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The Gourmet Magazine redesign is terrible!

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Yesterday my September issue of Gourmet arrived in my mailbox. Every month I anticipate trolling through the recipes, oggling the table settings and savoring the stories. This month, Gourmet has rolled out an absolutely ghastly re-design (again). The table of contents is nearly illegible, the stories laid out in a non-intuitive way and their page lay out is all wrong. For example in the "alphabetical recipe" story, the titles of each recipe are pushed all the way to the tippy top of the page, with a large, unattractive gap between the title and the recipe. The recipes looked ok, but I was so distracted by the page lay out that I barely got halfway through. If I recall, about a year or two ago, Gourmet re-designed the magazine and suffered through several uninspired covers and stories. It had looked like it turned the corner, but this month's ultra close up of a quince on the cover is boring, bland and not the food porn I have grown accustomed to. I know Conde Nast and the magazine industry as a whole is suffering, but this issue makes it look like Gourmet's editors are scuttling their own ship!

Does anyone else hate it or *gasp* like it?

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  1. I cannot figure out their "A-Z" logic! Does "crispy" qualify as a "C"??? This magazine is getting loonier and loonier.

    1. I stopped reading it after Ruth Reichl initiated that major redesign about 6 years ago--the old Gourmets edited by Zweigenthal I still have on hand, and refer to them frequently. It's truly a shame what "fab" stylists did to this publication.

      6 Replies
      1. re: penthouse pup

        epicurious.com archives recipes from 'Gourmet' and other publications. It's easy to search for recipes you like w/out the distraction of design you hate.

        1. re: ClaireWalter

          It is more a matter of the articles and who wrote them: in the past, the writers were first rate (and not necessarily "food writers"--the essays offered all sorts of insights and
          information and perspective. I use Epicurious.com as do you, but it's not the same thing.
          I literally have decades of old Gourmets--and I bet some people on this board do, too...

          1. re: penthouse pup

            I just got rid of 23 years of Gourmet. I had to - they were stacked to the ceiling, and my shelves were at their limit. And I have allergies, so they had to go. The essays used to be so good - I used to anticipate Laurie Colwin's articles all month long......

            1. re: jeanmarieok

              Ooooh jeanmarieok: How brave and mature you must be! As I type, I'm looking at the shelves of Gourmet's past issues. I keep telling myself I'll take them to the local Friends of the Oakland Library and finally be rid of them. Yet there they sit in their cardboard holders which I bought and put together about 6 years ago.

              After reading your message, I feel as if I finally have the strength of mind and body to haul them away.

              I stopped subscribing to Gourmet a couple of years ago because I couldn't stand the layout and the overly "chic" photos. The whole ambiance of luxury made me cringe. Page after page of $10,000 watches, etc. I think they finally took out the scent packets that used to come with the mag. Nothing like reading a recipe for daube de boeuf and smelling strong perfume wafting up your nose.

              1. re: oakjoan

                Oakjoan, before you get rid of them, type the names of any recipes you love into epicurious.com's search engine and see if they're there before you give up the magazines. Despite what people say, not every Bon Appetit and Gourmet recipe is there, so you'll need to selectively clip/photocopy fave recipes and articles.

              2. re: jeanmarieok

                Laurie Colwin, Fred Ferretti, the Sterns, heck, even David Rosengarten on occasion. I really hate it when someone comes into a perfectly fine situation and has to "improve" it, like Reichl felt impelled to do. We cancelled our subscription shortly after she took over.

        2. I'd had a bit too much wine last night, and thumbed thru the magazine, and made fun of it the whole way through. It was no better this morning, when my head was clear. What were they thinking? I don't cook much from Gourmet, but I really liked the writing. They got rid of that, and the silly A - Z stuff is just embarrassing for them.

          1 Reply
          1. re: jeanmarieok

            Is it possible to have too much wine? In any case, wasn't the Gourmet cookbook a few year's ago a disaster with the color of the yellow text and font? Also, I might be in the minority, but I've never really liked Gourmet or understood the allure of Reichl. For some odd reason, she seems to hold some sort of esteem in the culinary and editorial world yet I've never understood her qualifications or writing to be anything special.

