One of my first jobs in design was working at an adult publisher. To this day, it’s still the best job I had and not for all the crazy nonsense people assume about it. What made it so great was, it was the one place where I had complete creative freedom. The owner and editors had complete faith in what I could do for their pages. The titles I art directed had a mix of pictorials and editorial like travel stories, book reviews and news. They were Playboy-like. The work I did there enabled me to move on to companies like Essence, McGraw-Hill, CMP, Black Enterprise and Nielsen. Quite a few well-known art directors have also worked on adult titles during their careers. Playboy is the granddaddy of them all and for several years, it was showing its age. In the last five years, it has undergone some changes to keep it moving in the 21st century and beyond.
While the magazine commissioned some of today’s prolific illustrators and photographers, the pages were feeling rather dated—especially having read the magazine since my 20’s. Twenty some years later, it still had the same look and tone yet my tastes had grown. I wanted it to grow as I did. Judging from the last three to four recent issues, it seems that Playboy has indeed done that. The art direction has a more contemporary flair about it, mixing more bold typographic treatments with thematically styled photo shoots. They have moved from that “Barbie” formula and focused on presenting their pictorials as real women in real settings, the editorial content more gripping and timely and the culture tidbits are more in line with my current tastes.
Showcasing some new artists along with the established regulars is giving the pages a real invigorated tone now that I think is more engaging for both established and budding audiences. It doesn’t feel like my dad’s Playboy. In the June issue shown above, I like the retro feel but it doesn’t feel forced or contrived. It very much feels current. The gorgeous type play in the editorial on Eric Church captures nicely the raw Kentucky-like vibe of the face of new country music. Even the pictorials have broadened from the formulaic blond bunnies to show a more diverse array of women. Personally, I think it could expand more than it does now as it still is a bit homogenous in selection. Overall, I like the direction they are going in, and as a subscriber, I’m glad they are finally are taking steps to grow. I haven’t checked out the digital edition to see how they integrate the pages into an interactive space but that’s up next.