"You look at Vogue now: it's not even designed. What a difference. You pick up a Vogue back in the days of [Alexander] Liberman and those guys, and you look at it now, and it's a disgrace," says George Lois.
In an interview with BlackBook, Lois's basic beef is that magazines are trying too hard to make their inside pages look like the Internet, and that editors refuse to take chances on "ideas" covers, like the ones he was famous for at Esquire. And he has a point: As magazine's audiences inevitably become smaller with shrinking newsstand and hard-to-sustain subscription models, now is the time to take chances. Doubling down on what print can do with its visual real estate is a start.
We were curious, though, about how and how much Vogue has changed since Liberman's heyday — he oversaw Vogue's look from the early 40s to the early 60s, and then was editorial director of Conde Nast from 1962 to 1994. It is indeed hard to imagine Vogue doing something like this again (from March 1944, with a somber tone befitting wartime, and a Red Cross shoutout):
Or this famous exercise in restraint:
It seems unfair to compare an era of illustration to a photo-obsessed age, so we dipped into the 1960s. It's fair to say that this Irving Penn pop art cover from 1965 is a far cry from what Vogue does today:
But actually, at least when it comes to covers, you could argue that Vogue has often stayed true to form.
The blonde gamine:
The fresh-faced blonde:
The blonde with interesting choice of headgear:
The "I Have No Fucking Clue What This Is Supposed to Be":
Legendary Magazine Designer George Lois's Last Round [BlackBook]
Related: Vintage Fashion Magazines
Vogue Archives [On Sugar]