Feature

Haymarket 50 Years: The Hillman test

Magazines are David Hillman's long-time passion. The iconoclast of British editorial design gives John Tylee his verdict on some admired Haymarket titles.

Could there be a more apposite choice to run an expert eye over a selection of Haymarket's titles from the past half-century than David Hillman?

The history of his evolvement into one of the iconoclasts of British editorial design almost mirrors that of Haymarket itself. Indeed, it was one of the company's earliest titles, Town magazine, which helped ignite his passion for print that remains as intense today.

From his time as the "sorcerer's apprentice" to Mark Boxer in the early days of The Sunday Times colour supplement and Nova magazine in the 60s to The Guardian's redesign two decades later, Hillman has always provided a fresh-thinking and energising presence.

Now with his own consultancy after almost three decades at Pentagram, he traces the roots of his obsession back to his student days in the 50s at the London School of Printing. One day an American friend brought in some US magazines. Flicking through McCall's and Esquire, Hillman was hooked.

With the abolition of newsprint rationing in 1958, newspapers could revolutionise their formats. The Sunday Times was the first to take advantage by launching its colour section in 1962 under Boxer's editorship. "He was young and vibrant and taught me about the importance of the cohesion between pictures and text," Hillman recalls. "He once said you couldn't be a magazine art director unless you can read. At the time, I thought it was a flippant remark, but there are too many art directors who don't read text properly and see it as the grey matter that fills between the pictures."

It was a philosophy Hillman put into practice at Nova. He worked on the pioneering title from 1965 until its death in 1971. Nobody would publish Nova today because advertisers wouldn't know what to make of it, he claims. "It was successful for readers, but a disaster when it came to the ad industry. We'd do articles on VD, homosexuality and breast implants. In the end, we ran out of ideas to shock people with," he says.

Hillman is also known for his redesign of The Guardian in 1985. Hot metal production was coming to an end, Rupert Murdoch had broken the power of the print unions and the paper's editor, Peter Preston, wanted the title to reflect changing times. "What Hillman brought was a principle about how to order the information, which really changed the look of the paper," Mark Porter, The Guardian's creative director, says. However, Hillman recalls: "I got a call from Max Hastings, then editor of the Evening Standard, who asked me how I felt being responsible for the death of an old friend."

Since then, Hillman has handled a vast range of assignments - from a revamp of the Times Educational Supplement to a signage project in Dubai. But there's no doubt about his oldest love: magazines. The best are those where you can sense the enjoyment of those who created them, he says. And he should know.

TOWN

It says a lot about the impact of Town magazine that, 40 years after its death, the magazine is still seen as having played a pivotal role in the lives of both Hillman and Haymarket.

So much so that Hillman bestows his ultimate accolade on what was the UK's first modern consumer style magazine for men. "Town magazine is what made me want to become an art director," he says.

Why does Town still enjoy such a special place in Haymarket's affections? Mainly because it provided the launch-pad for the fledgling Haymarket despite never being a money-spinner after its acquisition by the then Cornmarket in 1960.

Nevertheless, through its various incarnations (Man About Town, About Town and, finally, Town), the magazine and its art director, Tom Wolsey, are assured of a place in publishing history. Without Town, would there have been an FHM?

It's hard to imagine how revolutionary Town was at the time," Hillman says. "There was nothing else around so well designed or had covers so strong that they leapt out at you from the bookstall. And it carried the most amazing photography. I still open up my copies of Town - and they still turn me on."

CAMOUFLAGE

Decorations keep getting pinned to Camouflage magazine's collective chest. And rightly so. As Hillman puts it: "This is certainly a title to be proud of."

Awards from the PPA and the APA, which named it Customer Magazine of the Year in 2005, are among the gongs that have helped make Camouflage the most-awarded customer magazine ever.

The honours reflect the ongoing success of the magazine at tackling a difficult target - an audience of 13- to 21-year-olds thinking of joining the Army.

Launched in 2000 under the title Army, the magazine is part of the Army's Camouflage programme aimed at building a database of potential recruits. An estimated 13 per cent of young recruits have come through the Camouflage programme.

The magazine focuses on key recruitment triggers - rewarding careers, travel, adventure and camaraderie. An awards judge recently praised the magazine as "challenging all the norms of magazine publishing".

