IL: Intelligence in Lifestyle is the best contemporary magazine not available at your cool local magazine shop. Published monthly with Italian daily newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, IL is a modern classic known for its experimental editorial concepts, groundbreaking infographics, and bold use of typography, photography, and illustration. It’s so good it’s almost worth learning Italian for—“almost” because you don’t really need to read it to appreciate it (plus, we’ve already excused you from feeling guilty about buying more magazines than you can read).
IL has seemingly won or been nominated for just every award out there, from the SPD awards, to the Malofiej, to D&AD, you name it. It’s been described by MagCulture as “a thrilling visual treat that transcends its Italian-only execution.” Mark Porter, ex-creative director of the Guardian called it “a kind of Monocle on steroids, but infinity more exciting.” As a supplement to an Italian economic and financial newspaper, IL is notoriously difficult for mag fans to get their hands on. One must cultivate friendships with Italians, or plan holidays to the lakes to coincide with publication. Or you can buy the new beautiful new book The Intelligent Lifestyle Magazine: Smart Editorial Design, Ideas and Journalism (Gestalten), a great paving slab of pure, high-end European print porn. Halleluiah.
Printed in luscious, large format, and running at 271 pages, everything about this book purrs generosity, from the hundreds of images complete with detailed annotation to the extensive backstage access. We open with behind-the-scenes photography of the IL editorial room paired and intimate essays from editor-in-chief Christian Rocca and art director Francesco Franchi. After Rocca explores the fall and rise of print, Franchi explains the inner workings of the magazine, a well-oiled creative studio where editors and graphic designers work together in harmony.
The book tells the story of how IL’s unique visual and journalistic direction evolved from the perspective of the people who make it happen, rendered in forensic detail. We’re treated to not only the finished layouts, but also the meticulous design process: sketches of painstakingly complex infographics, iterations of clever illustrations, and 82 versions (by my count) of Christian Schwartz’s 2011 logo redesign, appearing alongside an essay about his design process. IL’s grid and typographical systems are carefully, intelligently explained, as is the modular approach to the magazine’s many sections. Every single cover that’s graced the newsstands is offered up for scrutiny. At times the sheer scope of the book feels overwhelming. That no stone is left unturned speaks to Franchi’s trademark approach of bringing order to vast swaths of information. This is not a tome to devour in one sitting. If you can keep your mind from boggling, it makes for an incredible resource for publishing creatives.
The Intelligent Lifestyle Magazine is the first book dedicated to this fascinating publication at the vanguard of visual journalism. It’s interesting to note that because IL features several distinct sections, this feels like a book about several magazines rather than just one. In addition to the grand tour of its modular system, we’re taken past the endless creativity of the everchanging cover features to the organized chaos of the pop culture section YOLO, the refinement of the fashion-focused Journal section, and the densely packed World Report. And of course, there’s lots of emphasis on the infographics, for which the IL is perhaps best known.
According to the press release, The Intelligent Lifestyle Magazine answers the question “How can infographics help magazines and newspapers succeed?,” but the book does so much more than this. It’s part intimate portrait, part recipe book for anyone wishing to cook up a leading current affairs magazine, liberally sprinkled with industry insider tips. For starters, Franchi recommends hiring and cultivating young design and writing talent “just like in a Renaissance workshop.” Rocca says, “We must create new market segments, focus on our product’s distinctive features, distinguish ourselves from competitors, and bet on quality. We must create magazines that are beautiful to look at, to touch, and to keep, with more added value and less news.”
IL is easily one of the great magazines of our generation. It questions everything—except the intelligence of its readers.
And finally with this book we get a look behind the curtain as the magazine makers themselves tell the story with all the originality, imagination, attention-to-detail, elegance, and humor that it usually brings to its own editorial. There’s plenty here to inspire art directors, designers, publishers, and even writers keen to unlock the visual potential of their stories. In his introductory essay, Franchi says when he launched the magazine in 2008 he aimed to create a magazine where ideas “no longer remained thumbtacked to the studio wall simply because the client had not accepted them.” He dreamed of a publication that would be a “testing ground for new stylistic solutions.” This book is testimony to the fact that he has more than succeeded in his mission. Now, if they could just come out with an English-language version.