Otto Storch: The Man Who Made Pictures Out of Type

Otto Storch: The Man Who Made Pictures Out of Type
By Robin Benson / Editor, Past Print
Why was a male design student buying every issue of a leading woman's magazine in the late Fifties? To see what Otto Storch, Art Director of McCall's, was up to each month. He directed design at the magazine for 14 years starting in 1955, and was one of a group of designers loosely called the The New York School who created a visual buzz in print design during the 50s and 60s.
      Storch, to me though, was someone special. I always had an interest in typography and magazines and his work combined both beautifully (helped, incidentally, by a totally supportive Herbert Mayes, the Editor of McCall's). Combining images and type on the page seemed to me the best way of communicating the essence of the message to the reader, rather than have them as separate elements on a spread, which was so typical of consumer magazines back then.
      The integrated typography in McCall's pages seemed so effortless and the central well of editorial pages could feature spreads of fashion, food, celebrity, fiction and topical lifestyle themes with some just using type as the dominant graphic. Worth mentioning, I think, that some of the spreads had an almost negligible budget which released money for ambitious fashion or food features over several pages.

Many more McCall's spreads can be seen on the Past Print blog here, here, and here.
A.JPGThe most well-known example of Storch's McCall's work is the mattress with the first few lines of copy on both pages following the shape of the body.

B.JPGHow simple (and inexpensive) could an idea be for IN A CLASS BY MYSELF? Lay some pencils out on a large piece of paper and shoot it from above, strip all the type onto the enlarged photo.

C.JPGAnother simple idea: torn paper stuck together with tape, photographed from above with plenty of room left for the columns of text. There is a bit more to this spread, though. The weight of text, small type headline and large graphic and open space across the top of the spread lock together perfectly and pull the reader into the article.

D.JPGFood photography took off in the pages of McCall's. I always remember Paul Dome taking some really eye-catching shots like this one for HOT DOG! Because the magazine was a large format plenty of food photos could be life-size. One narrow column of type and that's it.

E.JPGThe melon spread is another great food feature with the intro wrapping round the shape.

F.JPGThe PLUS PERFECT PARFAITS inspired me so much I framed it and looked at it for years. It has to be said that it's not an easy read--all caps, rivers of white, one paragraph--but a stunning overall effect. The type was set by The Composing Room in New York and supplied as repro. It wasn't realistic to expect typesetters at McCall's' printers to be able to accomplish this sort of setting.

G.JPGThe Anthony Eden feature is another clever and low-cost spread. Other magazines might have had Eden's photo big, but Storch created a typographic solution with huge colored caps, cleverly using much smaller caps to tie the large letters to the correct sentence.

H.JPGA clever fashion spread with the text equal in depth to the black headline.

I.JPGFinally, a cover from 1960 (probably too clean a look for today's market) with the cover lines in one block of type the same width as the M of the title but ignoring the serifs. To keep the block with straight sides the punctuation has been hung in the margins on either side.

See Robin Benson's Past Print blog for many more examples of vintage publication design.

COMING TUESDAY: Quality magazine from 1987, "The Best Designed Magazine I Ever Saw"

COMING WEDNESDAY: twen: Big, Bold and Very Black (and White)
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