How baseball card magazines of my youth inspired my design career

Simplicity. Something covers of magazines today often lack. Multiple headlines cry for your attention alongside a primary photo. Editors hope one of the headlines will grab your attention while standing in line. You don’t have to pick up the magazine to see its contents.

We’ve all gotten used to the shouting matches on magazine covers. But take a look at the simple magazine covers produced by Beckett in the late 1980s and early 1990s. All they feature is the name of the magazine and a photo of one baseball player. Perhaps a card of that player might be featured as well. Simple.

The beautiful, simple designs of Beckett Baseball magazines in the 1980s and early 1990s

Growing up with these baseball card magazines, I would get excited when one of MY players graced the cover. If your player made the cover, it influenced card collectors everywhere that player is worth collecting. Now 20 years later, I realize these covers influenced more than my selection of whom to collect. The simplicity of these covers influenced me as designer today. I’m glad I was able to grow up adoring clean simple designs.

Thank you Beckett for being an influence in my design career. However, I’m greatly disappointed with the covers of the Beckett magazines of today. They suffer from cramming in tons of information. Odd, because Beckett isn’t sold at the newsstand where readers need to see the contents of the magazine before picking it up.

The crowded designs of magazines in the 2000s and 2010s

It seems Beckett acknowledges that it’s harder for kids to collect today’s expensive cards with packs costing at least four dollars each. To reach out to the younger demographic, they try making the magazines less sophisticated and more “kid-friendly.” What we end up with is a garbage-designed cover that looks like all the other magazines in the world. Nobody likes to see multiple headlines farted all over a photo. Just because that’s a “magazine look” doesn’t mean that it’s a good design.

Beckett should go back to their tradition of stoic magazine covers that inspire the awe of both children and adults.

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11 years ago

I couldn’t agree with you more. The cover approaches of then and now also reflect the design of baseball cards. Generally speaking, baseball card design before 1992-ish was very simple. Compare that to cards from 1993-ish and beyond and it’s like a rainbow puking all over the place.

There’s a clarity and elegance to the Beckett of old. The Beckett of today is cluttered and confused. It’s a rather proper reflection of the baseball card industry.

Erik Maldre
Erik Maldre
1 year ago

The old covers look like baseball cards. They were designed to be collectibles. This is a brilliant design approach given that Beckett is all about collectibles.

Certainly, Beckett changed creative directors through the years and they went with the philosophy that their product is to be consumed and trashed instead of being collected.

Quite a shame because the “collectible” route lends a tremendous amount of lineage and history to their product. It’s something that is highly revered and unique with Major League Baseball’s position in culture. Why not latch onto that?

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