Is this the new face of men’s magazines? No George Clooney? The Smith Journal breaks the visual rulebook with good storytelling, low-testosterone design and smart image selection.

It’s every younger generation’s duty to declare that men’s magazines aren’t like they used to be. Not in the Golden Age of George Lois’ Esquire in the 60s, Neville Brody’s Arena in the 80s, or Derek Ungless’ B.W. Honeycutt’s, Markus Kiersztan‘s Details in the 90s.

You’ll have noticed that these are all Art Directors or Designers rather than the editor.  A great magazine emerges from the personal, creative stuff that happens between these two drivers of an idea. While great magazine editors make the difference, great Art Directors picture it.

Edited by Nadia Saccardo, Creative Direction by Lara Burke, The Smith Journal is unlike any other contemporary man’s magazine – Cover Celebrity? Sixpack advice? George Clooney?

Issue 7’s cover features an illo by A Little Island (David Lemm) of  rubber stamp icons that also features in an article about John Casey, an Irishman making stamps in New York for over 30 years. You see, the Smith Journal is a man’s magazine with different aspirations – the features are all small business folk like John Casey, or Luke Stockdale who makes signage from steel, or Michael Sales who grows and blends tea in New South Wales.

Visual Content

The magazine paper (silk?) dampens the colour without sucking out the light. Visually, it delivers imagery you’d expect in a Men’s magazine, blending Portraits, Still-Life, Objects with a taste for  arrangements, series, order. Not surprisingly they feature graphic designer Nicholas Felton’s Feltron Report, a man who monitors, measures and maps out his life in a series of data visualization.


Photographer Benjamin Law
Photographer Benjamin Law



The  colour palette lends the imagery a reportage feel, while close-ups such as the teabag-maker give the reader the pleasure of trying to reconstruct the meaning of the picture – what this machine does.


Photographer Natalie McComas
Photographer Natalie McComas



As it should from a client’s point of view, the imagery in the adverts echoes very directly  the photography in the stories. This is either smart advertising or smart editorial, the features clearly reflecting what’s happening in the commercial space among small, hispter brands and businesses.



Favourite Spreads

Jim Naughten (who we’ve featured in IMSO) and his historical re-enactment series. Painterly realism.


From Jim Naughten's Re-Enactors series
From Jim Naughten’s Re-Enactors series


This DPS of different weaves from a feature about a family of Tweed-makers.


Photographer, Philip White
Photographer, Philip White


Large steel signage by Luck Stockdale. Craft and industry.



Visual Trend

On the surface, and trends are always about surface, the Smith Journal is a niche demographic – late 20s single-childless-creative-class-male. But actually, ‘male’ aside I’m none of these, and this magazine doesn’t make me feel slightly inadequate for not wanting to aspire to a certain lifestyle. The photography of the entrepreneurs and their world doesn’t feel like the expression of power, just guys going about their business. Photographers should pay attention to the environmental portraiture, its unassuming lighting and composition. In terms of content – this is the future of small business, the heroics of everyday life, people getting on with their job because they enjoy, they’re good at it, because its a damn job. The modesty of these people talented in and skilled in many different ways is captured and expressed by Lara Burke, designer Dave Heavyside and their photographers and illustrators.

To visit the The Smith Journal and buy the latest issue 8 click here


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