It certainly goes for maximum impact. The cover for the autumn 2005 issue featured a target with real holes made by a bullet fired from half a mile away.

There's a hell of a lot of information here and it's well put together," Hillman says. "It looks action-packed and perfect for its readership. It features good photography and ballsy typography. Like GQ, the magazine has to serve people with a lot of different interests and this is reflected in the breadth of its subject matter."

CAMPAIGN

Campaign, adland's bible for almost four decades, was the result of a remarkable convergence of events.

The 60s were a momentous period for Britain's ad industry. A new breed of agencies were establishing their own distinctive style. And they were crying out for a high-quality publication that would give them a focus and champion their cause. All they had was the lacklustre Advertiser's Weekly and the even more mind-numbing World Press News.

The latter fell into Haymarket's hands as one of a job-lot of titles bought from the near-bankrupt British Printing Corporation.

Out of WPN's ashes rose Campaign. Printed on glossy paper, packed with news and well-written features and famed for its strangely angled pictures (many of them the work of photographers such as Keith McMillan and Harry Borden), the magazine was an editorial success from the start.

Such is its enduring power that its format, devised by Roland Schenk, has shaped a generation of business magazines as well as spawning siblings in India, Romania and Hong Kong.

Campaign is unique," Hillman declares. "From the earliest editions in 1968 to the latest issue, you can see its DNA. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to redesign it. It's still Schenk's child - and it still looks fantastic."

.32

Deep pockets are a prerequisite for followers of The America's Cup, the most lavish event in sailing. And.32 the Haymarket magazine focusing on the event, reflects the money-no-object battle for the silverware. As Hillman remarks: "You can almost feel the budget."

Haymarket has produced four issues of the title (the final one appeared in April). It aims to give America's Cup Management the opportunity to give event exposure to teams and its commercial partners and to highlight its "high-end" values.

With a circulation of 100,000 per issue, .32 is available at each race and on newsstands as well as in airport lounges and four-star hotels.

It's something of a hybrid, as much of a brochure as a magazine," Hillman suggests. "Clearly an enormous amount of money has been thrown at it - and it smells lovely!"

STUFF

Stuff is one of a select group of magazines Hillman says he's likely to buy before boarding a plane.

"Flick through it and you'll always find something of interest," he opines. "It really is a magazine about everything a man really wants and it's forever changing. Stuff is such a good name for it."

The "boys' toys" title joined the Haymarket family from Dennis Publishing in 1999. It was seen as the answer to what the company believed was the great potential for a monthly title appealing to the burgeoning interest in consumer electronics, gadgetry and lifestyle products such as iPods, fast cars and computers.

Under the Haymarket banner, the title has moved into podcast news and reviews and versions of the magazine now appear in 20 countries across Europe and the Far East.

Stuff has nice clear spreads, but really wins because its content is so good," Hillman says. "It's obvious its people have a lot of fun putting it together."

FOURFOURTWO

With Paul Simpson (see p30) at the helm, and James Baker overseeing its design, FourFourTwo launched in 1994. Thirteen years on, it still reflects the game in all its extremes. Stylishly written, the title is a mix of uncompromising opinion, strong photography and interviews with the biggest stars.

The popularity of the title's format is underlined by the fact that it's now published under licence in France, Germany, Turkey, South Africa, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and Nigeria.

Looking at those early issues you know right away it's a Haymarket title. It was a very good-looking magazine and whoever designed it must have loved coming into the office each day. It was distinctive and had a unique look. It wasn't just a derivative of another magazine."

MANAGEMENT TODAY

A wistful expression crossed Hillman's face as he thumbed copies of Management Today from the early 70s and 90s, the two periods in which he believes the magazine scaled the summit in design terms. "It almost makes me want to do a magazine again," he sighed.

Its launch in 1966, covered on p22, was a significant moment in Haymarket's history. Until that time, specialist titles were notorious for their poor quality and visual presentation. And although Town magazine proved inviable, the company was convinced (rightly as it turned out) that stylish layouts and pictures could be successfully transported into trade publishing.

The first publication to test the theory was the British Institute of Management's publication The Manager, which morphed into Management Today.