            Nonetheless, so many of the major publications like Wine Spectator and Saveur are full of advertising and annoying postcard subscription forms rather than quality articles! Then they wonder why subscriptions are down?

          2. My take, in glancing through this issue, is that it's Ruth's homage to back-to-schoolism. All recipes, arranged in her flight of fantasy alphabet. No real articles to speak of, those sullen "models" (as in past months, years?). Hope this issue is a one-month aberration.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Sarah

              Don't even get me started on the "models"...I'm here for the food, I don't need to see skinny, dead-eyed hipsters pretending to eat or frolick with bowls of pasta through a field.

              Also, they've used the SAME kitschy table decor for the last 4 or five issues. Enough with the kotchkies!

              1. re: Flaxen_Vixen

                Uggh-the models.....Almost every spread in the last couple of years has models posing ridiculously. I do not want to see models in a food magazine-If I want to see models, I'll read Vogue. They also only seem to use younger models-it is so unrealistic. And don't get me started on the recipes that were part of this gimmicky A-Z concept. I think I can count a total of 2 that seemed in any way appealing.

              2. re: Sarah

                What models? There were models? All I noticed were the awful, fuzzy, too-close-up shots of food (e.g., the tomato innards). But I did like the cover photo - not from a food standpoint (quince is over-rated), but from color/texture/composition/lighting standpoints.

                Some of the recipes were surprisingly interesting - I tore out four pages, when I usually don't save any.

                Ruth isn't always interesting, but she's a lot better editorial writer than Dana Colwin of F&W. Her stories of her mom are hilarious because my mom was like that, too. Perhaps Ruth and I were twins separated at birth, except that I'm short and fat...

              3. Finally this new copy arrived at My mailbox... and I have to say I rather like it. The first thing I noticed, though, is the quality of the paper. It seems to be flimsier than in the past. The table of contents is printed in very light grey making almost impossible to read against the white paper. Don't know what they had in mind with that decision. As for the recipe pages I think the photography is quite nice and having one recipe on a page is good since I like to keep certain recipes on file in their own sleeve, now I don't have to cut and paste. I am wondering if the alphabet will be continued in each issue. Can't you see an editorial meeting where the discussion is centered on, "Now what do we have for Q?".

                1 Reply
                1. re: Gio

                  If you read the editors letter, it says that this is just one issue using the alphabet idea, and they did it in september to tie in with all the amazing produce available.
                  The issue is called "A Cook's Alphabet, Seasonal Recipes from A to Z". On the inside it is called a "special issue".
                  It doesn't seem that they have any intention of continuing it in further issues. They did have fun coming up with some alliterative menus!

                2. Longtime subscriber to Gourmet, and was not happy when format changed 6-7 years ago. See how they need a newer reader base, but was happy with 'fussy' style and superb writers. Esp happy with NY and LA restaurant reviews they used to have. Have bound issues from the early 50's up to now,thanks to library sales, and used often. Good mag but not for what l wanted so after paid sub from late 60's runs out later this year, am ending my sub, shame but at least have Saveur and my cookbooks.

                  1. Flaxen, I hope you will take your disappointment one step further (if you haven't already) and write the magazine about the redesign. I drafted such a letter this week. The redesign is an insult to Gourmet mag subscribers.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: HillJ

                      I'm still smarting from the first edition of the new Gourmet cookbook of a few years ago: the recipe headers were printed in light yellow on white!

                      1. re: mnosyne

                        Juvenile choices, even short term ruin the design. I'm all for fun and smart design but some of the past editors have really made me wonder.

                      2. re: HillJ

                        I have done the same. It's tragic how bad this issue is. I understand that it is a "special issue" and a concept, but it is one that should have been left on the drawing board.

