I.D. Magazine, a Design Icon, Folds After 55 Years in Print

I.D. MagazineDevastating news for the design world: After 55 years in publication, I.D. Magazine, America's foremost design publication, has folded.

I.D. was the oldest product design** magazine in the country, and was the one-time employer of many noteworthy figures, including Bruce Mau. Its yearly design competition, the Annual Design Review, was the oldest and biggest design competition in America, and had been operating ever since I.D.'s inception. The competition was also the magazine's cash cow; F&W, I.D.'s publisher, plans on continuing the event and publishing the results online.

In the course of its publication, the magazine won five National Magazine Awards: For General Excellence in 1995, 1997, and 1999; for Special Interests in 2000; and Design in 1997. That amounted to an astounding haul for a magazine with only 30,000 readers per issue. Nonetheless, according to F&W sales managers, I.D. had not turned a profit in seven years and was beset by competition from shelter magazines and mainstream glossies, which have been aggressively adding design coverage, owing to rising interest in design among mainstream audiences.

Meanwhile, I.D.'s sister magazine, Print—a storied design magazine in its own right—will stay open. The news came one day after the company's employee appreciation day.

UPDATE: Here's the release from I.D.:

Statement for External Release December 15, 2009
To Readers, Advertisers and Friends of I.D. Magazine:
Since 1954, I.D. Magazine has served as one of America's leading critical magazines covering the art, business, and culture of design. Today it is with regret that we announce its closure. The January/February issue of I.D. will be its last; subscribers to I.D. will receive Print magazine for the balance of their subscription.
Ceasing publication of an iconic brand like I.D. is never an easy decision, but there are several forces that have worked against its sustainability. Certainly the downturn in print advertising has contributed to this decision, but other factors include the fragmentation and specialized information needs of I.D.'s core readers (product designers) and the plethora of information resources available to them – some for free (online and B2B) and others that are highly specialized and targeted to specific industries served.
F+W Media will continue producing the I.D. Annual Design Review, its flagship international product design competition, in an expanded fashion online. This new web initiative will feature not only 2010's winners but will catalog thousands of notable entries from past competitions. Going forward, in addition to the I.D. Annual Design Review, F+W Media’s Design Group is comprised of the award-winning HOW and Print brands – magazines, books, events, and competitions serving the information needs of graphic designers in all media.
We thank the entire I.D. community, past and present – staffers, contributors, readers, and advertisers – for their support of the magazine throughout its 55-year history.
Gary Lynch Publisher & Editorial Director F+W Media Design Community

*Full disclosure: I was until today a freelancer for I.D.; I was also an editor there, from 2005 to 2007.

**The article originally stated that I.D. was the oldest design magazine in the country—it's actually the oldest product design magazine in the country. The oldest design magazine in the country would be Print, which has been in publication continuously since 1940.

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  • Frank Payne

    This is pretty sad story in deed. This type of situations happen in the history of the world. They are not very uncommon. Let's hope that they will bounce back pretty soon. Debt Settlement

  • Scott Doty

    ID has been more inspiring to me personally than any other product design resource out there. It informed me while contemplating a career in industrial design, it clued me in to the schools that might be a good fit for me, and it was where I learned that my first employer was designing some very exciting products around the time of my graduation from design school. Through all this, when in need of visual stimulation, I would reach for ID. You will be missed.

  • Anonymous

    UNREAL - I don't believe what I just read. This is ridiculous. A sad day for design world to say the least...

  • Cliff Kuang

    @Tucker---It's a lot to hope for. Stay tuned: I'm currently reporting a story on exactly how a magazine like I.D. could fall. It isn't pretty.

  • Tucker Viemeister

    The last time ID was going to fold, a group of industrial designers including Jim Fulton and my father (who worked on the initial publication when it was an insert in Interiors magazine in 1943) saved the magazine. F&W never understood that ID is not a regular magazine, but maybe now they could explore ways of continuing ID's long commitment to design and designers.

  • Cliff Kuang

    @Chee---Thank you so much for adding this list. It never ceases to amaze, the history of the magazine.

  • Chee Pearlman

    Cliff, thank you for the story. Though as one who is devastated by the news, I wish you didn't have to write it. You mention I.D. played host to many noteworthy contributors, and they deserve a little shout out. Graphic design legend Alvin Lustig designed the first issues for Editor Jane Thompson in 1954, and George Nelson, Andreas Feininger, and even Andy Warhola (as he signed his sketches pre-Factory days) added to I.D.'s legacy.

    In my era as Editor (1992-2000) we were blessed with dazzling writers and designers who contributed their brilliance: Tibor Kalman, Tom Vanderbilt, Jan Abrams, Peter Hall, John Hockenberry, Murray Moss, Steven Johnson, Alice Rawsthorn, Michael Bierut, Rick Poynor, Paola Antonelli, Michael Rock, Luke Hayman, Tony Arefin, Bruce Mau -- the list goes on!

    I.D. has been a leading critical voice, and its loss is a terrible blow to the design culture it fiercely championed.

  • Joseph Allan

    UNREAL - I don't believe what I just read. This is ridiculous. A sad day for design world to say the least...

  • Armin Vit

    Sad day indeed.

    And, just for the record, I.D.'s mourning relative, Print, is "the oldest design magazine in the country" first published in 1940, 14 years before I.D.

  • Jules Pieri

    I've been a subscriber to ID for 30 years and have loved trading issues back and forth with my son in recent years. As far as I know, I am the first female industrial designer whose boy followed in her footsteps.

    Now instead of sharing the latest issue, my son just shared this sad, sad news with me.

    Our little family design "team" mourns the loss of ID. The magazine was part of my education and formation as a designer. Fast Company and the shelter magazines may "cover" design and may have even partly caused the demise of ID Magazine. But these other pubs do not cover design with the insider perspective of ID. The "part-timers" tend to have a "gee whiz" perspective on design that just doesn't go brave, or deep, or academic, or international enough. They are like eating dessert but having no dinner.

    Thanks for the good work all these years ID Magazine. My son and I will miss you.

    Jules Pieri
    Founder and CEO, Daily Grommet