Designer KT Meany does a great job of respecting its tradition while acknowledging its need to match design with exactitude of its content. She references Bruce McCall's illustrated guide to The New Yorker from the Feb. 19 & 27, 2007 issue and asks:
But where is the Design Department? How about the “No Two Hyphens in a Row Department”? Or the “Avoid Mixing a Caslon Italic with an Irvin Department”? Not to forget the “Adopt the Orphan, Marry the Widow Department.” The lack of a prominent in-house design department could lead to outhouse design. When asked to describe the commonality among all New Yorker writers, Joseph Mitchell divulged: “None of ’em could spell... and really none of us, including Ross, really knew anything about grammar. But each one of them... each one had a kind of wild exactitude of his own.” 12 Editing to a “very high degree of fussiness” 13 is what The New Yorker does best. But it fails to set the same standard for design, which needs some of that wild exactitude. And that’s the key.
Meany goes on to share her design thoughts, most of which sound like tremendous—yet respectful—improvements. One of her best is an inspired redesign mock-up of the TOC (that's table of contents for the non-publishing person), a vast improvement over its current state.
Along the way she points out some of the sloppy design details that, once called to your attention, are impossible to ignore. Having spent eight years as a magazine editor and having worked with some wonderful art directors and graphic designers, it's these little details, executed perfectly, that contribute to a magazine's overall excellence.
The question is: Can The New Yorker break enough from its past to make such improvements?