What is a special issue/publication?

The last 2-3 days I’ve been wondering how a special issue/publication looks like, what it actually is and what makes it special. At first, the most obvious, it should look different, ‘special’, ‘precious’, and it could be a collectable item produced by the magazine. It’s dedicated on a specific subject and it has a different design, sometimes that’s visible in the slightest grade and sometimes completely different. Magazines seem to employ illustrators/designers/ special persons to design the cover and/or the content in order to produce a special version of the magazine always responding to the subject presented.

Searching for special issues of magazines I came across with this site which has some special issues of The New York Times Magazine:

‘The Year in Ideas’

‘The Year in Ideas’ issue viewed the year 2001 as the latest volume in the encyclopaedia of human innovation (as AIGA’s website describes). It was designed in a way to resemble dictionary and encyclopaedias. The cover was made in cloth binding and  everything presented in the issue is ordered in alphabetical order with dictionary tabs on the left and right. The photography and illustration reflect the explanatory and diagrammatic style of the 19th century illustration.

‘The Middle Ages Issue’

This was a special issue focused on middle-aged persons who are experiencing “life on a cusp” and a crisis.

‘It’s so you’ issue

A special issue on clothing and identity. The mission of the design of the cover was to convey to the reader that the issue was an investigation on fashion and identity but they wanted to do it in a different way than an ordinary fashion magazine. The model Shalom Harlow was photographed in plain Muslim dresses and then her face was superimposed onto those dresses. The cover rises the question: “Are you what you wear?”

How to: A User’s Manual for Modern Living.’ issue

The funny cover of this issue, illustrated by Ivan Brunetti, (‘How to stop telemarketers’) is a humorous answer to all the annoying telemarketing phone calls

in the same issue the magazine asked Christoph Niemann to propose an illustrated story in  in which he would instruct the reader to do something complex. Niemann proposed the visualising the playing of Fur Elise, a classic piece of every piano student’s repertoire. Niemann presented it like a dance diagram, which instantly proved it complex and hard.

The Style Manual, GQ

One other special issue I found in AIGA’s website was an issue of GQ, a style manual which would be like a bookazine without any ads, kind of a style bible full of advice and tips on how to be a sharply dressed man.

Their approach to this issue:

For the cover we wanted to separate this special edition from the standard GQ by making a scale shift, making the logo huge and the person small. To communicate the value and the content to the consumer, we had this annotated man convey the kinds of tips that were waiting inside. Each chapter of the Manual focused on a different part of the package: suits, ties, shirts, shoes, etc. We would break up chapters with vintage shots of kick-ass men looking great. For the inside of the Manual, we developed a grid that slices each spread into vertical segments of varying width. The rhythm created by the grid and the shifts of scale in the artwork guide the reader’s eye around each spread and helps maintain a sense of movement throughout the issue.

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