I picked up the tenth anniversary issue of Wired yesterday.
I remember when Wired came out (and still have a copy of issue 1.01 lying around somewhere). It was very exciting at the time. On a trip to San Francisco around then, I went to a party for Wired (which was headquartered in the same building as a friend of a friend). That was pretty cool. I subscribed. I enjoyed it, as did many people–I knew one couple that lived together but had two subscriptions so they wouldn’t fight over who got to read it first.
As the dot-com bubble expanded, Wired changed from a fairly experimental, counter-cultural, brash magazine to a neo-establishment, business-oriented, smug one. It was as if the vertiginous success of the way-new economy had validated all its earlier futurism, and so it redefined itself as the establishment. The graphic design became a lot calmer (probably for the best, on balance). With a few brilliant exceptions, the stories it ran interested me less and less. I stopped reading it.
I haven’t looked at it much since the dot-bomb, but decided to pick up this issue for old-time’s sake. Perhaps only for this issue, they’re back to the wild graphic design.
Wired seems as if it should be the first in line to be superceded by Net-based media. It speaks to, well, the wired population that can get all its news online. And after all, sites like Gizmodo do a better job of reporting gadget news than Wired ever could, personal blogs often have insightful and informed commentary on the world at large, and the Web offers more fertile ground for visual experimentation than print, right?
Well, yes and no. The fact remains that online journalism still isn’t really a going concern. A print magazine can still send reporters on assignments that bloggers would not be able to cover. And although there are some websites that are amazing design experiments, the fact is, most of the ones I peruse (to the extent I bother to leave my RSS reader) are using plain, quick-loading designs. Print still looks a hell of a lot better. And is much more portable.