Crush! 6 is more ‘less is more’, design still inconsistent

I have written about Crush! 1, Crush! 2, Crush! 3 and Crush! 4 and 5, the food and wine digital magazine, and had not yet got around to reading  Crush! 6, when a follow-up e-mail arrived last week, requesting me to read it.  The publishers must be able to track who has read the latest issue, and who has not, in sending out reminder e-mails.  I was pleasantly surprised that great improvements have been made to the presentation of the content.  Overall, it is evident that the Crush! designers are starting to understand that ‘less is more’ design is more attractive and efficient in getting one to read what is presented.

The cover page is the best of the six issues, with a beautiful salmon dish photograph, and because the Crush! designers have finally learnt that one cannot place text on top of visuals, a fundamental design rule in making copy readable.  The salmon colour has inspired a strong orange masthead, making it striking and attractive, and making one want to read the content. 

Advertising support has shrunk to Old Mutual, with two ads, and Fairview, with a ‘talking’ ad.   Pack recognition on the ‘Essentials’ page is far improved, the brand names being far easier to read, with typed names alongside, and this also applies to the ‘Quaff Now’ page.  Yet it fails on the ‘High Five’ page, on which the labels are barely legible.  The child-like banner for the ‘Tomato and Veg pasta’ recipe below the ‘Essentials’ feature attracts attention away from the featured products on the same page, a ‘conflict of interest’.   The Fairview feature is introduced through an illustration, which appears to look similar to the design of its ad, but uses two light blue banners that are barely legible, and one of these is obscured by a goat.   It is not immediately clear that one must click onto each of the flags/banners, to get a full overview of Fairview.

I loved the page by Meeta K. Wolff, whose name I have seen on Twitter, but about whom there is no introduction.   The photograph of her ‘Carrot and Red Soup with a hint of cumin’ makes one want to eat the page!  I am happy that editor Michael Olivier has accepted our suggestion to use a selection of talented food bloggers locally and even from overseas (Wolff lives in Germany).   The Creative Pot blogger Marisa Hendriks also has a double page, previously that of Andy Fenner/JamieWhoSA?, the same irritating shaking flashes containing the links to her five stories on Vanilla Rose ‘Pana Cotta’, ChilliJammer, Mushroom and White Rock Flatbread, 5 Ways with Beets, and the Wild Peacock Food Emporium.

The ‘Breakfast with Brad at Bistro 1682’ is very stylish-looking, the most stylish article I have seen of all in the Crush! issues, and the restaurant deserves it.   The photography of the egg dishes is excellent.   Following this is the rather pedestrian and boring looking ‘Quick and Delicious’ Monday – Sunday recipe suggestions, a complete contrast to the style and quality of the two pages that had preceded this section.   The ‘Four ways with Salmon’, with food preparation and styling by Sophia Lindop, and photography by Russel Wasserfall, is excellent, the salmon colour used to its best photography advantage.  Luisa Farello is a clever food stylist too, and this is the third Crush! issue for which she has worked.  Her Formal Dinner page, with Weltevrede MCC, looks beautiful and good enough to eat.  Pick ‘n Pay has a ‘Green Zone’ page for the first time, and is intended to reflect its environmental conscience, including the SASSI code fish that they sell.

Five unknown food bloggers are ranked in a ‘Rate Your Recipe’ feature, and these differ per issue.  It is unfortunate that the writers are not introduced.   An oddly designed feature on the Robertson Small Hotel uses the block number system, and one has to click on a series of these to get a good overview of the featured product, many readers probably opting out before opening each block.  An interview with Boets Nel of De Krans also uses the block method, and I doubt if readers will open all 16 of these blocks.

The messiest and poorest page in the issue is that by David Cope, The Foodie blogger, whose rambling on about a Bachelor Party is boring and not easy to read on a dirty-looking red-and-white check background, with black and white photographs, an absolute no-no when writing about wine or food.  His story on the Coffee Revolution is far better in presentation, but again is so superficial in only featuring Truth and Origin, when there are so many exciting new coffee suppliers opening, including the Haas Coffee Collective, and is therefore not comprehensive.  Another messy page is the ‘Fine Print’ book review page – eight books fight for attention, and one does not comprehend any of them, as the page is too busy. The classified ‘Crushifieds’ page is much simpler and more readable.

Rudi Liebenberg, Executive Chef at the Mount Nelson Hotel, is featured, also in a classy design, but there is almost no photography of his food at Planet Restaurant, and too many black and white photographs of Rudi and his chefs.   The feature does not inspire one to eat at the Planet.  

‘Less is more’ is a good design principle, and fewer, rather than more, design bells and whistles will make Crush! close to perfect.  I am happy to see how the ‘bells and whistles’ have been reduced drastically over the six issues.   Now all Crush! needs is greater design consistency throughout the whole magazine – one could think that each feature has been designed by a different designer, not what the magazine needs!   

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com   Twitter: @WhaleCottage

5 replies on “Crush! 6 is more ‘less is more’, design still inconsistent”

  1. Kobus says:

    Enough now of the on-line mags Chris, it’s high time to set your sights on something bigger. Woolworths’ Taste magazine has walked away with a multitude of accolades and prizes the last two years, but the lay-out of their April 2011 issue is a real amateurish eye-sore- go have a look. I have never ever seen so much wasted or dead space in a magazine!

  2. lolla says:

    Dear Chris, it seems Mr Olivier is struggling a bit, he is trying to sell off some of his paintings on Facebook! I am amazed at the man’s attitude. To be in his online mag you have to pay, yes even if it looks like editorial, you are paying. Yet, he gets peeved when he is left off the guest list for functions. Why is this? The extend of his “coverage” is usually a Facebook update. His television appearance in a rather below average breakfast show is merely because Pick & Pay is a sponsor. The wheel turns slowly, but it turns non the less. I believe several people has addressed the Whale Spotter issue with him, and thankfully that has died away it seems. I know for a fact that he sent e-mails telling journalists who are familiar to you to check it out…proof that he was behind it. Seems the “luv” “luv” is running out fast.

    I admire the fact that you stuck through this very unpleasant experience. You are an amazing woman.

    Thank you for your informative blog. Hoping to meet in person someday soon.

  3. Dear Lolla

    I thought I knew who you are, but you intrigue me. I’m available for a glass or cup of something as soon as you say the word.

    I am intrigued about your feedback about Michael Olivier, and quite shocked about the e-mails you refer to.

    It was the support of friends that kept me going, but the 4-month WS period was a tough one. Thanks for reading our blog, and for your support.

    Chris

  4. Beverley Pender says:

    Let’s be fair and compare apples with apples? At this stage in South Africa we are still on a learning curve when producing online/digital mags, whereas the print medium is firmly established(although battling for ad revenue).

    I, for one, enjoy both Crush and Taste, but would never compare them. Two completely different beasts.

  5. Thank you for writing Beverley.

    This blogpost does not include any comparison to TASTE.

    Crush! calls itself a food and wine magazine, so whether it is digital or print, they were worth comparing in a previous blogpost, given that they both have the same goal, i.e. to inform about food and wine.

    Chris

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