With a masthead that reads like a Who’s Who of popular consumer oriented bike books from the last 30 years (give or take), Barnett’s BikeCraft officially stepped into the deep end this month with the print version of their previously announced custom moto mag. At a time when print’s hold on the American psyche is under intense pressure, the decision to assemble a team of high-profile displaced editorial and creative types seems counter-intuitive. But it works.
Publisher Mike Barnett’s appreciation for print extends back to when the El Paso based Harley dealer popped the cork in the late ’90s on their first vanity press project, the no-cavier-for-me beer and bbq crowd Barnett’s Magazine. Originally styled as a new and used classifieds pub pushing dealer inventory in times of scarcity, the glossier than rival Motorcycle Trader dealt mainly in V-Twin pedigrees. This lasted until the economics of sustaining a print model against a global glut no longer made sense and the move to a dot-com online edition was finalized.
At about the same time, the moto journalism talent pool was suddenly bursting at the seams, courtesy mainly of HFM’s decision to scale back – way back – on most of their North American titles before ultimately putting them on the block. With staffs at all the genre pubs slashed razor-thin, competent, experienced, premium print skill was suddenly on the market. Serendipity knocked, and a new print publishing venture featuring a fair number of Cycle World alums shepherded by long time former editor-in-chief Dave Edwards, along with notables from CW competitors, was suddenly viable.
back to basics – take the long way home and you’ll get there sooner
How important is it to have experienced pros in your corner, especially for a startup? Take the treatment of all the product announcements, career snippets, random ricochets, and anecdotal memos that accumulate like dog hair under the living room sofa. Notice the runacross header with the catch-all title “Goggles”? Lacking the equivalent of refrigerator magnets, it serves as a frame for the collected odds and ends ranging from Post-Its to short essays. This took thought and skilled graphic design to arrive at a clever solution done well that looks easy yet escapes so many others.
Just eight pages in finds So-Cal designer-builder Denny Berg (left, above) profiled for his unique body of work designed and built during his tenure with aftermarket parts manufacturer Cobra. For nearly 20 years this graduate of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design has created one innovative custom after another, each an exercise in form following function. Denny’s long been one of my favorites, widely regarded for his effortless style and laid back demeanor. Will the affable, accessible N. Dakota native ever get his own “reality” show? Uh, no. Which only means he’ll continue to inspire serious devotees of the craft with his dignity intact and his intellect secure.
looks familiar – for a reason
Barnett’s BikeCraft features art direction courtesy of CW expat Elaine Anderson, whose signature style after nearly three decades at the helm of America’s most popular bike book is unmistakable. The inaugural (No. 1, Summer 2012) issue of the seasonal quarterly takes advantage of plenty of editorial elbow room to hilite over a dozen richly illustrated features – bobbers, trackers, cafe racers – with inspired photography. There’s plenty of room for white space friendly, easy on the eyes, open leading type design that actually encourages rather than challenging readership.
With editorial, design, and content of this caliber and the small luxury of publishing as a quarterly, I’d have liked more attention to repro specs. Stepping up to a premium paper would add an extra dimension of crispness and detail this level of creative deserves. And the glaring lack of a robust supporting web site that’s less ’90s archival and more contemporary – I’d settle for a look that’s anything this side of 2006: Rolling Stone, anyone? – means an inexplicable squandered opportunity to connect, engage, and convert. Not porting the print concept online means turning one’s back on a market the size of, well, the planet. Not to mention the whole ePub thing going on these days.
Otherwise, it’s a worthy effort for a seasoned crew embarking on a challenging voyage. Here’s hoping they can stay the course.