Magazines are one of the most extraordinary human inventions. They are placed in a gray area, somewhere between newspapers and books and don't have the literary depth of the latter or the informative ability of a newspaper. They essentially contain light articles, not too long, profusely accompanied by pictures and a lot of advertisements. We could then say they are useless, expendable, a luxury, which would be a compliment. We are obviously talking about a certain type of magazines - those with a good graphic design, printed in a lustrous paper: the glossies.
There are a lot of examples of this kind of magazine: Vanity Fair, Esquire, Face, Playboy, to name only a few. In the pages of either of these, we can find excellent photographs, superb illustrations, sophisticated typography and a graphic creativety that leaves us stunned without ever compromising the reading, on the contrary. Magazines are essentially visual, starting with its cover, usually at the peak of graphic design.
Great editors, great photographers, great designers and even great columnists are behind the apparent lightness of a glossie, names like Annie Leibowitz, Richard Avedon, Tina Brown or Neville Brody - the list goes on. And don't confuse lightness for lack of accuracy. Some magazines have a strong personality, a well-established trademark and, especially if they are about a specific topic, become a reference in the issue. Take Time, Rolling Stone, National Geographic or Wired, for instance.
Don't underestimate the cultural impact of magazines. They represent the utmost in printed communication, an elaborate and sophisticated product that merges perfectly text and image with beauty. More than the general culture they supply us, they are a vehicle for visual culture of great importance. I wish they would have magazines like Life or Vogue at hospital waiting rooms, instead of the usual specimen dedicated to gossip and television schedule. Even Playboy would be better...