                        1. re: Flaxen_Vixen

                          First time I've ever thrown away an issue of Gourmet after the first quick look through.

                      3. Got mine over the weekend and can't say I minded the design--and I liked all the service-y features and sidebars. Trying the okra recipe tonight..
                        The cover, however, was puzzling. Since the issue is landing in the middle of a hot, humid late August here in the NE, why would they choose to focus on a fruit that looks moldy at first glance? I've never handled a fresh quince and I couldn't tell you if they're fuzzy like peaches, but that cover shot looked like something that fell behind the microwave a few weeks back. What were they thinking?
                        Not to mention, I've never seen a fresh quince in a store anywhere in my life. Why pick something so obscure and off-putting?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: newhavener07

                          The quince on the cover is slightly under-ripe. They get shiny and yellow when fully ripe. I think the photographer just liked the texture. (?)

                          I also thought the issue was terrible. I spent maybe ten minutes flipping through it. I hope it was a fluke. While pretty pictures are nice, good essays are more important to me.

                        2. I actually started reading the adds thinking they were content. Infact, some were better then the content.

                          1. I understand that long-time readers of Gourmet might be quick to (over)react to changes in their beloved magazine, but it's becoming predictable that any new idea is immediately met with negative posts. I am not a long-time reader. I've been a subscriber for 3 years or so. I was actually nervous to open this month's issue for fear of a complete disaster. But you know what? I really like this special issue. I think the concept is clever and there are a few ideas worth keeping.

                            The TOC is beautiful. What's not to love about a clear list of recipes with pictures right up front? I am not a big fan of black pages, but it really makes the photos pop. While I think the text on the page is light enough to read, it's usually not a great design choice when appealing to the masses (I am a former designer, btw)

                            I think the photography is gorgeous, and the photos of people don't bother me. Like it or not, Gourmet has become a lifestyle magazine - notice the non-food-related advertising? Print media is failing, and if they need to expand their demographic beyond the food traditionalists and the price we pay is photos of people and additional ads, I can deal with the tradeoff. Or maybe I am one of the new guard of Gourmet readers that troubles the old school Gourmet traditionalists.

                            The special recipe layouts are wonderful. Big, beautiful photos, large, easy to read titles. When I read the comment about how far up the page the titles are, I was expecting the worst, but this design is elegant and very reader friendly. I would have moved the titles on the left-hand pages to the left margin to make it easier to find a recipe when flipping through the magazine, but that's just me. Compare the recipe layout on pp 60-61 compared to p 66. Which is going to be easier to follow when actually cooking from this month's magazine? I rest my case.

                            I believe the criticism of the cover photo is valid. It's not very attractive. But I usually like the photos more when I see the newsstand copies. But i am a type geek, so I like type over photos.

                            My biggest complaint as a subscriber is the annoying subscription cards, both loose and glued in. I do wish magazines would leave those out of the subscriber copies. However, magazines sell advertising based on both subscriber and newsstand copies, but calculated "pass-along" rates. I guess part of any pass-along plan is to make sure the second-hand readers have access to those cards.

                            1. Gourmet is just floundering design-wise. I could not agree more with the comments others have made about the models. At least Gourmet seems to have steered away from the "dirty plates and crumbs" photos they were featuring, oh so artisitcally, for a while. This is not just a "food porn" issue. The point of showing the actual food was both instructive - to assist in execution of recipes - and inspirational. My ultimate indictment of the magazine nowadays is that I rarely come away itching to get in the kitchen and cook. What a pity.

                              1. Well, considering how thin the issue was, we may not have Gourmet to kick around for much longer. Sad days indeed when most of the magazines I'm getting are as thin as a newspaper insert.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: newhavener07

                                  Then why offer an online version of Gourmet? and why participate in Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes which winds up in my mail every year.

                                  If there is a doomsday for print publications (& I agree there is) the Publishers contributed to the downfall.

                                  1. re: newhavener07

                                    Our entire daily newspaper is so thin now that even our cat can bring it in from the porch!