Mother Jones Named Magazine of the Year

Mother Jones was named “Magazine of the Year” on last night on the National Magazine Awards for “finding ‘new ways to engage audiences and continue its practice of fearless journalism.'”

Mother Jones is a reader-supported nonprofit news organization that does independent and investigative reporting on everything from politics and climate change to education and food (plus cat blogging). Some 9 million people come log on to the site each month. Mother Jones  publishes an award-winning, 200,000-circulation magazine, and have recently launched a new podcast.

Other winners during last night’s awards gala included: New York Magazine and New York Times withe three awards each, California Sunday for design and photography, and Modern Farmer for general excellence in special interest magazines. Here is a complete list of winners from the night.

The National Magazine Awards are sponsored by the American Society of Magazine Editors in association with the Columbia Journalism School.

Link of the Week: Magazines Speaking Out with Unconventional Covers

When it comes to magazine covers, the titles and logos are one of their most recognizable features. It is often what we use to identify the magazines amongst the handfuls of others on a newsstand. A magazine with a more recognizable logo and design may stand a better chance against the competition. However, what if magazines can catch readers’ attentions by doing the opposite? Sometimes, a little surprise is just what a brand needs to create buzz.

From the article, “Face Up Online: Mother Jones,” featured on Folio Mag, designer Robert Newman discusses the off-the-grain design choices of liberal magazines, including Mother Jones.

On the July/August 2014 Mother Jones magazine cover, you will not find the clean serif typeface like that on its previous covers. Instead, you will find a bright, red and yellow cover with a bold typeface: a parody of a tabloid magazine. Newman says about the cover, “The parody, designed by creative director Ivylise Simones, is spot on, with just the right mix of funkiness and visual chaos. The design holds nothing back, right down to the Mother Jones logo, which was redesigned for this issue to reflect a tabloid feel. The result is a cover that is fun, engaging, provocative and viral-ready. It takes a strong partnership between the editors and the visual team to create this kind of high-level, sophisticated cover design and it works brilliantly, crafting a set of images that work on so many levels.”

Newman adds, “Conventional wisdom is that a magazine’s logo is sacrosanct, a critical part of the brand that should never be messed with, and I’m sure the Mother Jones logo change will confuse a few readers. Yet, what the magazine gains is a dynamic, comprehensive graphic approach that not only jumps off the page, but is destined to work quite effectively online and across the magazine’s multiple platforms. Apparently altering logos to fit stylized covers has become a trend, because it’s been done recently to great effect by both Bloomberg Businessweek (who have done it at least three times over the past year) and The New Republic.”

Keeping a magazine cover looking seemingly the same each week or month is not a bad thing; it makes the magazine easy to recognize and comfortable. Magazines can use that sameness to their advantage, as Mother Jones has, and break the norm, causing excitement and wonder as to why that month’s cover is special. As Newman says, creating a cover that is out of the ordinary will create buzz “online and across the magazine’s multiple platforms.”

When The New Republic featured Jeopardy TV host Alex Trebek as its cover story, the magazine “designed itself to look like the famous Jeopardy game board, altering its logo to mimic the show’s distinctive trademark.”

Newman also writes, “In early June, Bloomberg Businessweek published a story on progressive economist-of-the-moment Thomas Piketty designed to look like a teen fan magazine, complete with a bubble gum logo and small photos of both Justin Bieber and Karl Marx. Both covers take complicated, unsexy topics, but with graphic stylization they turned them into dynamic, pulsating covers, and the same is true with this Mother Jones cover. Of course, there’s a long history of magazines designing covers to look like LP covers, posters, books, product packaging and more. It’s very exciting that magazines that cover topics that are generally not considered flashy and cool (politics and business) are creating some of the liveliest, hip and memorable covers.”

Newman also raises the question as to why it seems that the covers of more liberal magazines seem to “look so much better and smarter than their conservative counterparts.” This may have to do with political ideology, or it may just be a simple design choice. Nonetheless, using unconventional covers can definitely have an effect on a magazine’s buzz.

Link of the Week: Earth Day

This week marks the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day! Established by Richard Nixon (who knew?!) in 1970, we take April 22 as a day to reflect on our world, pollution, and mother nature. As publishers embracing the digital revolution we must think about the effect our industry has on the environment, and greater implications in relation to climate change and pollution. To commemorate Earth Day, we’re bringing you a list of eco-friendly publishers and links that focus on green publishing.


Island Press is a publisher who’s niche is specifically built to inspire change. Established in 1984, they publish books and develop programs to create a sustainable, green future. They look for solutions to the problems of pollution and climate change. This interesting group is half publisher, half social activist. They partner with different advocacy and social groups to make sure their messages are heard.


Mother Jones is a left-leaning political and social issues magazine with a great pedigree. Established in 1976, Mother Jones takes on the issues because the key to a great democracy is an informed populace. Because they are a non-profit, they cannot legally endorse candidates, which makes their reporting more independent than other for-profit publishers.  By publishing truth people will be inspired to take action on the issues they care about. Check out this article on eBooks.


Adirondack Life magazine is a beautifully produced publication featuring breathtaking wildlife flora and fauna photography. Articles feature specific tips about the Adirondack Mountains: travel, animal information, and activities. It’s not hard to understand why people work to protect the environment when you see the beauty laid out in a glossy two page spread.


Eco-Libris is a cool program that centers around the idea that every book you buy was once a tree, so replant it! Kind of like buying carbon offsets, one should replace the resources used. You can go to their website and donate five dollars for their organization to plant 5 trees. They have a lot of great information about how both print and digital publishing alters the environment.