Field Notes – Final Thoughts on Mother Jones

Mother Jones can be given credit for one thing: consistency. They know their audience and stick with what they think works. For the most part, they’re successful in grabbing the reader’s attention with their loud, colorful cartoonish covers. They do a good job in maintaining a balance of serious subject matter with snarky wit and pops of color. The design plays a big part in highlighting their content, which is oftentimes lengthy and can lose someone’s attention if they aren’t redirected or something isn’t highlighted.

Through their website and their print publication, you can get a sense that Mother Jones means serious business. The nameplate remains the same, which helps the reader unify the themes of both online and print. There is subtle color use in both, but when used, the colors are bold. Their serif typefaces also help maintain a traditional quality.

The publication’s website has more of a youthful feel, not as serious as the print verison. Perhaps it’s the inclusion of additional content that seems more personalized, or the more modern, clean layout of the webpages, but there seems to be a disconnect between the two. They could work on creating more of a connection, maybe adding more color or making it more “traditional” the way the magazine itself feels. There are more serifs used in print, particularly in headlines, which gives it more of a “newsy” aspect. However, the publication does a good job of maintaining this news direction in both formats, I automatically know that I’m reading quality news and journalism. I wish that the more fun, younger appeal would resonate in the magazine, because it works well onlline.

Mother Jones works well in highlighting people, though many of their articles center around ideas and themes. Many of the images are profiles and close-to-medium shots. A greater variety could draw interest from readers who may not easily identify with an image of a person they are not familiar with.

Overall, they’re good at what they do but because of their serious subject matter combined with witty criticism, but I think the publication could be more fun. From the magazine I don’t get the snarkiness except from their illustrations. Their use of infographics is a step in this direction, because it gives the reader a break from the lengthy columns of text and also serves as a colorful treat. I think their inforgraphics and illlustrations is where they really shine and take the liberty to be creative, and this could be taken further throughout the entire publication.

With such a dense publication such as Mother Jones, I learned that the text itself isn’t everything. Prior to studying design and this class, I adamantly believed that the words could speak for themselves. They can, but are much more powerful when paired with good design. Color selection is imperative, especially in determining what kind of feel you want to give, which is why I think they succeed in using bold, bright ones. Moreover, choosing just any image won’t do, they need to add more to the story and shouldn’t just be a straight shot of the subject. Mother Jones is well-known for their investigative, smart, reporting, but all of that means nothing if it’s presented in a bland format. Also, consistency is key in maintaining a dedicated readership.