To the thoughtful introvert, magazines are the most coveted form of media. You're not exposed to the crowds of a movie theater or show, intruded on by the DJs and callers of radio, or deluged by the never-ending content choices of TV and the Web. Compared to other printed media, magazines fall comfortably between the commitment of books and the disposability of newspapers.
Among my peers, I.D. was the most coveted of magazines. Which is why I was saddened to hear of its impending discontinuation. More than the loss of a unique information source, it is the end of a collectable treasure.
My first exposure to I.D. and the design profession as a whole was in the early 1980s. As a pre-adolescent, I came across an Annual Design Review in the vast magazine section of Barnes & Noble. It was unaffordable ($25 for a magazine?!), but I could browse. I soon understood that the Annual Review issues were beloved because they showcased people's favorite design objects, but the magazine itself became my favorite designed object. It seemed to be printed on the highest quality paper (for many years a combination of smooth stock for the main color sections and a rougher, tinted stock for the back pages).
I subscribed continuously from my teenage years through graduate school and my professional career. Even when I had the magazine readily accessible for free, I still had my own copy delivered at home. In 2008 I was a judge for the Annual Review. This took place at the magazine's New York offices. It was amazing to consider how such a clean and organized publication came out of such small, cluttered offices. It was a long day of judging—snacks were scarce, as were napkins—but it was an opportunity I had idealized for decades.
I recently moved houses and by far the heaviest boxes were full of my collection of I.D. magazines. The contents memorialize the major and minor trends in design over my professional life, from the rise to prominence of interaction design and cultural/technical trends like E-Z Pass (January, 1996), to the advertisements within the magazine (e.g., Absolut Vodka).
I understand that while the printed version is ending, the Annual Design Review will live on in online form. But that's not the real I.D. to me. To see that, you need to come look in the boxes in my basement.
Rob Tannen is an expert in designing products, interfaces and systems that accommodate the complexities of human behavior and capabilities. He has researched cockpit interfaces for U.S. Air Force, designed trading floor order systems for the New York Stock Exchange, and created touch screen applications for consumer appliances. Rob is Director of User Research and Interaction Design at the product development firm Bresslergroup. He also has a PhD in human factors and is a Certified Professional Ergonomist.