or less.” Other critiques came from commentator Dorothy Thompson who called the magazine “unmade,” and said that she expected “something that would burst upon the eye” with the sort of inevitableness which has always been your [Luce’s] genius.”Luce was not deterred. Richmond was given the job to design in a matter of days what became one of the most emblematic magazine covers in the world. Yet it was a free lance artist/illustrator, Edward Wilson, who suggested that the cover always be a black-and-white photo, a full bleed on all sides. Richmond added the sans serif logo dropped out of a red rectangle positioned in the upper left corner of the cover. After much discussion after Time’sexecutives it was decided that a stationary logo was better than a movable one and it became the most identifiable design element of Life.Richmond also recalled taking a photostat and putting iton red paper with the paper extending over the picture. Luce liked it. The red was agreed to because Luce believed that if it worked for Time, it would be lucky for Life.The first issue of Life, not unlike the rehearsal dummy, was a photo album rather than a well-pasted collection of sophisticated photo essays in the tradition of the Berlin or Munich illustratedweeklies. This changed within the next two years as Life’s picture editors and photographers became more confident about their missions. But although the stories and editing became tighter,the quality of the design betrayed a conscious effort not to rise above basic functionalism. It could be argued, that the matter-of-fact format allowed the photographs the room to breathe. The no-style design style was actually consistent with Life’sstyle of photography, which rejected artifice (i.e., photographers like Edward Weston or André Kertész were never to be found in
Life). But it could also be argued that Life’sgraphic neutrality was an impediment to a truly superb magazine.Life’sinfluence on America was greater than anyone, even Luce, ever imagined. Life’smix of truly remarkable photo essays (particularly up to and during World War II) by masters of photojournalism and terse writing style proved to be a winning combination. Life’seditors understood the importance of packaging a picture story with the right balance of words. Life’scaption and headline style—with its emphasis on clear, simple facts—guided the reader’s interpretations of the evidence supplied in the photographs so that there was scant ambiguity. Lifewas more than a mere window, but a clearinghouse for information that only pictures could convey.Printed in Design Literacy, Understanding Graphic Design, Steven Heller and Karen Pomeroy, Allworth Press, New York, 1997.