Jessica Helfand | Essays

Color Me Kurt

An article in today's New York Times discusses the new direction for Colors under the editorial leadership of critic, author, editor and part-time radio host Kurt Andersen.

Formerly an editor of Spy and New York Magazine, Andersen has a particularly original mind, and he's always been sensitive to what's going on around him. It's worth pointing out, too, that his understanding of design is perhaps more sophisticated than most: so what does it say of his sense of magazines (and of where they're headed) that he has selected as his art and design directors two of our foremost television designers, Bonnie Siegler and Emily Oberman of Number 17 in New York? (Even better for Kurt, Bonnie and Emily happen to also be seasoned graphic — and editorial — designers. It's a smart choice.)

If Colors took chances under Tibor Kalman's leadership, it will no doubt continue, with Andersen, to push against expectations. But the Benetton connection does indeed remain a bit of a slippery slope — and today's Times piece cites this, the fuzzy border between a clothing company and a magazine — as one of its bigger editorial challenges.

"Irreverent, joyous and full of fun" are the qualities Andersen claims to want to revisit in the new magazine. Having seen Schwarzenegger as a black man before he was elected Governor, one can only imagine what's coming next.

I, for one, look forward to it.

Posted in: Media, Typography

Comments [11]

I don't have much of an emotional attachment to Colors, but when I had read that Andersen wanted to revisit "irreverent, joyous and full of fun" qualities in the new magazine I was a bit disappointed. If that had been quoted in the same breath as a corporate giant like Clear Channel, I'd have interpreted that to mean homogenized blah. It would be unfortunate if Colors turned into a catalogue considering its history.

Interesting detail not mentioned in the NYT piece, Emily Oberman designed the first issue of Colors (while with M&Co). She was also responsible for the Colors logo.

Just for reference, you can see the online version of colors here, including some of the latest issue - http://www.benetton.com/colors/

Scott Berkun

I've been very happy with colors direction both in the manor of subject and structure and visually under the graphic helm of Fernando Gutierrez (current pentagram partner and previously partner at grafica - see http://www.grafica-design.com ) so i'm slightly sad/sentimental to see the shift, though it should be said i don't as a european know much of kurt andersen and number 17's work. also i found it curious that n.y. times makes it sound like adecision based on bad form (rejuvinating it to previous times grandeur.. or something) .. it seems to me that colors have always shifted their editorial team every 20th issue... we are now at issue 58 .. thus endning the thrid term shortly. oh well, all in all it will be interesting to follow the shift as it always is when something familiar changes it's standing (and i guess i will have to sit and stare at my old colors and his even lovelier (visually) matador magazines for the touch of gutierrez)
Christian Zander

I was trying to get a copy of Matador Magazine. Do you know how I could go about finding one?
Thank you
Matt Jastram

Hi Matt, I actually don't know, got a friend in Barcelona to track some down thru alot of his friends, being a yearly magazine it seems it's not readily available, anyway not to my friend, i guess my recomendation would be to use the link to grafica i posted above and contact them about it ..
Christian Zander

This link arrived in my mailbox today from Randy Rothenberg. More on Kurt Andersen and Colors:

Advertising Age: "Benetton and the Bending Boundaries of Publishing" By Randall Rothenberg

November 09, 2003 - "Can advertising ever really be entertainment? Can it provide truly objective news? Are marketing communications inherently inimical to the values of independent communications? These are only a few of the provocative questions raised by the hiring of Kurt Andersen, the gifted former editor of New York Magazine and founder of Inside.com, as chairman and editorial director of Colors, the Benetton publication. And they are worth asking now, because sponsored infotainment, of various formats, is being proposed as a solution -- perhaps the solution -- for marketers confronted by audience fragmentation and the increasing ineffectiveness of traditional marketing formats.

My answers are yes, yes and absolutely not..."

Read story at:
William Drenttel

Colors and others. Did anybody read "Design for Public Good" in the latest CA magazine, May 04? I would like to see more on those stories and learn more in-depth about great work for non-profits in North America and Europe. Any comments?
Jay Stephan

I'm a second year design student in S.A. doing a research project on Fernando Gutierrez and i'm having a really hard time finding decent sources. Does anybody know of some good links?
Danielle Eriksen

A profile of Gutierrez, including his work on Colors, appears in Eye No. 36, although the full article is not available on line.

There is also a concise biography available here.

On another note, I'd be interested in hearing reactions to the first issue edited by Kurt Andersen, which is out now. It takes the publication in quite a different direction.
Michael Bierut

Hi all. I must say I'm truly saddened by Gutierrez's departure from Colors. Furthermore, I'm disappointed by the first issue of colors. The issue lacked the cohesion (although it tried its best to have it) achieved by Gutierrez's minimalist designs. At best, it seemed like a decent effort from a sophomore design student. It tries to look back to the original look of colors, and fails miserably.
Eddy Lopez

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