I.D. Magazine 1954-2009

Monday December 21, 2009

My I.D. Farewell Note:

Dear Friends,

If you’re receiving this note, there’s a good chance you’ve already heard the news that I.D. magazine will cease publication after 55 years. As announced last week, the Annual Design Review will continue in online form—and entries for this year’s competition are still being accepted—but the January/February issue will be the magazine’s last. To all those I’ve worked with during my four-year association with the magazine, and especially over my last eight months as editor, it’s been an honor and a privilege.

It wasn’t until taking the top job last spring that I came to realize how problematic some found I.D.’s brand identity, and to learn that battles had been waged over its mission for years. Was it a consumer magazine or a trade, and what did those damn letters really stand for? Of course, they stood for “international design,” but some still yearned for the days, decades ago, when they meant “industrial design”; others mistook I.D. for Interior Design, and the rise of interactive design added yet another I.D. to the mix.

It’s been said that those varying interpretations kept the magazine from being sustainable in a fractured marketplace, and maybe there’s some truth to that. To me, however, the multiple meanings were complementary, not competitive, and they attested to the way the brand had grown along with the design world over the years. They spoke, to use another i word, to the growing interdisciplinarity of the design disciplines, and the increasingly integral role of design in our lives and collective consciousness.

Lately, the i word I’d been thinking about most with regard to I.D. was “individual.” Whatever has changed over the years, I.D. has always been a one-of-a-kind platform for exploring the personalities and processes of individual designers, the needs and desires of the individual human beings designers serve, and the ways in which the common language and logic of design can bring disparate individuals together. In an era of “design thinking” and “human-centered design,” the loss of such a platform leaves a real void. As a contributor remarked to me over the weekend, there are certain stories that just aren’t going to be told anymore. I.D. wasn’t a redundant title in a crowded vertical market, it was truly unique, and though we can blog and tumbl and tweet ourselves silly, I think we all know what’s being lost.

Anyway, as for this individual, I can report only that I expect to continue working in this vein, and leave it to the immortal Buckminster Fuller to do the rest of my talking for me: “How often I found where I should be going only by setting out for somewhere else.”

I’d like to thank William Bostwick, Jeff Docherty, Dragos Lemnei, Suzanne Mitchell, Maayan Pearl, and all of I.D.’s sensational contributors for going on this ride with me. I want also to salute the great Ralph Caplan and the many brilliant talents who shaped this storied publication—especially Julie Lasky and Chee Pearlman, who each did so much to build the stature of the magazine and have both been so immensely kind to me over these past eight months. For a moment I stood on the shoulders of giants, and the view was amazing.

All my best,
Jesse Ashlock