With Bob Heller, The Observer's former City editor, in command and Roland Schenk overseeing its design, Management Today can be regarded as a successful early example of contract publishing. Today, the magazine has extended its reach to South Africa where it is published under a licensing agreement.

"What I remember most about the earliest issues of Management Today are the amazing spreads and wall-to-wall type," Hillman says. "There's a real sense of generosity about it. No wonder Nova and MT used to vie for the same awards. Not many magazines would have risked running a double-page piece with a headline and a one-line standfirst."

More than 20 years on, MT retains an unfussy beauty. It's amazing how effective a lot of white space can be. And there isn't a single bum picture. Schenk obviously loved doing this and you can sense his passion."

WHAT CAR?

It's a measure of What Car?'s staying power that the magazine lodged itself firmly in Hillman's memory when it launched more than 30 years ago and remains ensconced there today.

"This was quite a revolutionary magazine when it first appeared in the early 70s," he recalls. "I remember it because of its beautifully designed covers and its incredibly well-ordered editorial. It was always the magazine you bought if you were thinking of changing your car - and it still is."

During that time, however, What Car? has evolved into something that is not so much a magazine, more a powerful motoring brand, which is published under licence in China, Russia, India and Italy,

Its award-winning website - which, as reported on p35, is now even more profitable than the magazine itself - is one of a number of brand extensions.

It still offers an astonishing amount of detail and always gives you your money's worth. In short, it does exactly what it says on the cover."

MARKETING

Marketing is one of Haymarket's oldest titles (the magazine had already been in existence for 26 years when the company launched) and has appeared in various guises over the past two decades.

Its recognition as the Magazine of the Year in the 2005 PPA awards (see p42) is testimony to how far the title has come since it became one of the earliest members of the Haymarket family in the 60s.

At that time, the title was the voice of the Institute of Marketing when Haymarket successfully negotiated a contract to publish it and Roland Schenk oversaw its design transformation.

Michael Heseltine, Haymarket's chairman, says: "It has remained one of our proudest possessions, although it is barely recognisable as the same publication today, both in its quality and the range of activities it supports."

The PPA award came on the back of a 25 per cent increase in circulation, a market-leading share of recruitment advertising and a doubling of newsstand sales. Marketing, the PPA judges concluded, was "a strong and confident product".

Without doubt, the magazine has been through a huge amount of physical change to keep abreast of its market. Hillman recalls the magazine in the early 60s "when it looked like it was done by the printer", but remembers it best during its large format period in the 80s when the lack of pictures on its front page was compensated by such an elegant typeface.

I never realised it had been through so many relaunches," Hillman admits. "But it's still a Haymarket magazine - and that's its strength."

JAGUAR YEARBOOK

The Jaguar Yearbook created by Haymarket for the upmarket carmaker is a big step removed from the transitory nature of magazine publishing.

The yearbooks (five have been produced) are designed as gifts to be kept and displayed. Indeed each boxed copy has become a much sought-after item.

Distributed to politicians, captains of industry and opinion-formers, the books aim to dispel any lingering doubts that Jaguar is a forward-looking company.

Pictorially led and entertainingly written, each book has a theme - the 2003 version, art directed by Duncan Spires and with a 5,000 print run, focused on "new British design".

It's beautifully printed, elegant and the whole thing hangs together very well. There's lots of white space and a good mix of modern and vintage pictures. It's everything you would expect from a brand like Jaguar."

TOYOTA FJ CRUISER MAGAZINE

"This is a magazine I would like to have done," is Hillman's verdict on the title produced by Haymarket Network in the US to support Toyota's FJ Cruiser.

"Of all the car magazines I've seen, this is the one I like best," he affirms. "It's not frenetic, it's not on glossy paper. It's just beautiful."

Based on a 60s design, the FJ Cruiser wasn't originally scheduled for production. However, the reaction following the car's appearance at the North American International Auto Show changed Toyota's mind and production began early last year.

What I like most about this title is that is doesn't conform to the usual requirements," Hillman says. "There's no logo and no barcode. It's elegant, uses colour in the most subtle way, and presents the 'anorak' stuff so well. And it doesn't have lots of pictures of the same car doing the same thing. Why can't more UK car titles have this quality? I can't believe the US market is more sophisticated. It feels like a proper car magazine and not like a brochure."