practicing design.

I’d expect this level of derivative hipster shit from some New York or Berlin startup, but for god’s sake, this style of amateur typefaces and neon colors is already two years over. This legendary magazine deserves better. While looking at this issue of The Black Book, all I could imagine was using it for toilet paper… but quite frankly, it isn’t even worth that.


Part 2: Matthew Carter’s mini interview in Esquire

Just before giving up on this waste of paper, I got to a short interview with Matthew Carter. The portrait is quite stunning, great job Steve Schofield (you deserve to have this photo somewhere better).

Matthew was interviewed by Ben Mitchell (could it be the ohbendy I know?)(update: it’s not ohbendy, it’s benmitch101), to the end that he gives some common responses already stated countless times elsewhere.

However, his last answer was nice (I believe I’ve heard that answer before as well, but this time it feels fresher).

Somebody asked me what my retirement plan is the other day. I said “death.”

A Few Related Posts

  • Lauren DiCioccio’s Typographic, Type-Free Art I love this work. At first glance these pieces by Lauren DiCioccio might remind you of Christian Faur’s Color Alphabet.* However, this work […]
  • 365typo365typo The creators of Typo Magazine have now made the definitive yearbook of all things type: 365typo! Volume #2 even features some of my work!
  • Fleming Fictions Find Fresh Facades Ian Fleming (d. 1964) acclaimed creator and author of James bond would be celebrating his 100th birthday this year. In commemoration of this […]

5 Responses to “Matthew Carter in the pathetic Esquire”

  • Stephen Coles

    Maybe you expect too much from Esquire. It’s just a mainstream mag and thus 2–3 years behind everything else. Still, an institution with Esquire’s legacy should be better at executing this stuff, even if it’s out of style.

  • Jan Middendorp

    The someone who asked Carter about his retirement plan was me. I interviewed him a year ago for Creative Characters, the newsletter from MyFonts. I actually like the original answer better. It was the last paragraph of the interview.
    “…I don’t like the idea of giving up. When you work for yourself, no one tells you to retire. So… my retirement plan is death (laughs). Is that a good note to end on?”

  • Rob

    Ah yes Jan, I remember that now! Quite a better interview. You can read it here at MyFonts.

  • Just to answer a few of your comments

    1. we started designing volume one of the big black book at the end of 2012 — so maybe that explains your thoughts on it looking a few years out of date. It was designed with a 2 year shelf life with volume 2 going to print late feb.

    2. the headline font is designed by (have a google you might not like what they do either) Each issue has a custom headline font.

    3. the body copy is Suisse Neue and Suisse Int’ designed by the incredible Ian Party. The rational being its so international neutral its not going to inflict its character onto the content.

    I will forward this to ben so he can comment on my his interview was appalling.

    If you have some more pointers on how i can improve my career it would be much appreciated as i’m now the art director of esquire and along side my creative partner Johanna Bonnevier have taken on several large exhibitions and fashion clients. I dont want them to find out i’m a charlatan. oh and don’t tell the PPA’s as i’m there designer of the year… and not Central Saint Martins as im on there selected alumni list. Oh and shhh about Nick because he is the ITS NICE THAT one to watch this year.


    Future Thames fly tipper — Peter Ainsworth

  • Rob

    Hi Peter, thanks for the comments on the design process (and sorry for my delayed reply).

    I am rather surprised that the design was expected to last two years… I would have imagined that something this trendy and ephemeral would have been more timely created. So to be fair, I would have had quite different thoughts about this issue in 2012.

    I’m a fan of Kai’s work! Lyon and Atlas are both great typefaces. So this was a custom design for this issue? I’d be curious to know what their brief was.

    This ‘Swiss neutral’ argument is quite frankly cliche and without any merit. You may be interested in reading some of Armin Vit’s words on Helvetica (applicable to most similar typefaces in this genre) – he is more willing to spend time on the topic than I am:

    The main argument of using Helvetica is that it’s “neutral.” That is absolute bullshit. There is nothing neutral about Helvetica. Choosing Helvetica has as much meaning and carries as many connotations as choosing any other typeface. It has as many visual quirks as any other typeface it was meant to shun for needless decoration. Helvetica is the fixed-gear bike of typefaces: it’s as basic as it gets, but the statement it makes is as complex as anything else.

    I apologize that my cheeky comments directed at you guys weren’t constructive – they were an unfiltered, immediate reaction to what I thought of as a joke project. I should have simply said that if you want to be trendy, you (meaning anyone making decisions there) should keep in mind that trends have a short shelf life. So either you focus on simply good design that will aim for timelessness, or you try to be über contemporary with whatever sexy at the moment – but then don’t plan to use the same techniques several years in a row.

    I do wish you all the best with your career, and do look forward to seeing future issues of Esquire and what you do with it!

    And huge high five if that was indeed a bespoke font you commissioned from Kai!